Posts Tagged ‘Gopher Tortoise’

Hiking Starkey Wilderness Park, New Port Richey, FL

19 September 2011

Last Monday I got into TPA near noon, got across the Bay, had lunch, got checked into the hotel, and got the accumulated email taken care of. I wanted to go for a hike, and picked this area. It was about 30 miles from my hotel in Largo.

I got there about 1600. There is a staffed booth for campers. They sort of rudely have a sign in the window that they did not make change. The fee to enter the park was $2. It cost me $5 since they did not make change.

I walked 6.9 miles at this park. I really had no idea where I was going, there were no trail maps at the entrance station. I saw two trail markers – one for the nature trail, and one for the bike trail. I ended up stumbling across another trail, and I essentially walked until I got so sweaty that I decided I was done for the day. It was pretty humid, but not terribly hot.

The first thing I did was find one of the parking areas. On the way there, I passed this guy scarfing grass on the side of the road; he’s about a foot long. I believe this is a Gopher Tortoise, which is native to and common in Florida. I saw one just like him right before I got on the nature trail.

I started off walking along what I thought was a trail through the trees. Not so much. I walked on a road for a while, detoured off the road to an open play area, and then ran across a sign that pointed to the nature trail. The nature trail was a little more like it.

At some point the trail branched, so I took the branch. I ended up in a swamp. It should be noted that there were many places on the nature trail (and everywhere else) where the ground was waterlogged and muddy. But this was a no-kidding, the-body-will-never-be-found, swamp. There were a lot of mosquitoes there as well. I backtracked.

Eventually the nature trail came back to a playground. I came right back to the parking lot my car was in, and that’s where I ran across this very wide trail that led to the south.

I wandered along this trail for a while. I have a pretty good internal compass and distance indicator, so I knew how to get back (and I had set a waypoint in the GPS as well). There was lots more swamp and mud to walk around. I walked out to a point, looked at my sweaty shirt, and turned around and walked back. I sort of looped around another swampy area, then near the entrance station, and finally back to my car.

Here is my path on a topo map, a Google Earth overlay, and finally the park trail map that a work friend found online and sent to me.

The area I hiked is outlined in yellow. There is a lot of park left to hike.

I left around 1830.

Signage for the park is not very good. It’s flat. It’s got a lot of pretty trees and shade. It’s a swamp in places. It was nice hike. Max altitude gain was… 6″ (that was going from the trail to the road surface 🙂 ).

I really thought the “no change” sign was rude.

One thing that I find myself amused by. My last hike was thousands of feet of altitude change. This one was the equivalent of walking across a parking lot. Both were sweaty.