Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Palmetto SP: Hike Report - Day 1

While at Palmetto State Park, we decided to hike some of the trails. I was nursing some blisters, so I did not want to walk too far, so we kept our hike to under 3 miles.

We began at the Canebreak Spur trail located between sites 9 and 11 in our campground (see map). This one-eighth mile trail soon connected us with the longer San Marcos River Trail; however, we only stayed on this trail for a brief distance before we veered off on the 1 mile Mesquite Flats Trail.

The Canebreak Spur Trail is typical of all trails in the park. All have crushed stone surface.
All trails have good signs at junctions.
This trail varies from woodland/swamp terrain to open prairie with mesquite trees; thus the name, Mesquite Flats. It should have been called Doodle Bug Flats because of the thousands of doodle bugs that were on the trail.

Wildflowers line the trail through the mesquite flats on the Mesquite Flats trail.

The open prairie of the mesquite flats quickly gives way to dense woodland.

After leaving the first stretch of open prairie, or mesquite flats, the trail plunges back into the woodlands to follow a creek, which it finally crosses on a sturdy metal bridge. All bridges we crossed were in good repair and very sound.

Metal bridge over creek that feeds into the San Marcos River. Most foot bridges in the park are wooden.

Rustic bench along the trail.
Nice wooden foot bridge. The interesting thing in this picture as far as I'm concerned is the open pasture on private property in the background. If not for this land being donated to the park service, the palmettos and other elements of this unique environment would have been cleared away.
At the end of one mile, the trail intersected with the Ottine Swamp Trail, another 1 mile long trail. This trail wound through more swampy terrain, although some of the area has dried up, a result of the prolonged drought, I suppose.

Immediately upon entering the Ottine Swamp Trail, we crossed a section of the swamp on this boardwalk.
Good example of the swamp. Notice the wooden fence post and wire near the center of the picture. I would not like to have been the person who put this fence line through here.
Near the end of this trail, it appears to lead onto a park road near a gate. However, veer sharply right and stay on the trail, which parallels the park road. It will eventually cross the road about a fourth mile farther on. When it does cross, you can see the San Marcos River and the low water crossing.
View of the San Marcos River from the place where the Ottine Swamp Trail crosses the paved park road. If you look closely, you may be able to see the low-water crossing near the top part of the river in the picture.
After about one-eighth mile, the trail comes out at the Refectory. A short 100 foot walk down a paved water runoff ramp leads to the low water crossing.

The Refectory

Low-water crossing on the San Marcos River. Only foot traffic may cross here. This crossing connects the two parts of the park.

Looking upstream from the crossing.

Looking downstream from the crossing. In the bare area where the river curves right, you can see buzzards roosting along the bank. There were buzzard roosts throughout the park.
After viewing the low-water crossing, we returned to camp. Our hike today, including walking from and to our campsite, probably totaled little more than 2½ miles. It is a good, easy hike, with no ups and downs. It would be a good trail system to ride a bicycle. We did encounter 2 lone hikers on the trail as well as a couple who were riding their bikes. Otherwise, it was peaceful and quiet.

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