Adventure Updates

Hello everyone I hope that you are doing well, it’s nice to have you here! I appreciate you following my blog and videos. I have been away from here for awhile and hadn’t wrote any updates so I wanted to check in to report on some news and things going on with my adventures and the website.

As usual I have been working hard each week on recording videos and producing content for my YouTube channel. I hope you have been able to keep up with the adventures and that you have been enjoying them, I truly appreciate it! Since the start of the pandemic I told myself that I would do my best to put my all into these adventures and make these videos to the best of my ability more than ever I had before. I felt like I have grown a lot since then in my work but it’s never really done, there is always more to be do. More exploring, more paths to take and interesting sites to discover.

I hadn’t been putting as much attention into my weekly blog posts as my weekly videos so I’ve been working on updating my website here lately and wanted to let you know that more content is coming very soon. I am excited to share so many adventures here, my goal is to provide a central hub not only for my video work but all the various things that come along with my adventuring. I want it to be interactive and a way for you to get inspired as well and hopefully can find some of these interesting places in nature I am sharing about. Whether if it’s in Florida or in the area you live. It is important to visit and cherish the wild and public lands while they’ll still exist. Many places are becoming developed and critical natural habitats along with the history are being destroyed. The more we can enjoy and share about them, the more hopefully people will appreciate them.

Some of the projects I am working towards is an updated version of my Florida Trailblazer podcast, which will highlight some of the behind scenes stuff, documenting maps and discussions about my adventures. It will be something that will evolve in time and I am looking forward to sharing it with you. I will be updating some of my older posts here and as mentioned previously posting new articles weekly about my hikes and projects. I am also posting a lot of behind the scenes, exclusive content, maps and much more as well on my Patreon page (Florida Trailblazer Plus) so by signing up there you can gain access to bonus stuff and even tour opportunities. It all helps go a long way in aiding these adventures and projects so I truly appreciate it! I have been adding more items to my online store so if you are interesting in purchasing some Florida Trailblazer merchandise check it out there. I have more updates coming soon so stay tuned. Keep up to date by checking my YouTube channel weekly for new videos and here at the website for updates as well.

I posted some videos below of my recent adventures, enjoy and I wish you the very best and thank you! I’ll see you in the wilderness…

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:

RESOURCES:

Goethe State Forest Website

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Abandoned Homestead Site in The Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve

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 and enjoy!

VIDEOS:

RESOURCES

Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve

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Florida Trailblazer Merchandise

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Florida Trailblazer E-Newsletter

Florida Trailblazer Podcast (Episode 1)

Florida Trailblazer Podcast

Florida Trailblazer Podcast

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!

Florida Trailblazer Podcast on YouTube

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Florida Trailblazer E-Newsletter

Hull-Smith Cemetery in Ocala National Forest

Hull-Smith Cemetery3

Hull-Smith Cemetery

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.

VIDEO

HULL-SMITH CEMETERY IN OCALA NATIONAL FOREST

RESOURCES

BURIAL RECORDS FOR HULL-SMITH CEMETERY

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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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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

Thomas C. Fillyaw Gravesite in Ocala National Forest

fillyaw gravesite3

Thomas C. Fillyaw Gravesite in Ocala National Forest

This is known as the Thomas C. Fillyaw gravesite in Ocala National Forest. He was a Confederate Soldier and lived near and managed a steamboat landing here after the Civil War.  (Thomas C. Fillyaw, CPL 10th Btn GA Inf CSA May 1830-Dec. 8, 1873 Buried here by his son T.T. Fillyaw).

After posting some photos and videos I got a letter from one of the family members regarding some of the history here.  It turns out that some of the relatives make a trip out here when possible to help keep the site maintained. I am sure the forestry service helps out as well. The cemetery is nestled in the woods along the banks of the Ocklawaha River. It is a very peaceful and scenic resting place, and a reminder of some of the fascinating history here. I imagine the area hasn’t changed all that much since the time of his death. I hope the site remains undisturbed so that many more generations in the future can learn about the history here as well and that he will always be remembered in time.

This is some information that was sent to me from one of the relatives:

“My father placed the barrier around the grave to keep the dirt bikes off of it. My family has visited for many years and I have many fond memories of the project my dad undertook in building and installing the barrier. The story I was told is that Thomas was wounded in the war and never fully recovered. His wife was an Indian from some non local tribe and she was killed by local indians for being from the wrong tribe. Not sure how true the story is as I have found no way to confirm but that is what my family always said. His teenage son and young daughter buried him there where his grave is… I can’t remember now if that’s all the kids there was or not, but the teenage son was the oldest of ’em and after they buried their father, they took off on foot and walked all the way to somewhere in Georgia to live with an Aunt & Uncle they had there.” 

VIDEOS

Old Gravesite in in Ocala National Forest (Thomas Cassidy Fillyaw)

Exploring Ocala National Forest Crossover Video Feature with Jungle Jay

RESOURCES

Ocala National Forest

 

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