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…

Abandoned Homestead Site in The Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve

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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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Abandoned Richloam Fire Tower in Withlacoochee State Forest

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View of Forest from top of Fire Tower

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.

My Video

Abandoned Fire Tower in Withlacoochee State Forest

Resources

Richloam Tract at Withlacoochee State Forest

Historical Information

 

Orleans Ghost Town in Citrus County

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Citrus County Map 1890’s

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.

My Video

Orleans Ghost Town

Resources

Ghost Towns of Florida – Orleans

Withlacoochee State Forest

Radar Hill in Citrus County

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“The Valley”

There is a place off the beaten path in Withlacoochee State Forest known to many locals as “Radar Hill” and when I first learned of that name I wanted to find out more about the history behind it. I have hiked around the area and this part of the forest reminds me of a scenic valley because of the rolling hills and karst formations. This section of the forest is located in Citrus County along the Brooksville Ridge. “The Brooksville Ridge is a linear, positive-relief topographic feature extending from northern Citrus County, through Hernando County, and into southern Pasco County.” These areas of the florida have a lot of hilly and karst terrain.

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Similar Radar Base in North Carolina

During the Cold War years starting around 1958 to 1970, there was a radar facility located atop the one of the hills in the area. It was known as the “Inverness Gap-Filler Annex,” the radar facility was operated by the U.S. Air Force as part of a nationwide network of air-defense early-warning surveillance radars. The intension of the base was to watch the skies for attacking Soviet bombers and thanks in part to this radar network all across the country no attack ever came. Due to the curvature of the earth, as well as hills, river valleys, and other obstacles, gaps existed at lower elevations where the long-range radars could not detect targets so these radar sites were a vital defense network.

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Radar Hill Area

The reason this site was chose is because “Radar Hill” itself was one of the highest points in the Withlacoochee State Forest, and offered a clear line of sight for many miles. Placing the radar on top of the limestone hills plugged the holes.

I am not sure of the exact timeframe but sometime after the site was used by the military it then became the location of a limestone mining operation. The land was mined and the hills were excavated. The radar and any evidence from the base were removed or destroyed during that time. The mining operations ceased eventually and the area became part of Withlacoochee State Forest. New trees were planted and slowly nature has been reclaiming the land here. The former mine now appears as open valleys through the forest which makes for a scenic experience. I myself have nicknamed the area “The Valley”.

The site is public land now although there are no marked hiking trails here so it can be accessed from some of the old roads and paths around the area. Be cautious if you explore around and some areas within this section have been fenced off with no trespassing signs.

My Video

“The Valley” in Withlacoochee State Forest

Resources

Withlacoochee State Forest

Brooksville Ridge

Croom Ghost Town in Withlacoochee State Forest

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Old Railroad Grade at Croom

For years I have been exploring the various sections of Withlacoochee State Forest, with so many places to roam and history to experience I find myself returning time and time again. Recently I have been focusing on documenting various ghost towns around Florida and there were several located within the Withlacoochee State Forest. So I decided to do some more research and get out into the woods to find some more evidence from these past towns.

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Old Map of Croom

One of the towns I have explored there is part of the Croom Tract in Hernando County. Back in the late 1800’s the area was known as Croom. I have seen a few other names on maps in the same area as well such as Pemberton Ferry and Fitzgerald. I learned that Pemberton Ferry was a place where wagons and buggies crossed the Withlacoochee River using a ferry. In those days that was the only way across the river here. I imagine families settled, farmed the land and traded with each other helping to build a small community.

Around the 1890’s part of the Florida Southern Railroad came through here, later becoming the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. Industries such as logging, mining and turpentine sprung up around the railroad and the town soon became known as Croom. Like most old Florida towns once all the resources were used up, these companies moved on and the towns would soon vanish. Today nature has reclaimed most of the area.

One of the first areas I looked for was the old railroad line, most of the activity and town would be around that area. Today some of the line is part of the Withlacoochee State Trail, a paved bicycle path. Exploring deeper into the woods there I followed the railroad line to where it crossed the Withlacoochee River. There I could see some of the old rails laying on the ground, trees have grown around some of them. You can see the raised railroad bed where it connected with a trestle that once crossed the river, the trestle is no longer there. When the water levels are down you can see part of the wood pilings. Just across the way is Hog Island where another bridge used to cross it was known as Iron Bridge.

I continued on to where the old turpentine camp used to be. It must have been a large operation, around the site I could still see remnants from the past. Bricks and old metal scattered around the area, large clearings where buildings used to be and some turpentine artifacts could be seen. I followed many of the old roads around the turpentine camp and discovered an old cistern in the ground most likely used to store water.

You can get a real sense of the history in this place, it makes you want to learn more and see what else could be there. I will continue to explore it that is for sure as I always enjoy hiking this part of the forest and seeing what still remains from the past. Deeper into the wilderness here is some of the old mining history I will cover that in another posting. This tract is very popular for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Be sure to check out the links and my videos to learn more about this place. As always I leave all artifacts where I see them and take nothing but photos and videos. When visiting this or other places like this please be respectful and leave all history as you see it, thank you and enjoy the adventure!

My Videos

Croom Ghost Town (Part One)

Croom Ghost Town (Part Two)

Resources

Withlacoochee State Forest

Croom Ghost Town

History Hikers – Croom/Oriole

Hernando County History

Hernando History FLGenWeb

 

Turpentine Camp at Richloam Wildlife Management Area

Exploring in this area of Withlacoochee State Forest near Lacoochee I may have found remains from an old turpentine camp. Around the area were herty cups both clay and metal ones. Along with some bricks, barrel rings and other evidence from the past. This site may have been associated with The Dutton Still. During the late 1800’s and into the early 1900’s turpentine was a big industry here along with the sawmills.

