Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Trip 21: Welaka State Forest/Mud Spring Trail

State Parks visited:  19

The Florida Department of Agriculture has created this great program called the Florida Trailwalker.  It's pretty cool for the outdoorsy types like us...basically, you walk so many miles on trails in participating State Forests, send in postcards after each visit, get stickers for your log, and earn patches that say you accomplished something.  I sound sarcastic, I'm sure, but I truly mean well.  Chris introduced Rob to the Trailwalker program when I was out fishing with my dad for National Pauladay, and they earned their first stickers.  Well, Chris was in Canada a couple of weeks ago, so we decided to spend the day out walking a trail in his absence.

By the way, Chris was in Canada for the Rowing World Masters challenge.  There were over 2500 competitors.  Chris and his teammates from the Halifax Rowing Association competed in the 4+ (please...don't ask me to explain the terminology, since I really don't know), among other races, and earned first place.  They got silver medals and held up two fingers in all their pictures, but maybe that's just the Canadian way.  Whatever it was, Congratulations Chris!!

Now, on to the Mud Spring Trail: We paid our fee at the honor box, found a geocache hidden at the trailhead, and then started off on our hike.  The trail started out with a lot of tree cover and the heat wasn't horrible.  A few highlights:

Mud Spring Trail wouldn't have its name if not for the little spring we came to.  The clearing opened up to a small primitive camping area, covered picnic pavillion, spring, and boardwalk.  I hadn't given the name much thought but was so pleasantly surprised when it came into view:

A few other highlights:

After looking around, we found another geocache hidden nearby, picked up some trash, and moved on down the trail, where I had a run-in with a local:

The rest of the hike was uneventful.  We made it back to the car, cooled down, and went down the road to an observation tower that looks out over the fish hatchery in town.  It was pretty neat.  I can't wait to go back and see the aquarium they have inside and open to the public.  I know we'll hike this trail again.  It's not too far from home, not too far to walk, and so beautiful.  And at the end of the day, I know we're doing something right when we asked Olivia what her favorite part was and she said, "All of it."

My thoughts exactly.


Just wanted to add this little sidebar:  The Labor Day holiday was last week and I was, of course, at work on that Monday.  My management team tries really hard to make busy days like that fun, and we celebrated this holiday with a steak lunch and our own version of the Academy Awards.  Each person received a small (less than 2") trophy with a tag on it saying what they were being honored for.  They named me Sportswoman of the Year.  Seriously!  From my seasons as a roller derby referee, to the weekends at state parks, from kayaking down Florida's rivers, and to my wholehearted desire to participate in the Tough Mudder Endurance Challenge next year, my peers see in me what I desire to become.  And I am pleased as punch to be recognized for it!

And speaking of recognition, we were greatly surprised with a little more serendipity last week.  I was perusing the Florida State Parks website (http://www.floridastateparks.org/) and checked out their deals and discounts section.  Effective July 1 of this year, honorably discharged military veterans with a service-related disability are eligible for a FREE LIFETIME ANNUAL PASS to Florida State Parks.  I was shocked!  Thanks to a shoulder dislocation at our last duty station, my husband...my hero...was able to get us an annual pass, renewed free for the rest of our natural lives...to the places we want to see the most in our home state.  It's those little things that mean the most!

Thank you, Rob.  And THANK YOU to all the servicemembers and service families out there.  I am so grateful for the jobs you all do!

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