One of my favorite areas at Goethe State Forest is where an old cypress tree still stands known as Goethe Giant. There is a trail and boardwalk that leads you to this majestic tree that is estimated to be over 900 years old.
During the 1800’s and early 1900’s many of these cypress trees were cut down during the logging booms because this type of wood is so valuable and for its durability. The Florida wilderness was once covered with these old trees, many dating back 1,000’s of years. Some still remain today but can be difficult to find, but others like this one are nicely preserved along a trail where you can visit and experience this beautiful tree.
Check out my video and photos below to get a glimpse of this tree, the forestry website link posted also has a map indicating where the tree is along the Big Cypress Boardwalk Trail. There is a forest road you can access there which takes you to the trailhead.
I explored this area recently known as Devils Hammock Wildlife Management Area located in Levy County. I had been here several years ago but never got the chance to really look around like I wanted to. So I took my video camera and geared up for a hike in this preserve to check it out again to see what I could find.
I am really glad that I did because this time I found one of the most interesting trees I’ve ever seen while exploring the wilderness. It is a very large and old oak tree located in the woods here off one of the trails. In fact there is a sign at one of the trailheads indicating that there is a champion tree here. I can’t say for sure how old it is but from the looks of it this majestic tree has been here for a long time and has stood the test of time.
The trunk and base of the tree are very large, especially when you stand up next to it you get a true sense of it’s size. I imagine that the tree could be several hundred years old, though not sure exactly what kind of oak it is. The area is surrounded by swamps and hardwood hammocks and the forest has an ancient feel to it. It is a very scenic wilderness with lots of different wildlife and habitats.
I would say the best time to visit this place would be in the cooler and drier months you just have to check the hunting dates since it is a very popular destination for hunting. While making this video it was a challenge because it was during the summer when there was more water in the swamps and lots of mosquitos following me the entire hike. Although over the years of exploring I have learned to endure these types of challenges in the wilderness but it isn’t for everyone.
It is a rare treat to see these old trees still standing in Florida’s wilderness since many were cut down and logged out long ago. So when I do find one I truly value the experience. Check out my video and photos below to see this beautiful tree. I also posted links to where you can find more information on this preserve. To find this tree you’ll need to enter at the Parker Field entrance but there are plenty of other areas to explore here as well.
This is an old African-American cemetery that I explored in the backwoods of Alachua County. Many of these cemeteries around the state are becoming lost to time and neglect so I am trying to explore and document them as I can. This particular one may be kept up from time to time from the looks of it and there was even a newer tombstone at one of the plots which dates to the 1970’s. The cemetery itself dates back to the early 1900’s. Back then the area looked very different than it does today.
There was once a town here called Coleman at one time. It was a town founded right after the Civil War by recently freed slaves. The town had a church, stores and houses in the small community but it did not survive as later generations moved away.
Though not much remains of the town other than just this cemetery from what I could see, this site is a still a nice reminder of times gone by and the people who lived here. It is important that we remember them and their history. It is my hope that future generations will learn about these places, visit them and also help keep the history alive.
Over the years I have been exploring the woods of Goethe State Forest located in Levy County. There is a rich history here along with a scenic wilderness to roam. I always seem to find something new there when I visit, everything from old homestead sites, to railroad history and even an old gravesite. Recently I have been discovering a lot of turpentine history here.
Over a hundred years ago there were turpentine operations in this area. It was once Florida’s largest industry and was a driving force behind the development of many towns and cities in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Turpentine was a ubiquitous ingredient in American household products including paints, medicines, soaps, lamp oil, ink, lubricants, hair spray, and cosmetics, just to name a few. Pine trees would be tapped for sap and resin which was used in the production of making turpentine. The camps were known as Naval stores and were typically near pine plantations.
Some of the evidence I have seen in this forest has been remains of Herty cups which were used to collect the resin and would be attached to the Pine trees with a metal gutter system. I could see many of these trees scattered throughout the wilderness here still standing with markings known as catfaces and the metal gutters attached. The term “catface” refers specifically to the scars left behind by the extraction of sap or resin from pine trees.
