Saturday, November 8, 2014

Osceola National Forest: Fanny Bay Trail (Blog Hike #496)

Trail: Fanny Bay Trail
Hike Location: Osceola National Forest
Geographic Location: east of Lake City, FL
Length: 1.1 miles
Difficulty: 0/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: October 2014
Overview: A short, flat out-and-back to a shallow tree-filled bay.

Directions to the trailhead: The Fanny Bay Trail has two trailheads, but the easiest one to find is located in the I-10 westbound rest area at mile marker 318 east of Lake City.  The signed trailhead is located near the exit of the truck portion of the rest area.

The hike: When I hiked the Escatawpa Nature Trail in coastal Mississippi a few years ago, I thought sure I had done the only hike that begins at an interstate highway rest area.  Needless to say, this hike in northeast Florida proved me wrong.  Truth be told, there is an alternate trailhead away from the rest area, but you will need a good map or GPS to find it: it is located at the end of an unmarked dirt forest service road.
            The Fanny Bay Trail in Osceola National Forest, Florida’s smallest national forest, provides a flat and easy out-and-back that is well-suited for leg-stretching activities.  The trail leads to a boardwalk on its namesake bay, a shallow body of water that features a dense bald cypress forest.  Because of all the water, bugs will be a real problem on this hike.  I took over 20 insect bites when I hiked this trail.  This number is not a record for me, but it is too large for comfort and good health.
Rest area trailhead: Fanny Bay Trail
            To reach the trailhead in the rest area, walk out the back of the vending/restroom building and angle left around the truck parking area.  A marked crosswalk leads to the trailhead, which is identified by a blue sign on a swinging pedestrian gate.  A vehicle gate sits to the right of the pedestrian gate, and barbed wire fence lies on either side of the two gates.
            Walk through the pedestrian gate, and almost immediately you arrive at a T-intersection.  The trail going right leads 0.25 miles to the second more remote trailhead, but there are no points of interest to see in that direction.  Thus, you should turn left to head for this trail’s namesake bay.
            The trail heads west through a loblolly pine planting with dense, low greenery on either side.  This portion of the trail follows an old road, as evidenced by the firm two-track grassy/dirt treadway.  The large number of bugs will likely encourage you to hike faster, or at least that was the effect they had on me.
Hiking through loblolly pine planting
            At 0.35 miles, you pass a picnic table on the left that is located at an old cul de sac in the road.  Just past the picnic table, you reach the start of the boardwalk.  Immediately the waters of Fanny Bay appear below the wood you are walking on, and the pine planting is replaced by a dense forest of cypress trees.  This shallow densely forested body of water may not be what you think of as a bay, but it is an interesting place to visit nonetheless.
Fanny Bay
            At 0.55 miles, you reach the end of the boardwalk and a small overlook platform with benches.  The view from here is more of the same with dark shallow water and dense cypress forest.  The trail does not form a loop, so after enjoying your time at the bay your only choice is to retrace your steps to the rest area to complete the hike.

1 comment:

  1. It's a wonderful idea to have little nature trails attached to interstate rest areas, and that really should be more created. It could be a welcome way for drivers to walk a bit during a long drive, and it gives out-of-state people a chance to experience a taste of local nature and scenery.