SNAKES ON A TRAIL?
SNAKE!!!!! I shouted, I had just exited the Jeep to see how deep the next hole was, when a snake scurried from under my feet. I quickly put my foot down with just a glance, to my surprise it was not a Banded Water snake, but a venomous Cottonmouth. My wife could be heard saying, “He got one” I replied “it’s a Cottonmouth, bring my tongs.” She grabbed the snake stick and trudged through the mud to give me a hand. I have a special wife. David who was traveling in the Jeep behind me had come on the trip with sandals and socks. It was good that he had not stepped on this snake accidently. We go prepared, snake boots are always a good thing to wear while walking though Florida swamps and high grass. We have Rattle snakes, Cottonmouths, coral snakes, and even timbers and Copperheads in the north panhandle. Today’s ride did not disappoint.
We entered the east side at the Van Fleet trail. You can travel down South Bay Lake Rd from Mascotte to get in. It was a perfect day for trail rides. We took a left to the South on the Logging Rd, and from there to Center Grade Rd. As soon as we turned onto the Logging road we were greeted with our first puddle. It stretched the entire with of the road and ran around 30 inches deep. Keep in mind I have 33” tires on a 2007 JK with NO lift. But having been down the road in the past I entered with confidence… Woaaaaa that was deeper than expected. That was a preview of what was to come. We have had rain almost every day this summer beginning in May. I had taken my door off and that allowed water to rush in the side. Ha ha ha.. It is all good. That’s part of the Jeep experience. We meandered down trails to the North then west till we hit 471 we headed south across the Little Withlacoochee river to North Carter Rd. When the road turned to the West we took the less traveled trail into the unknown. This was a tight trail with low branches and ample water crossings. It was here that I found the Cottonmouth.
We traveled down several trails passing deer and gators till we found the Richloam fire tower. Florida trail blazer had posted a video about the tower back in June and you could still climb it. I was looking forward to this part of the adventure, climbing up old rickety rotting stairs is the type of thing I just might do. Unfortunately it is now labeled condemned with NO trespassing signs. No clime for me.
From there is a just a block up the road to the Richloam General Store, an old store that has been around for almost 100 years. It is now been restored and has a variety of old school snacks, toys, and candy from that time period. Local honey, craft brew soda, and a history lesson to boot. If you are ever traveling down hwy 50 it’s a nice break just off Porter Gap Rd and Clay Sink Rd. http://www.richloamstore.com/
We try to trail ride at least 2 times a month to get away from it all, often we also ride with the Orlando Jeep Club in the Central Florida area. If you have a Jeep and you are looking for a place to use it, then make sure you visit our YouTube channel and see what Central Florida has to offer.
There are plenty of places to ride around in a Jeep in the central Florida area. Back in the 90s we often rode in the area South of SeaWorld and spent many hours looking for snakes and forging water holes. Most of that area is now developed and though there is still plenty of deer, the wild life is taking a hit from over building. This land is environmentally sensitive. Some species of snake require more land to live. Summer home ranges for the indigo snake can be as large as 273 acres they move from lower creek areas to dryer sandy areas during the year. When we build developments in the creek areas we are taking their habitat away. This area is mostly posted and labeled no trespassing. I have heard of people being ticketed while pulling out. Always remember that even if it’s not posted it is still someone’s property. When you wheel take your trash out, take care of the environment, stay on the trails, don’t park in high grass, it could cause a brush fire, and if you can get permission.
Other areas that are open to riding are the WMAs Wildlife Management areas require a day us pass. They can be purchased at the entrance by filling out a card and putting it in the collection box, or online at http://myfwc.com/license/public-land-use/ There are plenty of signs in the WMAs that tell you where you can and cant drive. Mainly stay on named and numbered roads. You GPS should help. During hunting season it’s good to be aware of what is around you, driving up on a hunter who has been in a tree stand for hours waiting for a deer is aggravating to say the least. Most of the roads are easy to drive on and some you could drive around in a car. They provide ample areas to get out and walk around, and plenty of photo ops.
Some of our favorites are Tosahatchee, Three Lakes, Tiger bay, Withlahoochee, Citrus, and Apopka Wildlife drive. See our YouTube channel for videos. If you are looking for a nice easy ride and want to see animals then one of the best is Apopka, keep in mind it is only open during select days and is still recovering from hurricane Erma. You will probably see more gators the ever at the pump station. Where ever you ride please always ride safe, let someone know where you are going, don’t litter, and tread lightly.
Visit 1995Wrangler / Florida Jeep Rides on Facebook for info and upcoming trail rides. https://www.facebook.com/1995wrangler/
Matt N Randy
Jeep Enthusiast, Pastor, Photographer, Artist, A husband and wife team that loves going out and seeing God's Creations.