I have been looking for hiking trails along the Econlockhatchee River east of Snow Hill Road, and I finally found this trailhead on another Florida hiker’s blog.
There is a big shady parking area at the end of Brumley Road with some really nice live oak trees covered in Spanish moss and resurrection ferns. Entering the trail from here (just to the right of Tina) we had to squeeze through a stile. I’m not sure if this area has cattle or just horses, but they are there. There were a couple of places along the trail where we needed to watch our step.
A little further down the path is a spring coming up from a pipe. It appeared that this is responsible for most of the creek that ran along side the first part of the path.
A little further on, we came to the first gate. There are no locks, of course, but we did make sure to leave them as they were. In this case they were both tied closed. A little further along, we would see why.
Shortly after passing through the first gate we came upon an old piece of farm equipment. It was difficult to tell if it was intended to haul hay or horses, but the goose-neck hitch was a giveaway that it was probably towed by a pickup truck. A little further on, we also saw a little creek that flowed under the road. This was a great spot to throw a hat and cooling towel into the water on the way back.
Just past the creek, we came up on the horses that live here. They kept a cautious eye on us as we passed and kept their distance. We obliged and did the same.
On the way back, they were waiting for us at the second gate. We weren’t sure if they were just being neighborly, or if they were hoping for an opportunity to make a break for it. As it turned out, they decided to back off as we approached the gate. They moved on to the same spot that I took the photo and once again kept an eye on us as we passed through.
On the other side of the second gate, we saw some pretty flowers growing along the side of the trail. The red ones looked like they might be in the hibiscus family, but we couldn’t be sure.
From there the road we were on went through a “tunnel” of ancient oaks, and then we saw the first white blaze.
A little further along we came to the trail leading into the forest that we were looking for. The path through the forest wasn’t very long, but it was nice. Tina spotted two different herds of about 8 or 10 deer. They were moving pretty fast, so there was no chance to get a picture.
Soon we made it to the river. There was a sign posted here that said the trail went west for 0.9 miles to a dead end, or east 2.8 miles to Culpepper Shelter. We decided to go east. We didn’t make it to the shelter this time, so we’ll give it a shot when the weather is a little cooler and more forgiving.
As you might imagine, the path along the river was really nice. There was a cool breeze blowing and the sights were worth the trip. At one point, we came up on an old stump that was about my size. I peeked in expecting to see some sort of critter, but there were only bugs and spiders.
There was also a tangle of cypress knees right along the river. The closest tree looked way too young to have spawned them, but there wasn’t another cypress nearby, so I am pretty sure they were all part of the same tree.
We also passed through a “dead zone” where all of the grass had died. It was weird because it was such a clean line between the healthy and dead grass, almost like there was something killing the grass and growing larger as it did.
There are a lot of really old trees back here. The picture of Tina was by a tree that was doing just fine even with this big wound. She could have easily fit inside. In another spot, we had to cross a creek, and tree there gave us a natural bridge of roots.
About the only wildlife we saw along the river was spiders. Not a single alligator on this trip. There were a couple of motorboats that passed by, as well as some jet skis, so all of the water creatures were staying out of site today.
There were several areas along this side of the river that were just begging to have a picnic table set up. In one area the grassy shore went right to the water line; I’m sure this spot floods when the river is high, but this spot was perfect today.
The flora along this part of the river included bright orange mushrooms growing on a fallen log, and some air plants that were huge.
This area seems to get very little foot traffic, but the sights are amazing. It was a hot at the end of this hike, but we’ll be back to this area – next time we’ll go all the way out to the Culpepper Shelter. We also need to take a look at a trail entrance that we didn’t notice until our trip back. This one had the white blaze trail going south from the forest road that we were on.
Even though it may not be heavily traveled, the trails are all well marked. We had no trouble following the white or the yellow blazes. Next time we take this trail though, it will definitely be during the cool season. By the time we got back to the truck, the temperature was easily in the mid 90’s (my truck’s thermometer said it was 98 degrees).
Editor’s note: This lightly-traveled section of Little Big Econ State Forest has been open to hunters as a WMA for many years, and the trailhead at the end of Brumley Road is known as the “Hunter’s Trailhead.” Please be sure not to block the gate if you use it. The Central Florida Chapter of the Florida Trail Association is actively pursuing a reroute of the Florida Trail through this section, which would connect south to Chuluota Wilderness and Bronson State Forest, and north with a bridge across the Econ to reach Snow Hill Road. See more photos from this area from a January 2013 hike with Section Leader Rachael Augspurg.