Hiking Hillsborough River State Park’s Seminole Trail

Thursday January 21st 2021

Today began a little warmer than the last few days, but it still took a long time to get the inside temperature into the comfort zone. Outside the temperature peaked in the mid seventies around 4PM.

This afternoon I hiked the Seminole trail on the far side of the Hillsborough River from the state park’s campground. It is a 3.2 mile loop trail that follows the river for the first third or so of its length. The trail is labeled “moderate” because it goes up and down a few twenty foot slopes with lots of exposed roots. It really isn’t very difficult. The worst part of the trail is the mud. If the water level was any higher some areas would be impassable. With the current water level the ground in some areas was wet and slippery, but not squishy. The sides of my shoes did not come in contact with the mud.

The walk along the river was pleasant. Other than squirrels the only wildlife I saw was one shy turtle. It jumped off a log into the water before I could turn on my camera. I wanted to see a gator or two taking the sun, but the trail didn’t pass close to any of the areas I know they frequent and I didn’t spot any others. The last two thirds of the loop hike is well inland of the river. There are many signs of animals digging along the trail, but I imagine that is at night.

The trail begins a good distance away from my campsite. I’d guess it is about a mile and a half. Some of the distance is the result of hurricane Irma three plus years ago. The bridge nearest the trail head was damaged and hasn’t been repaired. It is necessary to go further up river to the suspension bridge. When combined with the length of the trail, I walked around six miles on my afternoon hike. There were only a few other people on the trial. Most of the time it was a nice walk with only the sounds of the forest. The kayakers on the river made more noise than the other hikers.

History and Nature

Wednesday January 20th 2021

Like Tuesday today began cold and climbed to a couple of degrees above normal. It was in the forties when I turned on the heat this morning. During my afternoon walk the temperature had reached the low to mid seventies.

After turning the heat on I returned to bed and started watching the coverage of the events in Washington DC on TV. My interest is primarily in the history associated with the event. The people and their specific views are less interesting than the institution and its strengths. Despite the events of two weeks ago, the pandemic and the absence of the out going head of state, the ceremony went on. There was more security and fewer people, but the constitutionally mandated activities and the sometimes bizarre pomp and circumstance went a little faster than normal. Maybe Lady Gaga sang the National Anthem to fast or somebody didn’t speak long enough, but the new president was sworn in twelve minutes too early. Where there two US presidents for twelve minutes?

About 1:30PM I finally got out of my RV home. I had managed to get out of bed sometime during the morning, but it wasn’t easy. It was nice and warm in the bed. The woods around my campsite do not allow the sun to warm my RV home. It’s all up to the little space heater I’m using. If the cool really bothers me, I can always turn on the propane furnace, but that’s a noisy inefficient beast. Outside my RV home it was already in the seventies. It was an ideal temperature for another walk along the Hillsborough River.

There weren’t as many people on the trails today. Those that I saw were all new to me, but the wildlife was not. I’m even more convinced that ever that I’m taking pictures of the same critters every day. The alligators are all in the same sunny locations on the bank scattered along about a mile of the river. The birds aren’t in the same locations, but they are all one offs. I only see one Great Blue Heron everyday, one Little Blue Heron, and one Anhinga. I see them in a different location along the mile plus that I walk, but they sure look like the same birds. They still make a nice picture.

A Hike to Nowhere

Tuesday January 19th 2021

The temperature inside my RV home was in the forties when I turned the heat on this morning. Towns in the area reported lows in the thirties. One town about twenty miles north even reported a low of 28 degrees. The cold start to the day was soon offset by the bright sun. The high temperature for the day broke the seventy degree mark.

The sun and water in the background were just right for the picture of this resting Ibis.

Today’s primary hike was along the wetlands trail. The last time I stayed at this campground in January of 2019, the trail was partially under water. This year the water level is lower and the trail is high and dry. It is advertised as a 1.6 mile walk through a reclaimed wetlands area. The trail ends at the park boundary with another trail in a nearby county park. From the map I expected the end to be at the bank of the Hillsborough River. The trail turned out to be primarily through an open managed fire area along a gravel road. The end was not at the river, but separated by about 100 feet of dense woodland. I knew it was there, but couldn’t get to it.

The calm flowing waters of the Hillsborough River this afternoon.

The wetlands trail was three and a half miles of pretty boring walking. I needed to walk along the river later in the day to find something interesting to take pictures of for this blog entry. The trails along the river were empty by comparison to the weekend crowds. A few people were gathered on the bank to watch an alligator take the sun and a few more were walking dogs. Overall only a fraction of the people that were out yesterday were along the trail. The alligators were in short supply too.

