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.