Thursday, April 4, 2013

Palmetto SP: Hike Report - Day 2

For my second day of hiking at Palmetto SP, I went solo. Donna wanted to stay at the trailer and do some cleaning and cooking. My goal today was to hike the trails in the park that I did not see yesterday.

I began by hiking past the Refectory and down across the low-water crossing of the San Marcos River (for pictures and details, see "Palmetto SP: Hike Report - Day 1"). Once on the other side, I followed the park road through the tent camping area. At the restrooms, I found the trail head for the three-quarter mile Oxbow Lake Trail. (see map)

Trailhead for the Oxbow Lake Trail is next to the restrooms in the day use area.
This trail loops around the lake, crossing the highway as it does so.

View of Oxbow Lake from where trail crosses highway.

Parts of this trail have denser shrub and brush than the other trails I’ve been on. Gnats and other small, annoying flying insects hovered about my face throughout the section of the trail north of the highway. At the northern part of the lake, water gives way to reeds, making any view of the lake from the trail difficult at best. At the northern tip of the lake, I turned back south and walked along the western shore of the lake. The trail eventually broke out into a clearing occupied by the Litte Hill Baptist Church, then ducked under the highway bridge.

Trail cuts through dense woodland and brush along the northern part of the lake.

Extreme northern tip of Oxbow Lake
Litte Hill Baptist Church in a clearing on the west side of Oxbow Lake just north of the highway.
It was a Saturday morning in the park, and the day use area was teeming with people, especially young folks. It’s good to see young people getting outside and playing. They were kicking soccer balls, throwing Frisbees, playing on play ground equipment, fishing, and just running around having a good time.

I retraced my steps back across the low-water crossing. At the Refectory, I took the Ottine Swamp Trail, which I had followed yesterday in its entirety. At the park road crossing, though, I turned left for a short walk to the entrance to the Palmetto Interpretive Trail, a short looping trail of one-third mile. A water tower is just off the trail head, and is an interesting stop. Also along the trail are several interpretive signs. This is the best trail to see palmettos, for which the park is named.

Trail head for Palmetto Interpretive Trail. Note water tower in background and sign warning about snakes. I did not see a single snake on my hikes in the park.
Closer view of the water tower.
The water tower is an interesting stop. It includes a ram-jet pump which uses no electrical power. Instead, it uses the force of a rising column of water from the artesian well to pump water to a cistern atop the tower. The pump and tower are used today to maintain a constant water level at the swamp to help the palmettos thrive. It was built by the CCC between 1933 and 1936.

You never know what you'll come across on a hike.

One of the many swampy areas along this trail
The trail eventually loops back to the park road. I turned right for another sort walk to the entrance to the San Marco River Trail, a one and one-quarter mile trail. For the first 100 feet or so, I could see trailers in the nearby trailer camping area, but the trail then veers away from the campground.

I am not a scientist, so I looked up mud boils. Wikipedia states mud boils are sometimes called frost boils. For more info, click here.
Several trails intersect with the San Marcos River Trail: Mesquite Flats Trail (which I hiked yesterday), Canebreak Spur (which I hiked yesterday), and the Mossycup Spur.

Foot bridge with moss hanging overhead near Mossycup Spur Trail.

Just beyond the Mossycup Spur trail, the bluffs of the opposite bank of the San Marcos River became visible on my right. Palmettos give way to lush woodland. Few views of the river are available from the river until near the end of the trail, though some footpaths do wend through the thick grass to the bluffs above the river.

One of the few clear views of the San Marcos River from the San Marcos River Trail.
Birds were active throughout this section of the trail I saw cardinals and heard woodpeckers. Wildflowers grew thicker and thicker, and butterflies and bees were working the flowers. Eventually the trail comes into sight of the trailer camping area, then emerges near the restrooms.

Except for the folks around the day use area near the beginning of the hike, the only folks I actually saw on the trails was a lone hiker on the Ottine Swamp Trail and a nature photographer near the end of my hike. The length of my entire hike was probably just over 3 miles.

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