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Florida Trail - North Florida Trailblazers Message Board Archived Discussions › Review: Big Oak Trail

Review: Big Oak Trail

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Cary B
user 8230062
Jacksonville, FL
Post #: 9
What: Big Oak Trail
Where: Suwannee River State Park
Directions from Jax:
- I-10 West to Exit #275 (Hwy 90). Carefully note this exit number as I-10 intersects Hwy 90 at multiple locations.
- Make a left at the end of the ramp, onto Hwy 90 West.
- Drive West On Hwy 90 approximately 5 miles.
- You will see a large sign for Suwanee River State Park, make a right.
- Drive straight through to the entrance to Suwannee River state park.
- Enter the park, pay the admission fee, and proceed to the day use/picnic area.

Well OOOPS we didn't get the memo!

Myself and Joan had not heard of the cancellation of this trip and went ANYWAY. We hada GREAT day and wanted to offer some trip details if anyone wants to try again in the future.

Drove out Friday afternoon and tent-camped Friday evening in the campgrounds. Very nice, a bit noisy from a neighbor site, but other than that the evening was wonderful and perfect weather Friday Evening. We sat on a swing-bench around 7:00PM that overlooks the Suwannee from a high bluff, and were surrounded by lightning bugs, and a great many of them. A beautiful respite.

On Saturday, we made breakfast and broke camp, expecting to meetup at 9 AM, but saw no one of course. We asked the ranger if they had seen a group, but no, so anyway, we waited a bit longer and started on the trail at 9:50 AM. Cool morning, crystal clear outside.

As shown on the map, the Big Oak trail follows a short boardwalk within the park, then does a jog along a road and down into a an overflow parking area, then into hardwood hammock and lowlands for about a mile. Joan alerted me to one corn snake, a nice specimen that I nearly stepped on. He was the only fauna for our trip, my only real disappointment.

Then the trail jumps up onto a beautiful high bluff along the Withlacoochee River, west bank, about two miles-ish. Plenty of breeze this Saturday kept the gnats at bay most of the time. Clear and sunny, we stopped at the Withlacoochee River Camp (maybe mile 3) for a brief rest. We hydrated, Joan ate a sandwich, and we moved on.

Crossed the Withlacoochee at the bridge, went approx. south along the east bank of the river, maybe another two miles - even prettier this side, the trail is again (mostly) on a high bluff and very close to the river. We passed some VERY INTERESTING sinkholes, with limestone bottoms and small aquifer water holes. Also a lot of white sandy river banks, very pretty.

We arrived at the "Confluence Camp" around 12:30 PM, about 5.6 miles into the hike. This camp is primitive, directly across river from the Suwannee State Park Picnic area, right at the confluence of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee rivers. We had lunch, as some light clouds rolled in. This primitive camp site is VERY nice, nestled in hardwoods and shady, w/ 2 picnic tables, tons of fallen wood and a fire ring. But nothing else.

At about 1:30 PM we got back on the trail to complete the 11.2 miles (apparently not 12 miles). The first mile or so now follows the west bank of the Suwannee, then turns off and drops into hammocks again. Saw the big-oak, an impressive specimen, gnarled and old, quite a large trunk, maybe 8-10 feet across at the base. Continued around through a mix of hardwood hammock and a little pine upland. This trail, for the most part is all very shady as the Florida Trail goes. With light clouds overhead, and a breeze, we were not hot, in spite of carrying a bit too much food, water, spray and sunblock, which were barely needed. Very shady.

Back over the bridge of the Withlacoochee and back along the same trail (this is a spur leading to a loop, not one big loop, so some of it, maybe a third or so, you see twice). Somewhere around Mile 10 it started to drizzle. We were nearly at mile 11 before ANY of the water made it through the canopy down to us. We continued the hike at a slightly elevated pace, but the rain was very light really, and the cool breeze that accompanied it was welcome.

Joan and I arrived at the picnic area, where the trail begins, at precisely 4:30 PM, only a little damp, but far from soaked, and fairly tired. When we left the bathrooms, we heard the first thunder clapp. Had we (the group) began the hike at 9 AM as planned, we would have missed the rain altogether I am sure.

While we are not teenagers, Joan runs Marathons and I run regularly, but at the end of this hike we were pretty tired, not really sure why. There is some undulation, but nothing at all like the AT, I just guess this is a long 11.2 miles, I guess. Be prepared for a long but very nice hike.

We had not planned on the Sunday continuation and drove home. That evening, between the two of us, three ticks. I had got into some ankle chiggers the night before, but only because I had not yet applied spray. NO sunblock the whole trip. Plenty of shade (but take some sunblock just in case).

I highly recommend this hike for anyone wanting a FULL DAY hike, it's pretty, in spite of occasionally following roads for a quarter mile, as it joins sections of beautiful trails. It is also very, very well marked, but take a map, because there are a couple of intersections that require navigating. I like the whole of it. Joan liked the trails and the woods, but disliked the road connections. The rivers and the old steel bridge that the trail crosses (at beginning and end) were all wonderful.

Les Roberts
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