The atmosphere in the campground has also quieted down after the weekend. I don’t think the park was full last night. Today the park was very quiet. Compared to the weekend everything is very laid back. The weather is forecast to be improving over the next few days. That may bring more life to the park.

Alligator Sighting Day

Monday January 18th 2021

The sun was back today. I don’t think there was a cloud in the sky all day, but it didn’t help the temperature much. Today’s high temperature was in the mid to upper sixties. The lack of clouds is forecast to continue overnight allowing radiational cooling to drop the temperature into the thirties.

I got a slow start to the day. When I finally got out of my RV home after lunch there were a lot of empty campsites. The three day Martin Luther King holiday weekend was over and many people had returned home or moved on. Surprisingly, the campground hasn’t filled up this evening.

The day use part of the state park was just the opposite from the campground. It had even more people walking the trails along the river than the two weekend days. Along with added people, there seemed to be added dogs today. So many groups had from one to three dogs with them. One couple had a Great Dane, and two other mix bread dogs just about as big. The groups are spread out across and along the trail. It is impossible to pass them from behind. If they are coming toward you on the trail, your only option is to stop off to the side of the trail and wait. Most of the dogs are better behaved than the kids. This is the first day I saw kids playing in the river despite the warning signs.

The sun brought out the gators. I saw four alligators taking the sun today and my first turtle along this river. The weather was just about perfect for walking along the banks of the Hillsborough River.

Made a Couple of Reservations on a Slow Sunday

Sunday January 17th 2021

My day began early. I was up by 7:30AM to be ready for great mouse click race at 8AM. There were six campsites available starting December 17th 2021 at Myakka River State Park. My goal was to get one of them for the last two weeks of the year. I lost the mouse click battle for the first site I tried, but the competition for my second choice wasn’t as great. At 8:02AM my second choice was available and I successfully booked the site.

Later in the day I made another reservation. This one was at Lake Louisa State Park in the middle of the state for the two weeks at the beginning of December. The reservation window for the park I want to stay at in November is only six months, so I need to wait until May to book it. As of now I am booked now through April and for December. The research for the summer is still ongoing. I need to get moving to fill in the gaps. In two weeks, I need to make my first reservation for January of 2022.

The Ibis is today’s bird of the day.

Today’s weather was even gloomier than Saturday. The sun never made an appearance keeping the high temperature in the low sixties. The only good feature of today’s weather was the total absence of any wind. The surface of the river was still. The weather trend is in a positive direction. By the second half of the week the forecast has the high temperatures above normal in the high seventies.

I got in one short walk around the campground and one long walk along the river before I became glued to the football games on the TV. Neither walk was particularly memorable. People were departing the campground on my first walk and people were flooding into the day use areas along the river on my second. There wasn’t a lot of social distancing going on in some of the picnic pavilions. So far the football games on TV have been entertaining.

A Slow Saturday

Saturday January 16th 2021

After last night’s rain showers as another cold front passed through the area, it was a cool dull morning. I got up long enough to turn on the heat before returning to the warmth of my bed. The sun was making an appearance through the trees by the time I got up. The temperature never got higher than the low sixties and the clouds were back around 3:30PM.

I made use of the better part of the day to take another walk along the Hillsborough River. The most notable difference today was the number of people enjoying the state park. People were doing all kinds of different things. The majority were hiking, but some were having picnics, walking dogs, or paddling kayaks in the river. The day use part of the park is still partially shutdown do to the pandemic. The concession operation isn’t open. You can not rent kayaks or canoes. The swimming pool and playgrounds are also closed.

The type of campers in the campground also changed for the weekend. During the week the sites were mostly occupied by RVs from some distance away. This weekend there are more tent trailers and tents. Families have replaced aging couples and solo travelers. It good to see that local families can use the state parks. I wonder if it is a consequence of the pandemic or if I just wasn’t noticing it in previous years.

More Walking Along the River

Friday January 15th 2021

Today began early for me. I was up before 8AM to try and make a reservation for next winter. Reservations for sites in Florida state parks starting on December 15th 2021 opened today. There were only two available at my park of choice and despite hitting the enter key at 8AM I missed out. There are no sites available starting December 16th, so my next chance will be on Sunday morning. I will keep trying for a few days before switching to a less popular park.

Getting a little rest.