I will continue to explore this forest for more turpentine and other history as it one of my favorite places, it is like being transported back to another time when you can see history like this, many know it as the old Florida. As always I leave all artifacts as they are for future generations to explore and learn about, but it is also prohibited and illegal to remove artifacts from public and state lands in Florida. So please be respectful and take nothing but photos and videos when finding such sites. Remember once it’s gone, it is gone forever. Check out the photos, videos and links below to learn more, enjoy!
This paved trail in Hillsborough County known as the Upper Tampa Bay Trail was once a railroad line. Today it is used for recreational purposes and is a rails-to-trail. In fact it is one of my favorite places to go for runs from time to time. Many use this trail daily and it extends for many miles throughout the county, but I often wonder how many know the history behind the trail. One of the great things is near this section of the trail is an interpretive sign that describes some of the history.
W.P. Lutz, a railroad engineer and Odessa sawmill owner, engineered the Tampa Gulf Coast Railway which connected Odessa to the Tampa Northern Railroad in 1909. Sawmills began laying narrow-gauge tracks throughout the region in 1910 to have access to virgin timber. In 1913, a spur was built to Tarpon Junction, located at present day Wilsky Boulevard and Linebaugh Avenue where the Rocky Creek portion of the trail is today.
There was a railroad trestle that crossed over Rocky Creek at this location and since has been modified for the recreational trail. So the remains of it are still there but a boardwalk crosses over it now but if you look down by the creek under the bridge you can see the original supports still there that were used for the trestle.
This was a really neat exploration I did in Citrus County where some of the old phosphate mining took place back in the 1800’s. Phosphate was and still is a big industry throughout Florida and is used for many purposes. This particular mine was located near the towns of Dunnellon and Hernando, it was near an old railroad line which linked many of these mines long ago. Today the railroad is part of the Withlacoochee State Trail.
A subdivision surrounds the old mine today and nature has reclaimed the area but some traces of the past could still be seen as I roamed around there. Some of this history I found on the area: In 1889 the Dunnellon Phosphate Company purchased 70,000 acres in Marion, Citrus, and Hernando Counties. Mining Operations began early the next year, By 1909 there were 34 mines in operation in Citrus County. Mining operations ceased around the time of World War I in the early 1900’s.
Over the years I have been researching some of the fascinating history within the Ocala National Forest. Besides the vast scenic wilderness and trails that you can enjoy there, the forest has a rich historical past. Everything from turpentine camps, to old homestead sites, cemeteries, Civil War history and Native American History as well.
One of my main goals recently has been to track down as many Native American Indian Mounds there as possible. It is challenging because for the most part the majority of them aren’t generally accessible to the public as far hiking to them and some are only reachable by boat. Although there are a few I have visited located along trails and forest roads that are very interesting to see such as Davenport Mound and Tishler Mound.
One of them I managed to reach was near the Ocklawaha River tucked away deep in the woods there so hiking to it was a bit of a challenge since no trail really leads to it. Maps I have studied show an old jeep trail in the area but today is overgrown and very hard to see. Most of the way I had to bushwhack and navigate my way through thick vegetation to reach the site. After a few miles I ended up at the mound which I believe to be an old burial mound. There could’ve been a village site here at one time as well. The area opens up at the site and you can see the slope of the mound and large it must’ve been at one time but a lot of it is covered up by vegetation today. The mound is right along the shoreline where the natives typically lived and hunted. The history of native cultures here date back 12,000 years. I am not sure how old this mound is but it may be at least 500 years old.
As always I left the site undisturbed and took only photos and videos, it is amazing to be in the presence of such history and you can get a sense of how life must have been back then. Check out my video below for a tour of the site.
*When visiting sites such as these please remember it is prohibited and unlawful to dig into the mounds and or remove artifacts. Leave them as you see them for future generations to discover and learn about, thank you!
I explored at Triple N Ranch Wildlife Management Area located in Osceola County by the small town of Holopaw. It is a large area with around 16,000 acres of property that has many trails to hike and places to roam.
The area has a lot of history as well, the area was part of the last large open range in the United States. At the beginning of the twentieth century Florida south of Orlando was the only place east of the Mississippi where the population density was less than two persons per square mile.
