On Thursday and Friday last week, January 6 and 7, we made an interesting trip to Camp. We had 80 Sixth grade students from Westwood Middle Schools’ Cambridge program at camp last week. One of our activities was a half day hike on the Florida Trail. We walked about 4 1/2 miles of the trail.
I drove the bus of 12-year-old adventurers from Camp out the Airport road and turned right on State Road 100. After going north on 100 we turned onto County Road 18 by the Edwards store. We took the second left and parked by a beautiful pond courtesy of Mr. Triest.
The first part of the Florida Trail from here back to camp follows an old rail grade. Along the grade we saw large numbers of epiphytes (air plants) and mistletoe. The epiphytes have a commensal relationship with the trees they sit in, meaning the plants benefit by being raised up into greater sunlight while the tree is neither helped nor hurt.
The mistletoe, on the other hand, is a true parasite as it extracts nutrients from the plant in which it grows. A parasitic relationship is one in which the parasite (mistletoe) benefits while its host (the tree) is harmed but not usually killed.
After less than a mile we headed east off the rail grade through a field with high grass. We eventually worked our way back onto a grade and then the path meandered through an old cut over area used for pulpwood. We reached the halfway point at State Road 100, crossed the road and had a welcome drink of water from a cooler stashed along the trail.
The last half of the hike is by far the most scenic. The trail follows the property line between the airport and camp Montgomery, at first along a stretch which was recently cut over for pulpwood. Soon after passing under the power line a beautiful sandhill ecosystem lays out before us. Gopher Tortoise burrows, Turkey Oaks, and Longleaf Pines dominate. We soon skirt the north side of a beautiful sinkhole pond called Emerald Lake.
The trail drops to an old road and heads north. The view of Little Crystal Lake from the bluff on its west side is awesome. To see camp- the old fishing dock, the Rec Hall, and the gap to Big Crystal- from this height and angle gives you a new perspective on camp. We then followed the west side of Pebble Beachs’ Creek all the way to the airport road, crossed a bridge, and followed the ravines’ east side back to Little Crystal Lake.
From there it was a hop, skip, and a jump to the B&O bridge and a welcome sit at the
Hangman’s tree. What a wonderful way to spend half a day!