In our bright orange shirts, we’d planned to go hike at Bull Creek WMA, deer season or no. The temperature was cool and the skies perfect for a trek on the Florida Trail. But our day took a different path.
First it was Shingle Creek. We needed to burn off some time on the way to visit friends, so why not a hike? Looking for where Google said the trail would be, we found a cricket match going on.
The trailhead is well-hidden behind a fenced school amid suburban sprawl near the 417. We didn’t have much time to explore, but it was a surprisingly beautiful corridor of cypress swamp and ditched creek, the headwaters of the Everglades.
As we left, we finally saw the road sign that directs visitors into a driveway that says “buses only” to get to the trailhead parking. We’re guessing it’s tough to visit here on school days. Today, families were just hitting the trail as we were leaving.
After a leisurely brunch with our friends – the very ones who lightened our load on the AT – we steered towards Kissimmee. We don’t go in that direction often. The traffic is irritating and the sprawl heartbreaking. But it was nearby, and John was especially interested in the Pioneer Day held today.
It wasn’t where we expected, as we’d both been to the Osceola County Historical Society park at the south end of Bass Rd in the past. That’s not where the directions led us.
Almost as if a stage had been set, the open landscape we experienced at Historic Babb Landing at Shingle Creek Regional Park when we hiked it in 2012 for Five Star Trails Orlando is now a village of historic homes, some original, some replica. It seemed that the surrounding subdivisions crowded closer too.
Live country music filled the air as we joined hundreds of others strolling between pioneer buildings, meeting up with reenactors, artists, and craftspeople.
It was no surprise to find Jimmy Sawgrass and his wife the center of attention in the Seminole encampment. Everyone wanted a picture with them. John’s known him since his days at Camp La-No-Che.
We ran into someone else we knew, or rather, she noticed us and I feel bad I didn’t grab a photo or a name. She’d been to our talk at REI last week and was here today with her kids, enjoying the family-friendly activities.
So we dawdled our way through this special event and realized there wasn’t enough time left to hike on the Florida Trail today. Instead, we visited three conservation areas in Osceola County before the sun set:
Twin Oaks Conservation Area – which has reopened, thankfully, after a portion of the park was damaged by an adjoining developer last year;
Cherokee Point Conservation Area – a newer and remote birding location within sight of Twin Oaks but a long drive around to it; and,
Lake Lizzie Conservation Area – one of the oldest natural lands in Osceola County and a popular place for a hike.