This is some of the history I found on the area, more can be read at the link posted below: “Jim Dutton moved his family from Statesboro, Bullock County, Georgia, to Lacoochee, and began operating a turpentine still east of town near the Withlacoochee River and the community of Clay Sink. In the early 1900’s the pioneers who operated these abundant turpentine stills and small sawmills throughout the county owned or leased thousands of acres of forest land. The resinous sap of the pine tree was extracted by chipping a strip of bark from the tree. Then a ceramic or tin cup was placed underneath to catch the life blood of the tree as it dripped from the wound. Crews of men were hired to make daily rounds of the woods to empty the sap into barrels. Wooden sleighs or wagons pulled by four-mule teams would transport the barrels from the woods to the still. Here the sap was poured into a vat and boiled to make turpentine which was used in paint and other products.”

My Videos

Turpentine Camp at Richloam WMA (Part One)

Turpentine Camp at Richloam WMA (Part Two)

Resources

Turpentine Stills in Pasco County

Withlacoochee State Forest

The Ghost Town of Sturkey in The Green Swamp

Exploring Sturkey

Exploring Sturkey

In an area of The Green Swamp I found this site while I was searching for a ghost town known as “Sturkey”. You can see the town still shown on some maps. So I made it an adventure to go and try find it, the site can be found by an old railroad grade in the West Tract of The Green Swamp. I have investigated the area a few times now and still come away with more questions than answers.

A lot of the remnants seemed to be industrial or manufacturing related.  One of the first areas I saw off of the railroad grade was a clearing with woods and hills behind it. As I begun exploring around the clearing I started to see chains, scraps of metal, barrel rings, pieces of iron and wood. In one section I even saw an old steering wheel which indicates that vehicles were out here at one time. Everything was scattered about and this area was particularly large so it was a lot to cover. I imagined that maybe some structures were here at one time but it was hard to really tell.

As I ventured further into the clearing I came to an area where some woods are along with some swampy areas as well. It was dry enough to continue on though. This is where I found a large foundation where it appears structures and other things were attached. The grass and forest floor are taking over the foundation but you can still see a lot of it. It was here where I began to see more industrial related stuff. Attached to the foundation were iron plates and lots of bolts as well. Along the edge of the foundation were some wall ruins left over from two of the structures. It appears that conveyor belts were attached to the top of these which could indicate some kind of mining operation. I have seen similar ruins in other parts of the Green Swamp where old mining operations were at one time.

I left that area and continued further into the woods following what looks to be old dirt roads that were part of the townsite. I eventually got into this area where a lot of rolling hills were. I found more evidence of past activity such as an old corral or hog pen. It seemed very old and fragile. I found one area out here that had a lot of debris lying around. Possibly items from an old building. On top of one of the hills I found an old rusted out license plate. I couldn’t make out the numbers but you could see that it was a Florida license plate.

I headed out of the woods here and over to the edge of the townsite then I circled around those areas to see what else I could uncover. I came across an area that I thought was an old hunt camp at first. But as I investigated it further I saw more industrial type stuff similar to what I had seen previously. It appears this was connected with the site as well and back behind it was another swampy area with more concrete ruins.

So far this is all the history that I can find on the town of Sturkey: “Sturkey was a “company town” for the Cummers Lumber Company. Cummers began construction of a sawmill & box factory in nearby Lacoochee in 1922. The factory they built was the largest of its kind at the time, & continued in operation until 1959. ”

I have covered a lot of ground so far but I have a feeling there is more to discover so I am looking forward to future adventures here!
My Videos
Resources

Ruins at Sturkey

Ruins at Sturkey

Remains at Sturkey

Remains at Sturkey

Old Corral or Hog Pen

Old Corral or Hog Pen

Remains at Sturkey

Remains at Sturkey

Old Conveyor Belts

Old Conveyor Belts

Piece of Iron

Piece of Iron

Foundation at Sturkey

Foundation at Sturkey

Foundations at Sturkey

Foundations at Sturkey

Remains at Sturkey

Remains at Sturkey

Wall Ruins at Sturkey

Wall Ruins at Sturkey

Wall Ruins at Sturkey

Wall Ruins at Sturkey

Old Road at Sturkey

Old Road at Sturkey

Remains at Sturkey

Remains at Sturkey

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Remains at Sturkey

Foundation

Foundation

Old Steering Wheel

Old Steering Wheel

Swamp Areas

Swamp Areas

Foundation

Foundation

Old License Plate

Old License Plate

“Etna” Ghost Town in Withlacoochee State Forest

Barrel Ring & Brick

Etna Turpentine Camp

In the Withlacoochee State Forest I found an old ghost town called “Etna”. It was a turpentine camp from 1898 to 1915 and it has long since vanished. When I arrived at the site the area was heavily wooded with many overgrown trails. I imagine these trails were once old roads for the town.

I explored around the site extensively finding scattered remains. Some bricks, Herty cups and other evidence from turpentine activity. During it’s peak the town had 50 buildings and a population of around 200 people.

I learned that the site was initially discovered back in the early 1990’s when they surveyed the area for a pipeline. Many of the local historians didn’t know of the site either at the time of it’s discovery. Now that the site is known we now have a window into the past.

My Videos
Resources