Instead of watching the Gators play football, we decided to go on a First Day Hike through gator habitat. These January 1st hikes have become a tradition since our first in 2012. This year’s destination: LaChua Trail.
We knew that a portion of the trail was closed earlier due to high water levels but decided to give it a try. Within minutes of stepping on the boardwalk we saw two water moccasins and only a short distance down the trail saw the first gator. It seemed intent on ushering us down the path as it cruised along matching our pace.
Barricades blocked the trail less than a mile from the start and a large gator served as sentinel to ensure no one crossed the barrier.
After a lunch stop we continued our hike at Payne’s Prairie State Park following the Cone’s Dike Trail. We encountered no reptiles in this area, and the only wildlife seen were birds, mostly sandhill cranes, flying over the prairie. However there was plenty of evidence of horses, bison, hogs and even a large cat along the muddy path.
The final mileage of the two walks measured just under five miles, not bad for a first day hike. And of course our First Day Hike wouldn’t have been complete without a little rain. Fortunately this year it didn’t start raining until we approached the parking lot, and it helped that the temperature was in the 70s.
Year three of the first walk tradition! This year’s walk on January 1st, was a repeat of last year…only better, thanks to the weather!
January 1st, 2014 we and a handful of brave souls bundled up in raincoats, hats, gloves, and scarves to walk at Rainbow Springs State Park. This year with the temperature in the 50s, I counted more than three dozen cars in the the parking lot, quite a bit better than the three there last year. Visitors walked, canoed, and surprisingly swam on the first day of the year at the park.
The idea of a first walk is promoted by the state parks as a way to start the new year being active while enjoying the outdoors, and hopefully getting acquainted with one of Florida’s state parks.
Rainbow Springs is a perfect place for us to start the year since it also gave us an excuse to drop in on my parents to wish them a happy new year. A 45 minute walk following a picnic lunch, not a bad way to usher in 2015, and we even stopped by the Dunnellon Bridge Trail for a short bike ride after leaving Rainbow Springs to check out the recently built connector to Blue Run Park.
Thursday was a good day for the first walk of 2015 and a good opportunity to take a first selfie of the year as well.
According to my friend, Kay, if you do something two years in a row, it’s a tradition. Using this standard, participating in a First Day Hike is now officially a tradition.
On January 1, 2013, we started the day hiking the LaChua Trail at Payne’s Prairie. The easy three mile hike provided ample opportunities for upclose alligator encounters. In addition to alligators, we observed wild boar and wading birds on our first day hike.
This year we kicked off 2014 with a First Day Hike at Rainbow Springs State Park. Despite the rain, we managed to hike the three mile yellow trail.
Rainbow Springs State Park
The fourth largest spring in the state and a popular park for swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking, and picnicking, Rainbow Springs was nearly deserted on the first day of the year with only three other cars of visitors braving the less than perfect weather.
Originally we planned to rent a kayak and paddle for a couple of hours but decided against sitting in a puddle on a cool January morning. We’ll leave that for another day.