On my way home from the Big O Hike, I took a few day’s detour to roam around lesser-known parts of the state to update my travel guide “South Florida: An Explorer’s Guide.” One of the especially lesser-known places is Ona, home of Solomon’s Castle. I was traveling with Michelle Phillips from Florida’s Freshwater Frontier, and we arrived at this gleaming edifice in the middle of the woods just as the clouds began to take on that hue we call “tornado weather” around here. Suffice to say the power went out and we spent a lot of time just sitting around chatting with Mr. Solomon about his unusual art.
What does this have to do with hiking, you’re wondering? Well, I’m happy to report that Hardee County, a place I thought pretty much barren of footpaths, has a couple. There’s one here at Solomon’s Castle.
For lack of a particular name I’ll tag it the Horse Creek Nature Trail, since it’s a short hike – a half mile or less – that loops out from the parking area to the floodplain of Horse Creek, a tributary of the Peace River.
It passes an oak of enormous girth, and follows the creek for some time before looping back to a marsh where an eerie boardwalk befitting the castle theme – the “drawbridge,” Mr. Solomon called it – zigzags back to the castle well above the swamp. Thanks to the weather, Michelle and I waited until a bit too late to do the walk and almost got caught out there in the dark.
The Solomons said there used to be a full canopy of trees before Hurricane Charley hit – they were directly in the path of it – and they’d lost 3,000 trees on the property. There is no admission fee to hike the trail or roam the grounds, and it’s a lot of fun. Here’s more about Solomon’s Castle.