I love walking a trail when it’s lightly raining. Colors are vibrant. Tree branches sag with the weight of rain drops, temperatures are cooler and few other people venture out. And so a recent rainy Saturday was the perfect time to hike the Wakulla Springs Trail.

Beginning at the Wakulla Springs Lodge, the first .6 mile is an interpretive tree trail nicely done as part of an Eagle Scout project by Gil Damon in 2010. You can learn about the uses and history of several trees such as the American beech, bald cypress, bluff oak, flowering dogwood, live oak, loblolly pine, pignut hickory, red bay, red maple, southern magnolia, sweetgum, wax myrtle and white ash. As an added bonus, you can see blooming red buckeye along the trail in early spring and Indian Paint in late spring.

After the footbridge across the scenic Sally Ward Spring, the real wilderness begins. Raindrops and birds are music to your ears and the trees are huge, especially the beech and magnolia. It is a walk among elders. You begin to realize why the park has the largest number of state and grand champion trees in the Florida Park system.
Along the trail, fallen magnolia leaves litter the ground, the upturned ones serving as saucer-sized pools for rainwater and the arm-thick grapevines loop and curve in artistic designs. Of course, there are mosquitoes in the warm months, but herbal repellent generally works well. And I was careful not to venture off the cleared trail for fear of ticks this time of year. Chiggers don’t like me, but if they did, I would put powdered sulfur around my ankles or bug repellent.

Around mile three, just before the Northside Spring Run and McBride Slough bridges, the trail merges into a straight border road for the next few miles, so this is a good place to turn around if hiking. A couple of massive bald cypress trees stand near the bridges and are a worthy sight to see. These trees have known the rap of ivory-bill woodpeckers and were ancient even when Carolina parakeets and passenger pigeon flew the skies as well as when red wolves, buffalo and Apalachee and Creek Indians roamed the land. The trees are landmarks of living history.

So venture out and explore the Wakulla Springs Trail-by foot or by mountain bike-and don’t let the rain stop you.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Doug Alderson
Doug Alderson is the author of several books, including Waters Less Traveled: Exploring Florida's Big Bend Coast (University Press of Florida 2005), The Vision Keepers: Walking for Native Americans and the Earth (Quest Books 2007), New Dawn for the Kissimmee River: Orlando to Okeechobee by Kayak (University Press of Florida, 2009), Encounters with Florida's Endangered Wildlife (University Press of Florida, 2010), and his newest book, Wild Florida Waters: Exploring the Sunshine State by Kayak and Canoe (Earthways Press, 2011). Additionally, his articles and photographs have been featured in magazines such as Sea Kayaker, Coast and Kayak, Wildlife Conservation, American Forests, Sierra, Mother Earth News and Shaman's Drum. He has won several state and national awards for his books and magazine features. Doug also works as the paddling trails coordinator for the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails.