Hi I hope that everyone is doing well! I wanted to check in with an update here since I haven’t posted in awhile. I have been keeping busy with exploring and making videos for my YouTube channel “Florida Trailblazer”. I hope that you have been enjoying the places I have been sharing about, stay tuned for more to come!
I am honored and extremely grateful to be featured in the September 2019 issues of Wesley Chapel, Lutz and Land O’ Lakes Magazines distributed in Pasco County, Florida.
Pasco County is a local stomping ground for me where there are many wilderness areas and historical sites to see and learn about. So over the years I have always strived to help educate people around these areas about some of these places through my various videos and other projects. So when I was presented with the opportunity to be featured in these magazines I was really excited! Although it is much more than about sharing about the history and wilderness in these regions but all over Florida as well.
I am so glad that I am able to inspire so many people through my adventures and really grateful for the opportunity to share about them. I appreciate your support thank you very much! I hope you enjoy this article see the link below. Special thanks to Sandy Parrish and KEM Media Group for the feature.
I enjoy exploring the St. Francis Trail in Ocala National Forest it leads you through a scenic wilderness and to a historical ghost town site. There is a kiosk at the trailhead that describes some of the history on the town. Today the town is long gone and nature has reclaimed the area. Walking through this lush wilderness you’d never think that there was once a booming town out here.
St. Francis was once called Old Town, it was a river town that served the steam boat traffic on the St. Johns River in 1888. They had a post office from March 15th, 1888 to Oct. 15th 1909. When the train line came out of Jacksonville in 1886 it began taking the business from the steamboats. Steamboats worked their way from Jacksonville upriver along the St. Johns to Sanford. Here they would stop to exchange household goods for citrus and timber. The town faded away after river traffic vanished in the wake of railroads for commerce.
As I explored along the trails and surrounding woods I could see some old Cypress stumps and even some old logging trams. One of them I found a large Cypress tree still standing with some cut marks on the side of it from loggers.
I enjoy the views by the river here and the different habitats you experience along the way. I followed the trail towards the townsite, there you can see the old wagon road and follow that back to the where the trail loops back to the trailhead. That direction leads to an old railroad line as well. On this adventure I spent some time by the St. Johns and St. Francis Dead River areas. You can see the old townsite on maps but it always has been difficult for me to find the exact location. If you look closely by the shoreline you can see some old dock pilings. You can see an old dock there in photos from the 1870’s where the packing house once was. It is quite amazing to be standing there in modern times and being able to reflect back upon the past. There is something about being in these places that takes you back to another time.
There were several homesteads scattered throughout the property and by one of them I found an artesian well. The wells furnished the residents with an abundant supply of water. Typically these are capped off now and days but this one is still flowing out of a pipe there. I wondered if there was a homestead nearby. Everything is very overgrown so it’s hard to really know the layout of the town but some maps available give you the general idea. I always enjoy the adventure of exploring these areas and learning about the past.
On this adventure I explored an old homestead site that is now part of Goethe State Forest located in Levy County. There is a lot of history here along with a scenic wilderness so I always enjoy visiting. I’ve seen everything from railroad, ranching and turpentine history here. So it seems like there is an always adventure that awaits when I explore this wilderness.
This area was located by a pond and the homestead and pond can be seen on old aerial photos from the 1940’s but not sure how much older than that it may be. When I look at these documents it is amazing to see how the areas have changed over the years compared to modern times. Nature has reclaimed most of these sites. Back then this section was cleared out around the homestead and the pond would have been a good water source. There may have been some livestock on the property as well.
Today the area is popular for equestrians and some of the horse trails go by the site. I found an overgrown path off of the trail that may have been a road to the homestead at one time. So I followed that for a little while until I came into a clearing by the pond, I could see some pieces of wood and metal scattered around. I was by the homestead area and the same pond that I saw on the aerial photo was just through the clearing and surrounding woods.
That is an incredible feeling standing in a place like this and you think of times gone by, who lived here and the memories that were made. It is lost to nature now but you still get a sense of the past in these places. Seeing some of the remnants from those days around the area only adds to that feeling. So as I roamed around I also found what appeared to be a well or cistern used for storing and collecting water. Nearby I saw some old bricks and part of a foundation. I spent a lot of time exploring the woods here and you can’t help but think what else may be out here. That is part of the mystery in exploring these places. Later I went down by the pond along the wooded shoreline and just took in the scenery, thinking “this is the real Florida, the old Florida…”
Below are some photos and a link to my video enjoy and thank you!
Over the years I have explored many areas of The Green Swamp Preserve located in central, Florida. It is a scenic and vast place that spans 4 counties so there is a lot to explore. The area is rich in history as well so I enjoy learning about and tracking down of that kind of stuff in this wilderness. It took a very long time to begin finding some of this history out here but I find that with dedication and just getting out there as much as possible in the more you begin to find and experience. There was logging, turpentine and ranching history in this place well over a hundred years ago. Even longer before that dating back thousands of years Native American Indians found this area to be a refuge and also a place with abundant resources.
One of the sites I have explored is this abandoned homestead site. During the 1800’s and into the early 1900’s some families lived in these areas. They built ranches, had orange groves and lived an old Florida lifestyle. This particular site seems to date back to at least the 1930’s according to some aerial maps I have. The area is mostly being reclaimed by nature so it looks a lot different than it did in the early days of this place. There was a homestead, a place for livestock and orange groves close by as well. Some of the orange trees still grow out here. There was a railroad line that was close by as well and many folks lived along them when trains were one of the main sources for transportation. I could see some of the old roads throughout the area which is all woods now and the roads have become trails. It makes for a very scenic exploration and there are many areas to venture into here. Around the area I could observe some old vehicles, foundations and other remnants from the homestead.
Being out here transports you back in time to another era and it is one of the sites where you can just feel the history. I truly enjoy these types of places and I’m very thankful to still be able to experience them in modern times.
Many historical sites and wilderness areas in Florida are being developed so it is important that we cherish and take care of these places while we still have them. I feel this way every time I visit these places and it’s part of the reason why I like to document them as much as I can so that in someway they can be remembered when they are gone.
Check out my video and photos below. If you visit this site or others like it please be respectful and leave everything as you see it, thank you.
I have been working on lots of new projects for Florida Trailblazer and one of them involves a podcast. It is something I actually had in mind to do for a long while now but it wasn’t until recently that I began putting it together. It is still a work in progress and will evolve in time. I have finished the first episode which is now available on my YouTube channel and will be published online at other outlets soon where podcasts can be heard.
The YouTube version has images to go along with the conversation which I think is a good way to help illustrate what I am discussing during the episodes. This first episode is about a couple of lost cemeteries that I explored.
If you are contributor to Florida Trailblazer you get first access to the episodes before they are published online. If you are interested in donating check out the links below. All of the contributions help go towards providing more content like this and so much more that I plan on producing in the near future.
I am very thankful for all of you that follow along with my adventures and this is just one of the ways I wanted to help give back to show my appreciation. These episodes will highlight some behind the scenes stuff about my adventures and provide an insight to a lot of the production and work involved when I am exploring all of these great places that I post about. I hope you and enjoy it and stay tuned for more exciting news!
During the 1800’s many families and early settlers had homesteads and cemeteries throughout Florida. I have been visiting a lot of these old cemeteries over the years and some are in better conditions than others. One of the areas I have visited recently is now part of Ocala National Forest and there are several old cemeteries around this forest. It is some of the remaining history and evidence from the past that still remains in these areas.
This particular cemetery is called Hull-Smith Cemetery and it’s located within Marion County. It appears to date back to the 1800’s and early 1900’s, although most of the tombstones here are either broken or missing. So it is hard to know the exact dates and the history of the folks buried here. Most likely the people who are buried in the cemetery were early settlers and had homesteads in the surrounding area. It was a simple life then but a very hard one.
As I explored around the cemetery I noticed maybe one or two tombstones that were still legible and in decent condition. I could see some of the tombstones had the name of Smith on them, one of the tombstones that was still legible had the name of Hull. According to burial records there is a Civil War soldier buried by the name of Daniel Hogan and he passed away in 1886.
It is my hope that one day the cemetery will be restored and kept up, sadly today is very neglected. I went there and recorded a video and took photos to help document and share about this place to help maybe bring some attention to the site. Although the cemetery isn’t in good condition the memories of these people and the history here is not lost. May their souls forever rest in peace…
Check out my video, photos and burial records posted below and if you visit this place or others like please be respectful of the sites, thank you.
I always enjoy exploring in Withlacoochee State Forest, there is a lot of amazing nature to experience and some interesting history to discover along the way as well. On this adventure I took a journey to an area that used to be a a Girl Scout camp during the 1960’s. It may not sound that interesting but they just don’t make like camps like this anymore, at least not here in this forest. There are some neat structures still standing including some old treehouses that were used as campsites during that time. Although they aren’t in the best of condition it may not be much longer before they collapse and are gone forever. So it is one of the reasons I take pride in exploring and documenting these places so that the history lives on for future generations to learn about. There aren’t any main trails that lead to the site but I did find some old paths around the area that must’ve been used during that time. The site borders the Withlacoochee River so access would’ve been by foot or by boat. It is definitely a place that is off the beaten path…
The Suncoast Council in the 1960’s established this campsite deep within the Withlacoochee State Forest. It was called “Camp Withlacoochee” or “Withlacoochee Wilderness Camp” and was built on 72 acres. Girl Scouts from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando Counties utilized the camp throughout the 1960’s to the 1980’s. Valuable life lessons and outdoor skills were taught at the camp.
I produced a video during my exploration and I dedicate that and this post to those who camped and enjoyed the wilderness here over the years. Many memories were made here and I have heard received messages from some of the folks who camped here and they all really cherished this place. It’s sad that this place is abandoned and no longer in use because if it was fixed up I am sure that many new generations of scouts would really enjoy it and this wilderness area!
Do you have a story or childhood memory from staying at this camp or possibly some old photos? If you would like to share about it please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post about it on my Florida Trailblazer Facebook Group or Page. Below is my video and some photos from my exploration, thank you and enjoy!
Ocala National Forest has a rich history, it is a beautiful and vast place to explore. One of my favorite places there is along the Ocklawaha River where an old steamboat landing existed in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The area today is known as Historical Davenport Landing it was just one of many stops along this river back in those times.
In those days there weren’t many other ways for people to get from town to town so traveling by steamboat was a main form of transportation. Along this river were lots of small towns. Lumber and various goods were also traded and transported along the river. It was vital to the economy and livelihood in these places.
Long before this time dating back thousands of years Native American Indians inhabited these areas along the Ocklawaha River. Evidence of that can be seen at the landing where an ancient burial mound is located, it dates back to 500-1200 years. There is a fence around the site today helping to keep it protected, a lot of the mound was excavated during the 1800’s. Digging into the mound and removing artifacts is prohibited and illegal so please be respectful of the history here when visiting. It is best to observe the mound from outside of the barrier, there is a nice kiosk there describing some the history of the mound and the landing.
There are a couple of short trails from the parking area leading to the landing area and it’s a scenic place in this forest with amazing views of the river. It is a place of beauty and history that hopefully can be cherished by generations to come.
Exploring in the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve near Cow House Creek I followed what appears to be an old railroad grade or logging tram. It is listed on a map from 1934 as “Gordon Grade” and it crossed over Cow House Creek. I could see part of the grade still elevated by one of the trails there in the woods so I followed it as far as I could to the creek where some of the pilings still remain from a bridge that once crossed there. I am not sure what the grade was used for, perhaps for logging at one time. It does seem to connect all the way up to the Morris Bridge area where the Hillsborough River is and there was an old road that was used during the 1800’s in that section. I did find some aerial photos from the 1930’s that show it there and back then the area was mostly ranches and orange groves.
Exploring the tram was really nice because nature has reclaimed much of the area today and leads you along some really beautiful cypress swamps. I have visited the area a couple of times now and just enjoy being down there by the creek, you can get a real sense of the history there. It is a wild and beautiful place that still remains in an area that is constantly under threat of development. I could see remains from some of the old ranches in the area as I made my way towards the grade. Down by the creek I observed several wood pilings from a bridge that once crossed there, though the bridge is long gone it is still neat to see these remains. Along the way I could see some railroad ties embedded into the ground near the grade as well. Eventually I would like to explore the wilderness on the other side of the grade across the creek.
Below I posted some photos, a video and old maps of the area. I will post more on these areas as I explore more of the wilderness here in time.