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Posts Tagged ‘FloridaStateParks’

The country girl in me believed that state parks in some way mimic the large wild spaces one would find in the country, areas filled with beautiful flora, fauna, and opportunities for discovery. The idea that a state park could be a small piece of land tucked in between the Intracoastal and A1A in urban Ft. Lauderdale challenged my country girl spirit.

With plans to visit as many Florida State Parks as possible in my retirement, I took an afternoon and drove to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Ft. Lauderdale. The website described hiking opportunities as a “20-minute leisurely walk through a native maritime tropical hardwood hammock ecosystem,” and I arrived prepared for a short stroll in a city park, most likely a boardwalk. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

Ibis Along the Nature Trail

In a small amount of space, this park had a bit of everything! A long oval shaped one-way drive surrounds the park. Most of the parking is along this drive. Winding, canopied nature trails weave in and out along the way. Along the trails, small signs describe some of the flora in the small forest, but I would have loved to see more and better signage.

The drive includes a designated lane for pedestrians, bikers, and inline skaters as well, and all took advantage of the gorgeous day. The welcoming west side of the trail which borders the Intracoastal and includes benches and picnic tables shaded by trees impressed me—what a great escape from the urban chaos just minutes away. I walked through a meditation garden and stepped along a labyrinth. There was a small playground and clean restrooms nearby (although the restroom in the small restaurant screamed for attention).

The park also includes a small concession to rent canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, jet-skis, beach chairs and beach umbrellas—just about anything a person might need for a little getaway. The beach is easily accessed just past the Park and Ocean Restaurant. This casual restaurant, snuggled beneath what looked like large Seagrape trees (not sure that’s what they were), includes an In-house brewery, Shady Brewing, that offers specialty beers with a taste of Florida. What could be better than a cold beer and some island music to end the afternoon? I chose the bartender’s favorite, a light beer with a hint of Mango, called Mangolandia, enjoying it along with the fish tacos.

A Refreshing Beer with a Florida Twist

At the end of my visit, I had walked about 2.5 miles and spent two hours in the park.

I purchased an annual pass for the Florida State Parks at the beginning of January and have visited only two thus far—and they could not have been more different—but the country girl in me is good with that now. Sometimes, smaller does the trick. Either way, it has been a great investment of $60. I look forward to the next one!  

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I completed the White Loop Trail at Jonathan Dickinson State Park on New Year’s Day and enjoyed it enough to bring me back for more! This time, my bestie, Barb, joined me, and we hiked the 4.9 miles of the Green Loop Trail in just under two hours.

If you come from almost anyplace other than Florida, you will find the Florida trails different. Mainly flat and often sandy, in many cases, there is little or no shade, but dang, you are out in nature in beautiful sunny Florida surrounded by the Florida scrub and who knows what else.

Sugar Sand Pathway of the Green Loop

This was a Monday holiday, so there were others around the park on bikes and on foot. The campsites were full. We hiked the Green Loop Trail, going counterclockwise. On the east side of the trail, we trudged through sugar sand as we headed north with the sun at our backs. The trail was narrower on this side with some shade and even some ups and downs!

Our View from the Wooden Bridge

We walked along the railroad tracks on the west side of the trail—the same tracks that bordered the White Loop I hiked on New Year’s. This trail was wider and paved in areas. Although this made the hike faster, we enjoyed the narrower sugar sand path and the added work it required more. Heading south, we started to see mountain bikers flying along their trails to our east but very little wild life other than that. The south end of the trail brought us to a lake and some welcomed shade—a short break for us before we ended our hike.

A Bit of Cool Shade Before the End

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I have so much to be grateful for and excited about in this new year. I just retired, and adventures await! I have a lengthy list of places to go and things to do.

I had to start somewhere, but uppermost on my mind was ensuring that I could pitch my new tent (REI Quarter Dome SL2). Understand that I grew up in New England, on a farm, in the middle of nowhere, and yet, I have never been camping. I mean…pitch a tent and sleep outside kind of camping. So, this is a new concept for me, and it would not do me well to hike into the wilderness only to discover that I could not put up my tent in a reasonable amount of time and spend the night.

I decided that to test myself, I would stay close to home and camp at a site where I could park next to my tent–you know, just in case. The John Prince Park Campground in Lake Worth was the perfect location.

John Prince Park Wildlife

I arrived at 3:00 and had a beautiful spot near the water. I was one of only two tents in this RV-crowded campground. As I pulled out my supplies, wind gusts challenged me and turned my tent into a wind sock before I finally staked out two corners. Somehow, I still managed to raise my tent in less than an hour! (For me, this was an accomplishment.)

Morning Comes at John Prince Park

Because John Prince Park is so close to home, I often go there on walks, but I had never been to the campground area. I spent an hour discovering several small, dirt trails that took me through the peaceful Florida scrub before I returned to my tent for the evening. My family stopped by to ensure the iguanas and alligators had not gotten to me. That night, I snuggled into my sleeping bag in the quiet campground and fell asleep (eventually) listening to the distant traffic on I-95 and the wind slapping against my tent. I awoke early feeling confident that I could do this again and ready to tackle my retirement list!

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