“Florida Trailblazer” Featured in Lutz, Land O’ Lakes and Wesley Chapel Magazines in Pasco County, Florida

Florida Trailblazer in Lutz MagazineI 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.

Magazine Article “Into The Woods” by Sandy Parrish

Thanks to Jae Patrick (Cover Photo Credit)

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St. Francis Trail in Ocala National Forest (St. Francis Ghost Town)

Old Cypress Tree at St. Francis Ghost Town2

Old Cypress Tree at St. Francis

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.

MY VIDEO 

St. Francis Trail in Ocala National Forest (St. Francis Ghost Town)

RESOURCES

St. Francis Trail in Ocala National Forest

St. Francis Ghost Town (Florida Ghost Towns)

Historical St. Francis Photos on Florida Memory

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Old Homestead Site in Goethe State Forest

Goethe Abandoned Homestead6

Pond by Homestead Site

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!

VIDEO:

Old Homestead Site at Goethe State Forest

RESOURCES:

Goethe State Forest Website

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Abandoned Homestead Site in The Green Swamp (Part One)

Green Swamp Homestead2

Old Vehicle at Homestead Site

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.

VIDEO

VIDEO: Abandoned Homestead Site in The Green Swamp (Part One)

RESOURCES

Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve

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Abandoned Girl Scout Camp in Withlacoochee State Forest (Camp Withlacoochee)

Camp Withlacoochee-Withlacoochee Wilderness Camp6

Withlacoochee Wilderness Camp-Camp Withlacoochee

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…

Camp Withlacoochee

Withlacoochee Wilderness Camp-Camp Withlacoochee Article

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 floridatrailblazer@gmail.com 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!

MY VIDEO

Abandoned Girl Scout Camp in Withlacoochee State Forest

RESOURCES

Withlacoochee State Forest

Camp Withlacoochee featured on Vintage Girl Scout Website

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Old Steamboat Landing and Indian Mound in Ocala National Forest (Historical Davenport Landing)

ocklawaha river

Ocklawaha River at Davenport Landing

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.

MY VIDEO

Old Steamboat Landing and Indian Mound in Ocala National Forest

RESOURCES

Ocala National Forest Davenport Landing

Gordon Grade at Lower Hillsborough Preserve

gordon grade1

Gordon Grade

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.

MY VIDEO

Old Gordon Grade at Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve

RESOURCES

Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve

Caraway Cemetery at Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area

carway cemetery6

Caraway Cemetery

This is an interesting site I explored in Alachua County known as Caraway Cemetery. It is most likely that this cemetery belonged to the family long ago dating back to the early to mid-1900’s. They would’ve had a homestead near the cemetery as most families did back in those times. Today the area is part of Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area and is popular for hunting, fishing and hiking.

Roaming around the site I could see an old path in the woods that goes by the cemetery it was once an old road that was used to reach the cemetery and possibly the homestead as well. It is a very scenic and peaceful place and you can get a sense of the history as you explore these woods. Nearby on Lochloosa Lake the family had a fish camp from what I know.

Around the cemetery is part of an old fence that was once stood but most of that is gone but there was some caution tape around the perimeter of the site so it’s possible that a new fence is being installed but am not sure. It would be nice to see that and maybe some maintenance on the tombstones as well. The more we can preserve and save these places of history the better so that future generations could experience and learn about these places. In total I count about five headstones but there could be more folks buried here just not sure. Below I put a link to the burial records, my video and some photos as well. If you do visit this and any other site like it please be respectful and leave these places undisturbed.

MY VIDEO

Caraway Cemetery at Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area

RESOURCES

Burial Records

Lochloosa WMA

Ranch House Ruins at Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area

old chimneyOne of my favorite places to explore is Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area. It is a vast and scenic wilderness with many layers of history throughout. The preserve borders the St. Johns River which has a rich Native American Indian history and many Indian Mounds were documented around the area. In later times during the early 1900’s it was part of a hunting game preserve purchased by several families. 

It was during this time period when the cabin was built by the Bumby family along with the Kincaids and Edward Fishbacks. The area was known as Tosohatchee Camp or the (Bumby Camp) and the families were very generous about letting Boy Scouts, church and civic organizations use the camp for picnics. It was a place where many memories were made over the years. Where folks hunted and fished while taking in the serene surroundings of the woods.

Eventually in the late 1900’s the land was sold to the State of Florida and the original shareholders of the Tosohatchee Game Preserve were happy because the state would preserve and protect this pristine wilderness. Today the area is known as Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area and is enjoyed by the public. It is a popular place for many recreational activities including hiking, hunting and fishing.

As far as the old cabin only the chimney remains and some other remnants scattered about but it is nice reminder of the history here. It is my hope that this history will remain undisturbed for generations to come so that others can learn about it and take in the past along with the beautiful nature that this place has to offer.

Check out the videos and photos posted below for a look around and the links as well to learn more about this amazing place.

VIDEOS

Old Ranch House Ruins at Tosohatchee Wildlife Managment Area

Forgotten Homestead (CROSSOVER VIDEO FEATURE) with Jungle Jay

RESOURCES

Out in The Boonies – Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area

Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area

 

Turpentine History at Goethe State Forest

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Exploring at Goethe State Forest

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!

My Videos

Catface Trees at Goethe State Forest

Turpentine History at Goethe State Forest (Part One)

Turpentine History at Goethe State Forest (Part Two)

Resources

Turpentine and Naval Store History of North Florida

Turpentine History – Saga of the Turpentiners

Turpentine History of North Florida

History of Naval Stores

Naval Stores Handbook

Herty Cup History and Charles Herty