Peace and Quiet at the Edge of Ocala National Forest
Our friends own a cabin that backs up to the Ocala National Forest and invited us up for a visit. Since it was the last weekend before deer hunting season began, we figured it would be safer walking in the woods if we went then rather than later! We’d been visiting Brooksville and the only way to Salt Springs that made any sense was to take State Road 50 over to 19, then take 19 straight into Salt Springs.
The cabin is a simple one and its owner is a good carpenter so it is solid and well kept. We see with carpenter’s eyes, as well, and there are things I would change, such as install a larger window on the bedroom wall that looks out over the forest, but there are fun touches here and there: a large screened outdoor kitchen that overlooks a large circular fire pit, an outdoor shower, etc.
Mostly, though, we were seeking solitude, and it was gloriously quiet as no cell phone signals could get through. The forest’s 383,000 acres encompasses parts of four counties and is the southernmost and oldest national forest east of the Mississippi. The forest is bear habitat and they sniff around at night, hoping humans forget to secure the hatches (we didn’t).
The Woods Near Salt Springs Florida
The picture below was taken in the morning, just as the fog was lifting into the trees. The silence was complete. We ran into a couple of musket hunters later in the day (musket hunting is allowed the weekend before regular deer season, a nod to the days of the early settlers), but the morning was a solitary experience as I watched the forest wake up.
When I first saw this part of the pine forest, my first thought was, “Telephone poles!” The forest protects the world’s largest contiguous sand pine scrub forest east of the Mississippi River.
This area, as was much of Florida at the time, was a bustling turpentine industry around the turn of the century. After a burn, you can walk around and find broken terra cotta pots on the forest floor. These pots were used to collect the pinesap and hung high in the trees. When the industry folded, the pots were abandoned, unnoticed until the heat from a forest fire causes them to burst and the shards fall to the ground.
The path before us is such an unknown entity, isn’t it? You can see the tunnel up ahead, but where does it lead?
Find mysteries that amaze your eyes such as Deer Moss, so named because it grows out of the forest floor in soft, small double clumps, looking just like new antlers on a deer.
Remember the first rule to walking in the Florida woods and swamps: watch out for snakes when you are walking.
This is a Pygmy Rattler, one of Florida’s most dangerous snakes. Its bite is quite venemous and requires a hurried ride to the hospital. Because it’s rattle is so small, the noise gives no warning. It seems to me that most trouble comes that way.