This morning, we woke up and checked the Weather Channel for an update on Hurricane Matthew. They are calling for 40 mph winds in Ocala Thursday afternoon. Bob doesn't want to pull the trailer in high winds, so we'll cut our trip short by 2 days and head home Thursday morning. We have a plan! After a few phone calls, we got ready to do some hiking. We took the short walk to the head of the Suwannee River Trail starting from the boat launch.
The trail runs along the river and the views were beautiful. There was a pole marking the heights of the flood waters from various floods in years past. The highest mark on the pole showed the flood waters on April 7, 1948 measuring 68.10 feet. The most current measurement was on March 18, 1998 measuring 61.67 feet. It is very sobering to see how high the water got during those floods. We had to cross this bridge at the start of our hike.
It spanned Lime Sink Run--a limestone ravine which is water-fed from Lime Sink Spring farther up the run.
Sometimes there is a steady flow of spring water trickling over the rocks here, but during this dry period, the run is completely dry.
Onward further down the trail, we had great views of the river.
The trail was an easy hike and mostly shaded.
The next point of interest on the trail was the Little Gem Spring.
Little Gem Spring is one of hundreds of springs on the Suwannee River basin. It is a second magnitude spring contributing millions of gallons of fresh water to the river every day. Today it made a small waterfall.
As we walked along the trail, I took this picture of a spider web suspended between two trees in the distance. It looked like a CD disc in the middle of the picture. I thought it was very interesting.
From there, we continued on the Balanced Rock Trail. It took us along the bluffs above the Suwannee River to Balanced Rock.
A 20 foot tower of limestone once stood there, but not any more. Erosion had weakened the foundation and in 2015 it lost its balance and fell into the river.
Walking a little further down the trail, I got this eastern view of the bend in the river.
We made our way back to the beginning of the trail. Originally, we were going to come back on a different trail, but we discovered that there were many large trees down blocking our way and there was no way around them without walking through some poison ivy, so we had to return the same way we came. The ranger told us that the trees were downed in Tropical Storm Hermine just a few weeks ago. They were in the process of cleaning them off the trails. Once we got back to where we started from, he hopped on the Earthworks Trail which took us in another direction along the river to Ferry Landing. We passed the site on an Old Sawmill.
We moved on to the Confluence Overlook where the Withlacoochee and the Suwannee Rivers come together.
You could actually see the brown, tannin-colored Suwannee River water as it merged with the clearer water of the Withlacoochee River. Looking west on the Suwannee River, you could see the railroad bridge.
Within a few minutes, we heard the distant horn of the train as it neared the bridge. We had to wait for it to arrive. Everyone loves a train!
Walked back and picked up the truck to go fill it with gas for our ride home tomorrow. Back at the trailer, we called to check on our friends who live on their boat and are in a marina in Hilton Head, SC. They are evacuating the area by car and leaving their boat there to weather the storm. Yikes! We pray for their safety. We packed up everything that we could this afternoon, so that when we get home tomorrow, our "off-loading" process would go much quicker. Auggie took everything in stride!
We relaxed outside before dinner, watching all the campers arriving. The ranger said they were expecting lots of "refugees" from other parks on the eastern side of the state. This morning all the state parks east of Orlando were closing and evacuating all the campers. Hence, all the "refugees" here. Yesterday when we arrived there were only 4 of us in the campground of 30 total sites. Tonight only 5 sites are empty. We walked Auggie around the campground and checked them all out. Tomorrow we'll get an early start and hopefully make it home before the wind and rain begin. It will be interesting to see how much traffic we encounter since many of the cities on the east coast of Florida have mandatory evacuations in effect today. Sadly, our vacation is over!