The trail starts out with a pretty good size parking area, and you can see that I had the whole area to myself this afternoon. In the parking area there are bins for garbage and recycling that are the type that wild critters can’t get into. There are also a couple of bat shelters here (and along the trail). They must be doing a good job because there were no pesky mosquitoes bothering me on this hike. There is also an information kiosk at the trailhead describing some of the birds to keep an eye out for.
The water levels today are low enough that even where the creek comes up to the trail the path remained dry. As I passed the creek, I could see a flock of turkeys a little further ahead on the trail. They must have seen me too, because as I got closer they ran off into the woods. I was hoping to get a picture, but they weren’t going to cooperate. Just a bit further along there are two branches off the trail that make loops through the woods – one to the north and one to the south.
I took the south loop on the way out, and as the trails meet back up there is a nice spot on the trail to take a rest below an old oak tree. I suppose I could have planted myself for awhile and waited for the turkeys to wander back to the trail, but there were a couple of things that I still wanted to see up ahead.
A little further along, I noticed that the woods were a little less thick on the north side of the trail, and I could see a couple of cypress trees back there. Usually if there are cypress trees, there is water nearby, so I decided to go have a look. Sure enough. That creek that I passed earlier meanders through the woods roughly parallel to the trail.
Past the creek is where the loop of the balloon trail begins. I took the northern path which took me to a picnic table. This is a great spot for lunch. The table sits underneath an old live oak, and sits right next to the creek. As I ate my lunch, I saw another flock of turkeys out in the woods, this flock was bigger than the first; there must have been at least ten birds. Of course, they were too far off to get a picture, but it was fun watching them wander by.
From here the trail took me to the first open gate. This gate leads to an area that used to be used for horses. There is an old set of horse stalls that have probably been here for a long time before the property was acquired by the county in 2000. I took a little time to walk around and look at this area. Along side the stalls there is another picnic table that looks like it was put there by the county. In the back of the stalls was an old barrel with all of the staves knocked out and turned into a little fire area. There was also an old sign on the ground with a logo that I didn’t recognize.
Once upon a a time the stalls had water and electricity; the pipes and faucets are still here, and the fuse boxes on the outside lights can also still be seen. One of the stalls was marked “Swooners Diamond”. I did a few Google searches and couldn’t find anything about a horse with that name, but I couldn’t find anything about a horse with that name.
About twenty or thirty yards from the horse stalls, I saw an old shed. The shed is in pretty good shape, and inside there was a water pump, an old gas tank, and a small trap that looks like it was recently made. The water pump is likely there to provide water pressure to the stalls; it has the same PVC piping that the stalls do. I couldn’t tell for sure, but I suspect that the pump was hooked up to a well. The only other water source that I have seen back here would be the creek and I doubt the county/city water lines serviced this spot.
After looking around the old stalls, it was time to head back. There was one other thing that I wanted to see. When I was scoping out this trail on Google Earth, I noticed a symmetrical pattern just west of this preserve. If you look at the map on my blog, you’ll see what I mean. I played around with the time scale on Google Earth and found that between 1990 and today the number of the little boxes seemed to change and move around. What could this be??? Since I was close enough, I decided to investigate. I hiked down a the dirt road that was across the street from Pine Lily Preserve and found out that it is actually chicken coops! The owner even had a sign on his barn that said these chickens are raised for show and competition “…not for fighting, so don’t even ask.” Mystery solved!