It was a cold, cold morning last Sunday when I took a stroll from the Sand Lake trailhead at Wekiwa Springs State Park into the open pine scrub. Good thing that the canopy is relatively open as you head out on the hiking loop, although it’s disappointing that the main trail (blazed white) is still relocated onto old forest roads and jeep trails.
The east-west and north-south connector trails (blazed blue) are a better alternative for the beauty you expect along a hiking trail. A walk down a narrow footpath winding through the forest and past scenic features sure beats a broad, often sand-churned set of tire ruts anyday. So a left turn onto the connector trail gave me what I’d hoped for: a narrow, well-packed, well-maintained footpath leading through stands of saw palmetto under a canopy of oaks, pines, and past a line of loblolly bay and cabbage palm along a small stream.
It might have been 49*F out that morning, the air crisp and the calls of birds strong across the open sandhills where the orange-blazed trail works its way back towards Sand Lake. With only an hour to spare, so I spent it making left turns on footpaths until I found my way back to the car. I appreciated seeing other folks out for a hike, too.
Afterwards, I drove down to the spring and walked the boardwalk through the floodplain forest along the Wekiva River. It was odd to see so little activity at the canoe put-in, but the bright blue skies and crisp air made for perfect photography.
I found it mesmerizing to stare down into the spring. Perhaps it was a trick of the air, but I don’t recall ever being able to look down and see the cleft in the rock so clearly before. My schedule didn’t let me tarry long, but it’s always a good day when you can take a hike.
Take a hike! Wekiwa Springs State Park is one of Florida’s busiest state parks and easy to find, and you’ll never find it more quiet than when the gates open on a cool winter morning. From Interstate 4, follow road signs from either SR 434 in Longwood or SR 436 in Altamonte Springs to Wekiwa Springs Road to the park, or you can approach it from Apopka from SR 436. Once there, ask for a hiking trails map at the ranger station. Turn right to reach the Springs parking area and trailhead, or turn left to drive down the road to the Sand Lake trailhead. The park has more than 13 miles of interconnecting hiking trails.