It took a serendipitous turn one morning for us to stumble across a new-to-us hiking trail not fifteen minutes from home.
Now we’d thought we’d covered everything nearby when were were looking for trails while finishing up “Five Star Trails Orlando,” but this one slipped past us.
Perhaps due to the location – access to the trail is off a bicycle path, and it’s not well publicized. But even for our morning walk, it was a surprise.
John had cycled the Spring-to-Spring Trail with his friend Bill a couple of weeks beforehand. We had a free morning and were headed to Daytona Beach, and with the cool temperatures and sunshine, I said – “let’s look for a hike!”
With the St. Johns River still in flood stage, it wasn’t a good time to choose any trails near the river, so for the sake of exercise, I asked him about taking a walk on the Spring-to-Spring Trail.
He drove us to a trailhead that I didn’t even know existed, and we started the walk down the paved trail. I was hoping to find an easy back way into Gemini Springs Park, which is turned out was 2.5 miles up the trail by foot.
Not a bad distance, but might be too much for our morning. The paved trail was busy with joggers and cyclists in the early morning, and started off along a boardwalk through a cypress swamp.
Snaking through old-growth hardwood hammock, I thought, “what a nice walk!” But then the trail emerged after a mile or so into pine plantation and broad open fields under a power line. Full sun and not as pleasant for walking.
Within ten minutes or so, we saw an arrow pointing to the right. “Maybe this is the connector,” I said, and we plunged into the coolness of the woods.
Reaching a T intersection, the arrow pointed back to the south, but I knew Gemini Springs was to the north. So we ignored the arrow and took the other footpath.
It was a bit rough in places and soggy in spots but had been mowed, so we thought it might work.
Instead, it led us along the vast marshy edge of Debary Bayou, always close to the forest, and just ended, unceremoniously. So we backtracked and followed the arrows again, scaring up a flock of turkeys who’d been taking dust baths in the trail.
We emerged along a man-made wetland area, where there was a dumpster full of construction materials. A bit odd, but we thought it might be a recent cleanup. At one point, we could see Interstate 4 through the woods before the trail turned away from it.
Heading back into the cool shade of palms, the arrows led us down a footpath and right into a marshy spot fringed with wetland plants it’s obviously always wet there.
Instead of getting wet – since we were on our way to an event and had no spare shoes – we found our way out to the levee around the big wetland area and eventually back to the bike trail.
But we noted where the blue arrows came back in, at a turn in the woods.
After the fact, I looked up the location of where we’d been hiking and discovered it was called the Gemini Springs Addition, and is part of the St. Johns Water Management District lands. What a delightful surprise!