June 6 was National Trails Day, a nationwide celebration of America’s trails as coordinated by the American Hiking Society. A variety of trail events went on statewide (see the list on the AHS website).
Spending most of the past two months on the road gave us little time to plan for National Trails Day this year. Last year, we had the pleasure of leading a hike for REI and the Florida Trail Association at Gold Head Branch State Park, but this year, we didn’t commit to anything in particular.
That’s sometimes the best way to spend National Trails Day. We’d been home hardly more than a week, but it felt like time to hit the road again. First stop: Gemini Springs Park, one of our favorite getaways near home for a walk in the woods. We were surprised to see how quiet it was at 8:30 in the morning.
Wildlife sightings here never disappoint. Melodious birdsong echoed through the live oaks, and tiny fish flashed across a palette of blue hues in the spring. A young alligator drifted, head above water, watching schools of mullet flash by.
We saw a group of people crossing the dam. “That must be the guided hike!” I said. But as they drew closer, it was obvious a group of your ladies with two adults leading them on a nature hike. Perhaps Scouts.
At the Spring House, women were doing yoga on the porch. What a beautiful setting for it. But no tables, no signs, no nothing. What happened to National Trails Day?
I pulled out my phone and followed the link to their event. “Oh.” I said. “It’s tomorrow. Not on National Trails Day.” Oddly, there wasn’t a single sign or banner in the park to alert people to the event.
Appreciative of the peace and quiet, we finished our walk around the springs and hit the road to our next destination. On such a sunny, blue sky day, we saw dozens of people headed for their own outdoor adventures – on motorcycles, or towing boats, or with kayaks or bicycles on their roof racks. Although the first Saturday of June is not an ideal day for a hike in Florida, it sure is great for other outdoor adventures, especially on the water.
Driving through the heart of the Big Scrub, we continued on to Salt Springs. Our friends LuAnne and Ruth were leading a hike this morning on the Florida Trail, a little too early for us to get there from where we live. But we figured we’d intercept them for Part Two of their National Trails Day event, brunch at the Square Meal. Pulling into Salt Springs, we were sorry to see that the Salt Springs Grocery, a longtime resupply stop for hikers backpacking across the Ocala National Forest, had closed.
It took a while, but the group arrived as we were chatting with a local about the demise of the store. Hikers had come from as far as Tampa, Mount Dora, and Deltona to hike on the Florida Trail for National Trails Day. We admired their pluck, especially in this heat. They’d taken on a 4.5 mile hike on one of our favorite sections of the Florida Trail, the longleaf pine island south of Rodman. (Learn more about the hike and see photos on the FTA Black Bear Meetup site).
After lunch, we’d planned to move along to a third event in Ocala. But the combination of heat and camaraderie won. Instead, we hung out with LuAnne and Chigger on the shores of Lake Kerr for a while, then went on to visit with family for the rest of the day.