Cooler temperatures not only mark the beginning of Fall but in NE Florida they also mark the beginning of trail maintenance season. We did a little maintenance before October in preparation for the FTA Regional Conference but the tough stuff started this month.
One of the tougher sections to maintain is within the Osceola National Forest starting at the historic Olustee Battlefield. The park commemorates the site of Florida’s largest Civil War battle, which took place February 20, 1864. It is also the site of a very large reenactment each February. In addition to its historical roots the forest is also home to red cockaded woodpeckers which can often be seen or heard as you leave the trailhead along the Nice Wander Loop.
We started early Saturday morning with a large group and quickly ran into a muddy, mucky mess several hundred yards from the trailhead. Fortunately it was short-lived and didn’t extend more than about 100 yards. The new DR brush mower motored right through it and didn’t bog down any.
The forest grows back quickly and sometimes it was hard to follow the trail because things had grown over so much. The abundance of rain had helped the vegetation do a good job of hiding the trail. Unfortunately we only had a single mower running and while we started off doing multiple passes we would have been there all day. We ended up switching back to a single run of each section. We’ll have to go back later to widen the cut but it was considerable more efficient. In addition to overgrowth we also had to deal with a number of blowdowns.
The crew did a great job with some heinous overgrowth. The vines were insane and at the end of each day we were wiped out. As hard as the work was it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to look at the finished product and see the visible results of your efforts.
Unfortunately we also have some serious boardwalk repairs to make.
Over the course of the weekend we covered about 14 miles as we worked on the main Florida Trail as well as side trails. We also cleaned up around Osceola Shelter to ensure a nice experience at the only shelter in this section. This work hike ended at the Turkey Run trailhead. We’re done for now while we move to other areas not affected by hunting season. We’ll be back in January to finish the forest. Hopefully we’ll have a much larger group as we look to partner with the University of Florida and other colleges in the area.