St Francis Trail - Florida
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TrailheadTrail BeginsSpider EncounterFallen TreeSkatRattlesnakeTrail SplitsTrail NarrowThe LeveeLevee BridgeShell CasingsOak TreesThe WellSt JohnsTrailheadBoard WalkBoard WalkwaysTrail SplitYellow TrailOld FenceBridge
This 7.7 mile round looping hike starts from the trailhead parking area just off SR 42 and briefly heads West before turning North toward the St John's River.  It is approximately 3.5 miles to the area near the St John's where a turn of the 19th century boomtown existed for just a few years before the railroad replaced the need for the steamboats that was the life blood of St Francis. The steamboats used to transport fresh fruit and vegetables back to Palatka after unloading supplies. I'd recommend reading more about this trail and some brief history about St Francis in "50 Hikes in Central Florida" by Sandra Friend. I took this hike with my son Stacey on Nov 11, 2012 which started on a slightly cool morning.  The day proceeded to warm nicely and every time we stopped for a break there were mosquitos everywhere on the entire hike. We used plenty of Deet repellent which kept them from being more than a minor nuisance.  This was also the start of deer season and we regretted not have bright orange vests as we occasionally heard gunshots in the distance and ran across several hunters on the trail as hunting is allowed throughout Ocala National Forest. This trail is on the very Southeast starting point of the Ocala National Forest.  Because the hunters concerned us, we purposely talked loud and as we enjoyed the forest's magnificent beauty. We might have seen more wildlife had we been able to hike quietly. I had taken my young grandson's out to this trail a few months earlier, and allowed them to go on their own for much of the short hike that we took on that occasion.  However, on this day we encountered a pigmy rattle snake that will forever make me rethink allowing children to run ahead or to meander off the trail. You will see pictures I took of this snake in all its beauty as you progress through this virtual hike.

Directions: From I-4 take exit 118 onto SR 44 and drive West thru Deland.  Continue from downtown Deland on SR44 for just a little over 5 miles and proceed over the draw bridge that crosses the St John's River.  Continue for less than a half mile to SR 42. Turn right on  SR 42 and in less than a half mile the St Francis Trail sign will guide you a short distance to the trailhead.  There is room for approximately 15 cars to park beneath the large trees around the trailhead.  On this occastion, we were the only vehicle.
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