I went for my first long hike in Florida on my last day in the state. Sayre Kulp joined me for a hike in the attractive but cumbersomely named Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, and now we set off for the adjoining Bulow Creek State Park.
Bulow Creek meanders, and so does the park surrounding it. The park encompasses the Bulow Woods Trail, almost seven miles snaking through development, stretching from the plantation to the four century old Fairchild Oak. It promised to give us some serious hiking time, time I wasn’t getting in wintry Pennsylvania.
Our first attempt at the trail was before we visited the ruins. After consultation with a few Floridians, we set off on the trail from the plantation ruins parking area. However, winter is the rainy season in Florida – no, make that every day I’m in the state is the rainy season in Florida – and we found the mud made hiking difficult. So we turned around and drove to the trailhead on Walter Bordman Road and started from there toward the plantation.
The trail surface here was sand and dirt, and relatively dry and packed. My boots, if they could think, might have wondered where the rocks were. We made good time in good company, Sayre faster, I lagging a little behind.
A highlight of the hike was the side walk to Bordman Pond, one of the lush green wetlands Florida is famous for. I sat with my friend for a few minutes there, drinking in the scene.
I have a very nineteenth century view about nature. I get overwhelmed with the majesty, the wonder, of it. And I find myself imaging what coming across this pond, or ponds like this, might have been like for the first European visitors. Like them, I’d never seen such ponds, such hammocks, such wildlife. As I sat there looking wide eyed at the scene, I said to my friend, “Sayre, this whole week has been amazing. Florida isn’t at all the place I imagined it was. Nature here is so strange to me. Much of the time I’ve felt like I’ve been on the moon.”
After a few minutes we continued back to the main trail and pushed on toward the plantation. We passed through a utility cut that gave a great view of Bulow Creek, over a wooden bridge, and by small ripples on a tea-colored run.
Once again the wet undermined our plans. We came across a flooded section of trail and turned around.
From here we backtracked and tried another branch of the trail. However, I became concerned about getting back to the car. And I was fatiguing more than my lighter, fitter, and two decade younger friend. So we turned around and eventually finished the day with over six miles of hiking.
And the next morning I said goodbye to Florida. But as I was crammed into the airplane I thought, really, is it goodbye? Or until we meet again? That I cannot say. “Man proposes, God disposes.” So its possible, and perhaps probable, I visit again.
As for relocating, that too is a consideration. Sayre Kulp is the best advertisement Florida has as far as getting people to move south, but his methods are subliminal. However, one hit me. “Neil, who wouldn’t want to be in a place where its green twelve months a year?” Like many people who struggle with depression, winter hits me hard, and winters in Pennsylvania are hard. True, being amid the lushness of the hammock year round is no promise of happiness, and like all depressed people I can be miserable anywhere. And one needs to move towards something, not away.
But still…. being in the woods in shorts all year, and hiking and not having to worry about struggling with rocks or climbing….. its tempting. Florida has challenges, but my challenges aren’t as hard there. So its something I am thinking about, I confess. And before going I never would have considered the possibility. And now I’m doing just that.