Since last February’s excursion with F-Troop to this section of the Florida Trail northeast of Orlando, this was my first opportunity to revisit one of the most beautiful close-to-the-urban-masses parts of the trail. I had the pleasure of leading several volunteers from Hewlett-Packard Orlando and one of my writer friends, G.K., on a casual walk along the scenic bluffs above the Econlockhatchee River. Surprisingly cool and crisp, the morning left us wondering about the weather: one moment sun, the next clouds. Sweetgum showed sharp crimson and deep purple leaves against the browns of the river.
This year’s group of F-Troop volunteers were here, too, replacing shaky old bridges along the trail with sturdy structures to accomodate the increasing amount of foot traffic along these 7 miles or so of riverside footpath.
I’d forgotten just how beautiful this piece of trail is, meandering from scenic view to scenic view beneath bowers of latticed palm fronds, passing the landmark crossed palms, winding through islands of saw palmetto beneath oaks and magnolias. Since my volunteers were there to assist with photography of the trail, we went at a slow pace, which increased my appreciation even more. On our return trip, we saw kayakers coming down the river at just the perfect place to photograph them, and I was surprised and delighted, as they drew close, that they were another group of Florida Trail friends, these from the Indian River Chapter. They love to hike AND paddle, and some of them were returning the next day to help the F-Troop trail crew complete the bridges. Thanks to these volunteers for their hard work on the trail. Having swung a hammer and slammed some rebar in last year on one of these bridges, I know what hard work it is – but satisfying!
Take a hike! To find the trailhead, follow SR 426 east from Oviedo towards Geneva. The Barr Street Trailhead is only a mile or so past Lockwood Rd in Little-Big Econ State Forest. There is a $1 per person usage fee. From the trailhead kiosk, we followed a connector trail to the orange-blazed Florida Trail, which we met at a T at a bridge over a creek. Turn left to enjoy the most scenic portion of the trail, which follows the river for 2.2 miles to a broad bridge carrying the Flagler Trail across the Econlockhatchee River. The multi-use Flagler Trail runs from the Geneva Wilderness Area (farther down SR 426 towards Geneva) to Snowhill Road at Chuluota, and the Florida Trail crosses the river to utilize the Flagler Trail for another 3.4 miles to reach a prominent trailhead on Snowhill Road. There is no fee to access the trail from this trailhead. Unless you work with a friend to place cars at both ends, it’s an out-and-back hike from either trailhead. You can add to the hike by exploring the white-blazed Kolokee Loop, part of the Florida State Forests Trailwalker Program.