Geneva Wilderness Area – Seminole County
David: Jodi and I decided to visit a site fairly close to our homes in Seminole County. As a former public land manager and long time Seminole County resident , I was interested in seeing what our own county had to offer. So, we made plans to visit the Geneva Wilderness Area. I had driven past this property on many occasions. I’m a bit ashamed to say that I was always going somewhere else and had given little thought to actually paying a visit. That would soon change.
We arrived at the property at about 9:30am. Weather predictions for the day were for, potentially, record setting temperatures. I wasn’t too concerned because the property was not that large and figured we would be able to “scoot” around it before it got too hot. Um, wrong, but not because of the property’s size, but because of what the property had to offer.
Jodi: David and I left the neighborhood for the twenty minute drive to the Geneva Wilderness Area in Seminole County. When we arrived, we decided on the shorter loop trail and promptly began to follow the red arrows along the trail.
D: We checked out the informational signage at a kiosk located near the trailhead. Everything seemed straightforward enough. We would follow the red trail blazes and do a loop around the property in an advertised 30-45 minutes. There were even “restrooms” – their term – at about the half way point. And a chapel if we were so inclined to have a look. Let’s rock!
J: As we walked along the trail Dave began to point out a number of plants, trees, and other creatures.
D: We stepped “into” the trail and were immediately surrounded by the vegetation of a scrub ecosystem. I have a special feeling for this disappearing ecosystem…from the pure white sand at our feet to the sand pines towering over our heads. In the middle were the familiar “scrub oaks”. The ground cover included reindeer moss (actually a lichen) and various plants, some of which, were in bloom. What a treat, I thought, to be in an area of scrub that was being protected and so close to home. I appreciated an interpretive sign that listed the, mostly negative, effects of suppressing fire in this (and other) ecosystems. A bit of education for those who think fire is always a bad thing.
J: I was up to my old tricks of spotting pretty flowers and butterflies. Look a two-fer.
D: Continuing along, you emerge from the scrub for a while and pass through or by pine flatwoods with several flatwoods ponds.
J: Have you ever seen ruts in your yard that look like someone was running a garden tiller after a few cocktails? If you have, you may have seen evidence of feral hogs. These animals root in the ground with their snouts all while leaving a path of destruction in their wake. A year or so ago, our neighborhood had a few running amuck. A Momma and a Papa each the size of curbed garbage cans and their three little piglets each the size of a five gallon bucket. The damage was extensive to lawns and landscaping.
D: Our Homeowner’s Association hired professional trappers to remove the hogs. An expense, I’m sure, that had not been considered when developing the yearly budget! We were able to observe similar trapping efforts on this property during subsequent visits.
J: David explained that this sundew acts like a Venus flytrap by catching insects in its leaves.
D: They’re both carnivorous plants capable of taking advantage of a careless insect or two.
J: A sign off to our left pointed toward a chapel. Out here in the middle of the woods? Yes, indeed. It’s nestled in front of a quiet lake with seating for several. If you and your future spouse are the outdoorsy types, it could be quite pretty for a wedding. It’s also a nice spot to just sit and reflect and enjoy the trees and lake.
D: Absolutely worth the short hike from the main trail…a great setting.
J: If you remember, I’m not a Central Florida native although I have lived here for quite some time. On this trip I learned something that Florida kids may learn when they’re young. The insect known as the antlion makes these little holes that look like miniature circular landslides in the sand. The antlion traps unsuspecting insects in the sloped walls of its hole. While the victim tires itself out struggling to climb out of the landslide, the antlion lays in wait at the bottom and gets a meal.
J: I wanted to share this signage. Some folks are reluctant to get out and experience these trails for fear of getting lost. Just stay on the marked trails, and take a map. Most of the places we go have a decent cell signal. Dave and I use two different carriers and neither one of us have had much trouble. Also, drink before you’re thirsty, take a buddy with you and by all means tell someone else where you’re going. Tell us about your experience.
Dave has been doing this type of thing for a long time. He grew up in upstate NY and has been in Florida for a number of years. He spent a lot of time in the woods in FL while obtaining his Biology degree. I’m telling you this to explain my situation. Coincidentally, I also grew up in upstate NY and spent a fair share of my time outside as a kid. My friends had acreage for yards. However, when I moved to Florida at eighteen, I learned how to drive in six lanes of traffic and live in an apartment. At my last job, I made a 45 minute drive, paid tolls, parked in a parking garage and walked into an office in a 36 story building for work. I hardly ever even saw the outside except when I made the return trip back to the ‘burbs.
I had forgotten the fun I had outside. It’s soothing except when Dave says, “If you hear grunting, snorting, or see something big running at you don’t keep it to yourself”. Uh…Ok?! He was talking about hogs…certainly a possibility out here.
D: Maybe a little over the top on my part! I certainly didn’t mean to be negative in any way, but being aware of where you are and of your surroundings is important whether you are crossing a city street or walking through the woods.
J: Cue the jogger at full stride grunting and running at me all dressed in black. He had a headset on and wasn’t expecting me any more than I was him. We both about jumped out of our skin and then laughed at how silly we were.
D: ‘nuff said.
D: Remember the promise of a restroom? I was blown away by this setup! Fully functional with running water (not potable).
J: The walls stopped at Dave’s chin. He’s 6 feet tall. At least this one had real plumbing…not just a hole in the ground with a seat over it. lol
D: A trail led past this cool shower to a group camping area.
J: We continued on and encountered the exhibitionist’s shower…it only has 3 1/2 sides. The shower and bathroom complete with running water sinks (though not potable) came in handy I’m sure for the people who used the nice camping area along the lake.
J: Looks like someone had some fun building a little shelter.
J: As we neared the half-way point of our hike, I turned around and took a shot of where we had been.
D: You can’t help but notice the whiteness of the sand which is extremely nutrient poor and indicative of the scrub ecosystem. It is also a great reflector of the sun’s rays and can make you feel as if you’re being slowly “baked”. Hat, hydration and sunscreen are good ideas out here.
J: I popped off some more shots of rosemary and some flowers.
J: As we neared the end of the trail, we saw the Ed Yarborough Nature Center…we’ll need to make an appointment to check it out another time. We saw some children there as we passed. Ten steps from the car we noticed this gopher tortoise. It let me get within six feet of it before it looked like it would cut and run. I assured it that we were not there to hurt it and thanked it for its patience as I snapped my last few shots of the day.
D: One of the most interesting aspects of this property, to me, was the variety of ecosystems that can be experienced with a relatively short hike. Scrub, flatwoods, several ponds and swamp were all represented and accessible to observe and/or experience from the trail. Also, the chapel and amenities added rather than detracted from the experience. I don’t think either one of us will be strangers from here on out!
Until next time…
Enjoy some more images from the Geneva Wilderness Area.