Splendor and Suffering
Long Leaf Pine Preserve runs between State Road 44 in Deland and Pioneer Trail in Port Orange and is a great walk through several natural habitats in Central Florida.
We met friends and ventured out on the 6 mile red loop on an October afternoon. Though fall temperatures only dropped this day to a high of 80 degrees, the humidity was significantly lower. it was a great day for an easy hike.
The trail started in a muddy thicket that soon lead to a dirt road. The trail soon met a dirt road and the walk took us past homes and into fields of saw palmetto. Though already three miles in, we hadn't left civilization since we could hear the sound of cars on the interstate traveling across Lake Tuscarora.
Just past the lake is a large group camping area. The camping area was primitive (as expected, no bathrooms here), but had luxuries like a large covered pavilion, wood benches, picnic tables, grills and a large fire pit.
The return loop takes hikers further into the woods where we saw signs of deer, wild hogs, racoon, vultures, a couple of ambling ticks, and lots of interesting spiders. At times the was completely blanketed with pine spills.
The sun began to set and the blood thirsty mosquitoes came out in droves! We had prepared by dousing ourselves with insect repellent, but they buzzed our ears and snacked on us anyway. Surprisingly, We had less than six bites each by the time we showered and counted.
There are over more 11 miles that we've yet to explore, and we will, after a freeze or two which should minimize the chance of our slapping each other into a mosquito fueled frenzy.