Open range ranching continued in Florida until 1949, when the Florida Legislature passed a law requiring all cattle to be fenced. The central Florida palmetto prairie was home to the Florida cow, a small, bony, long-horned descendant of Spanish cattle that was able to survive heat, bugs, and poor forage.
If you do explore this area I would suggest it in the dry cooler months of winter as it can get very wet and hot there during the summer. Though there are many shaded hammocks and scenic trails, a lot of the area is also open pine scrub habitat.
For sometime now I have been wanting to climb this abandoned fire tower located in the Withlacoochee State Forest at the Richloam Tract. It was always something that was a bit intimidating for me but I finally got the courage to climb it. The tower is open to the public but visitors must climb it at their own risk as posted on the sign by the stairs.
The tower dates back to the around the 1930’s and 40’s and was used to monitor wild fires. Another interesting fact, this tower was used to monitor mustard gas tests that went on in this section of the forest during WWII.
Check out my video below to get an idea of the experience and to see some amazing views from high above the surrounding forest.
I have always enjoyed the scenic wilderness along this part of the Suwannee River at Andrews Wildlife Management Area. There are many trails and recreational opportunities here. Some of the history includes logging and agricultural uses going back to the 1800’s, the land was purchased by the Andrews family in 1945, they managed the land for outdoor recreation. The state bought the land in 1985.
One of the interesting sites I found there while exploring was a lone gravesite, the tombstone is mostly gone now so I couldn’t see who was buried here and when. There is a wooden fence surrounding the grave so it seems to be maintained from time to time.
After some further research I was able to track down some information on the site. It is the grave of an infant child that died around 1898 his name was Walter Miller Owens, the father was a man named Randall Owens. So far that is all the history I could uncover on the area, they also may have had a homestead nearby.
It is amazing seeing these areas today and imagining how they once were and who lived there. You can’t help but get a sense of the history in places like this and this gravesite is a reminder from a time long gone.
Orleans was one of the many ghost towns that existed in Citrus County back in the late 1800’s. It was a small community with maybe a population of around 100 or so. It was settled in 1885 but didn’t last very much longer after that. The town may have began to fade after the great freezes of 1894-95 which wiped out many of the crops. Another thing to consider is back in those days influenza was an epidemic in some other small towns like this and could’ve had an impact there as well.
One of the main sites that still remains from the town is the cemetery, I had visited it awhile back and that inspired me to see what else could be out there. I studied old county maps trying to narrow down the townsite to the best of my ability and then began exploring the woods there to see what I could find.
Along the way I could see Herty cup pieces which are remnants from the turpentine industry here. It was also a large industry in this area back in those times, farmers would even get into the business when crops weren’t doing as good to help supplement income.
Further into the woods I found what appears to be a large cistern in the ground, they were used to collect and store water. It is possible there was a homestead nearby but couldn’t see any direct evidence on this trip. I could see old paths throughout the area which were used as roads back during the time of the town. Exploring down one of those I saw remains of a well and that was really neat to see. I could see bricks, pieces of metal and other remnants left from the town.
There are some many areas to roam out here and who knows what else could remain with so many layers of history. I am looking forward to exploring more in the future and it’s always a nice place to take in the nature as well.
On this hike I set out to find and explore more Indian Mounds along the Withlacoochee River. I had been studying some history on the Cove of The Withlacoochee and has since inspired me to uncover as much as I can in the area. On a previous trip I had found a burial mound that could date back to the 1500’s when the Hernando DeSoto and the Spanish were exploring these areas. In a way I have been tracing their steps.
On this quest I attempted to explore further up river where some shell middens are and I managed to track them down. These mounds were built up over many years from natives discarding shells, bones, pottery and other debris. I would imagine they were places of higher ground along the swamps as well. Many would have villages nearby so there are a lot of layers of history behind these places.
Exploring the mounds I could see the shells embedded and even some pottery fragments scattered in some areas. Of course leaving everything as I see it… I noticed the various shapes and sizes of these mounds. Surely they were much larger at one time but it is still amazing to see how big some of them still are today. Overall it is just rewarding to be in the presence of such history.
After roaming around and seeing what mounds I could on this trip I left with more enthusiasm to see what else I can uncover in these places. So I am looking forward to the adventure! Check out my video links below to get a glimpse of the history.