Do you like to hike through beautiful and pristine countryside? Who doesn't, right? But as soon as the thought comes to mind, we immediately dismiss it. Who has the time? Northwest Florida is known for its abundant nature preserves, state forests, canoeing, and yes, hiking trails. However, one of the newer trails often overlooked is the Garcon Point Nature Trail. Many local people have never even heard of it. The trail consists of two legs that are short enough to easily cover in just a couple of hours. Perfect for the weekend adventurer who just doesn't have the time for a day long outing. While this trail may be short, don't underestimate its ability to pack a punch!
The Garcon Point Trail is located south of Milton, in Santa Rosa County Florida. To get there, head south on Avalon Boulevard. About a mile before reaching the Garcon Point Toll Booth, you'll see the sign on the left hand side of the highway. You'll find a small parking lot and information booth. You can take a look at the large map of the trail at the booth, and also pick up a brochure. As I said before, there are two legs of this trail. You start out on the main trail on a mainly eastern heading. The first leg branches off to the north, and is actually a spur. This leg is approximately 1.5 miles and leads to the North Trailhead. If you decide not to take the spur, you'll follow a loop of about 1.2 miles that brings you back to where you started, at the South Trailhead.
My daughter and I hiked the loop last year. She was 6 at the time and I try to get her as excited about nature, hiking, and camping as I am. I chose the smaller leg of the trail since I had to take into consideration my daughter's age. Immediately, I discovered one of the most exciting benefits of this trail - it really is a "trail" in the truest sense of the word. Forget about finding a well worn path. The trail is often slightly overgrown in parts. But, not to worry, tree markers ensure you know where you're going.
We began our hike rambling through large and beautiful oaks and pines. Soon, this scenery gave way to shrub trees and brush. About a half mile or so into it, we wandered into a panorama deserving of a National Geographic cover. Before us, spreading outward all the way to Blackwater Bay, was the most breathtaking prairie and wetlands. Technically, this area is referred to as a wet prairie system. It was a wonderful view of untouched earth. One could easily imagine that they had traveled back in time to an era before modern men had etched their mark on the land.
Scattered across this scene were numerous pitcher plants, and other flora. The atmosphere was hushed; perhaps any wildlife heard our coming. I'm sure of this. While we didn't see much in the way of animal life, bird watchers take note! There were numerous species of birds flitting about, tending to their daily life, singing their songs. If you were to take away from this setting just one word, I would describe it as: Peace!
Our journey finished, my daughter and I climbed back into the car and headed back to the hubbub of daily life, taking with us the memories of a short adventure into another time and place. Sometimes, that's all it takes to refresh yourself and come home with a rejuvenated sense of our planet. I highly recommend taking an hour or two out of your busy schedule to visit the Garcon Point Trail. Just remember, leave nothing behind but your footprints!
J.C. Haynes is a camping and hiking enthusiast in Northwest Florida. Find out more at http://www.themodernexplorer.net
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