The weather followed the forecast with respect to the temperature, but not to much else. There was a two or three hour window of outdoor suitable weather. The day started cloudy and cool and ended rainy and windy. In between the sun was out long enough to get the temperature up to low seventies.

I spent the outdoor suitable part of the day walking along the Hillsborough River. I think I’m seeing the same animals over and over. I saw alligators in the same general area as yesterday. They seem to be the same size as the ones I saw yesterday. I also saw an Anhinga drying its wings in the same general section of river. The Little Blue Heron and the Great Blue Heron might well be the same birds, but there is less evidence to support the theory.

The Alligators are Out

Thursday January 14th 2021

After three days of little to no sunshine, it was back today. By late morning the sun had won the battle with the clouds and warmed the air temperature into the high sixties before setting this evening. Clear conditions remain overnight through around noon tomorrow. The next cold front is forecast to arrive tomorrow afternoon.

Suspension bridge over the Hillsborough River.

Taking advantage of the better weather I explored along the Hillsborough River a little more extensively. The wildlife was a little more active. More birds were visible and others were singing their chants from the trees. The fish were visible in the clear calm waters of the river and the warm sunshine brought the alligators onto the river banks.

Young six or seven foot alligator.
Alligator high on the bank watching the water in the river.

There were plenty of human visitors to the park too. Across the river from one rather large alligator a small group gathered. Among the people was one gentleman that seem to think he was an “expert”. He loudly proclaimed that the “crocodile” was in her nest keeping her eggs warm. Others in his party were eating up his expertise. As far as I know, alligator matting season is still a few months away and I don’t think the eggs are attended during incubation. Do you think any of his friends knew the truth? Sometimes it’s fun to overhear things and sometimes it’s just a sad. Those folks need to visit Myakka River State Park to see more than a couple of gators. The alligators on this river bank aren’t that big or plentiful.

The campsites in this state park seem to turn over frequently. Some of the nearby sites have changed occupants two or three times since I arrived on Monday. It will be interesting to see if the sites get occupied by weekenders or continue to turn over daily with travelers.

A Cool and Gloomy Day

Wednesday January 13th 2021

Today was a cool and gloomy day. The thick cloud cover necessitated a light on inside my RV home to do anything more than watch TV even at midday. Outside the temperature remained in the low fifties all day.

A little bit of color on a gloomy day.

An upside to the cool, cloudy and still conditions was the lack of people out on the trails. During my late morning walk I didn’t see a soul. It was so quiet that every little noise in the woods stood out. The sounds of squirrels on the ground and in the trees sounded like far bigger creatures. A woodpecker on the far side of the river found a hollow tree that amplified every peck against the trunk. It was an interesting exercise to stand still on the river bank and listen to all the various sounds throughout the woodlands.

I took my second walk of the day early to get away from the TV and beat the approaching rain showers. Around 4PM a series of brief light showers began. They are forecast to continue into the evening. On the second walk I encountered more people out and about. It was still very still, but the sound of kids at play and barking dogs kept the more wild sounds of nature from my ears. Other than lots of squirrels the only wildlife I saw was a lone Anhinga. Unlike yesterdays spread wing pose, it was huddled up with its wings close to the body.

A Walk Along the Hillsborough River

Tuesday January 12th 2021

Between the thick tree cover and the very cloudy conditions it was a dark and dull morning. Getting started with the day was difficult. The sun made a brief appearance through the clouds late in the afternoon, but if you blinked you would have missed it. The temperature remained in the low to mid sixties all day. Overnight lows in the forties are forecast.

The first order of business today was finishing the setup tasks around the campsite. Usually that only includes taking the bike off the car and a couple of other outside tasks. This morning I found I’d stopped in the middle of things yesterday. The door to my electric cord storage on the back drivers side of the rig was still open and I had also neglected to put the cover on my tow bar. I must have been really tired yesterday after I arrived.

This morning I did some exploring around the campground. Some of the campsites are much better than the one I’m on. They have been leveled out and raised above the water level with gravel. If I’m going to stay here again, I need to make a list of the improved sites. The one I’m on is OK, but it has issues compared with many of the others.

My other two walks today were along the Hillsborough River. The river winds through the park. It has lots of pretty overhanging trees and many downed trunks in the river providing character to the rivers flow. Without the sun or general warmth, the turtles and gators weren’t out on the banks, but I suspect on warmer days they will be. I kept my walk to the developed trails on this side of the river today. On the other side of the river are two longer less developed trails that I’ll explore on another day.