Friday, October 31, 2014

Reed Bingham State Park (Blog Hike #494)

Trail: Little River Trail
Hike Location: Reed Bingham State Park
Geographic Location: west of Adel, GA
Length: 2.2 miles
Difficulty: 2/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: October 2014
Overview: A loop hike through several habitats featuring long boardwalks.

Directions to the trailhead: In southern Georgia, take I-75 to SR 37 (exit 39).  Exit and go west on SR 37.  Drive SR 37 west 5.6 miles to Reed Bingham Road and turn right on Reed Bingham Rd.  Follow the paved road to the park entrance, and then pay the entrance fee.  Just before reaching the park lake, stay on the main park road as it curves sharply right.  Follow the main park road to the cul de sac at its end, which also serves as the trailhead and Nature Nook parking area.

The hike: Consisting of 1613 acres, Reed Bingham State Park fulfills a vision of its namesake Amos Reed Bingham.  As early as the 1930’s Amos Bingham envisioned the creation of a dam on the Little River that would supply electricity to the surrounding rural area.  The river’s flow was deemed insufficient for hydroelectric purposes, but Bingham’s dream persisted.  After 20 years of lobbying, a 71-year-old Bingham finally persuaded local government officials to build a lake and park on this site.  Cook and Colquitt Counties purchased the land and deeded it to the state of Georgia in 1958 to establish the park.
            The park remains rather popular today partly due to its large lake and partly due to its location only 6 miles west of I-75.  A 46-site developed campground and a pioneer campground provide accommodations, and 7 picnic shelters attract social events.  The park also has a paddle-in campground located on an island in the park’s lake.
            For hikers, Reed Bingham State Park boasts 7 miles of hiking trails in two hiking areas that are connected by the 1 mile one-way Yearling Trail.  The northern hiking area has its own trailhead that is not easily accessed from the main park area.  Thus, this hike forms a loop through the southern hiking area, which features easy access, many habitats, some Little River views, and some long boardwalks.
Trailhead beside Nature Nook
            Start the loop at the rear of the cul de sac where a brown road sign bearing the words “Coastal Plain Nature Trails” and a blue carsonite post sit beside the Nature Nook interpretive center.  The trail heads east before curving left to head north through a sparse longleaf pine forest with dense grassy understory.  Many bugs swarmed around my head even in October, so be sure to wear insect repellent when hiking here any time of the year.
Hiking through longleaf pine
            Just past 0.1 miles, the short Turkey Oak Trail exits to the left.  Continue straight at this intersection.  The park map calls this trail the Upland Loop, but some signs on the ground seem to indicate that this is the Little River Trail, which will actually be encountered later.  Regardless of the name, some numbered posts correspond to a trail guide, though the guide dispenser at the trailhead was empty on my visit.
            At 0.3 miles, you reach another trail intersection where the Birdwalk Trail exits right.  Turn right here to leave the Upland Loop and begin the Birdwalk Trail.  Some more potentially confusing signs again falsely indicate that this is the Little River Trail.  Just past this intersection you pass a wooden trail shelter that provides the opportunity to rest if needed.
            The Birdwalk Trail quickly leaves the longleaf pines to enter wetter forest with a large number of Southern magnolia trees and a dense understory of ferns.  A long boardwalk carries you across the wettest of the wet areas.  The Birdwalk Trail turned out to be appropriately named: I saw and heard a large number of songbirds in the dense shrubby understory.
Frog on lilypad
            Just shy of 1 mile, the trail passes beside a small muddy pond with lots of lily pads.  My approach sent several frogs leaping into the water, but one frog chose to remain perched on its lilypad.  Almost immediately after passing the pond, you come to a three-way intersection where the Birdwalk Trail ends.  The Yearling Trail exits right to head for the park’s northern hiking area, but this hike angles left to begin the Little River Trail.  Somewhat surprisingly, the trail signs at this intersection do label the trails accurately.
            The sandy-based nearly flat Little River Trail heads southwest through a dense understory of saw palmetto.  At 1.4 miles, you reach the start of the park’s longest boardwalk.  This boardwalk traverses a wetland featuring dense greenery, but two side boardwalks exit right and lead to views of the Little River.  Up here in the area just above the park lake, the river flows still, broad, and deep.
Little River
            After passing the second river overlook, you quickly reach the south end of the boardwalk, where the trail turns to gravel.  At 1.9 miles, the Little River Trail officially ends at a junction with the Upland Loop.  Angle right to begin the final segment back to the trailhead.
            The Upland Loop climbs very gradually as it reenters the longleaf pine habitat.  Where the Turkey Oak Trail exits left, continue straight on the Upland Loop.  Soon thereafter the trail reaches the trailhead parking area cul de sac at an information board and trail guide dispenser, thus marking the end of the hike.

            

Monday, October 20, 2014

Paris Mountain State Park: North Lake (Blog Hike #493)

Trails: Brissy Ridge, Kanuga, North Lake, and Pipsissewa Trails
Hike Location: Paris Mountain State Park
Geographic Location: north of Greenville, SC
Length: 5.3 miles
Difficulty: 5/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: September 2014
Overview: A lollipop loop on the north side of Paris Mountain.

Directions to the trailhead: On the north side of Greenville, take US 25 to SR 253; there is a traffic light, Wal-Mart, and Paris Mountain State Park sign at this intersection.  Go east on SR 253.  Take SR 253 8.6 miles to State Park Road and turn sharply right on State Park Rd.  Drive State Park Road 0.8 miles to the signed state park entrance on the left.  Take a soft left to enter the park.  Pay the nominal entrance fee and remain on the park’s main road as it passes the campground entrance on the left.  This hike starts at the Brissy Ridge Trailhead, which is located at a small parking area at the top of the mountain.  If this lot is full, there is additional parking located just down the road to the right.

The hike: For my general comments on Paris Mountain State Park, see the Sulpher Springs loop.  This hike explores the north side of Paris Mountain as it descends/ascends to/from secluded North Lake.  These trails are open to mountain bikes every day except Saturday, so plan a Saturday visit like I did if you do not feel like dodging bikes on your hike.
Information kiosk at trailhead
            Start at an information kiosk at the west side of the parking area, from whence two trails depart.  The white-blazed Sulpher Springs Loop goes left and heads for an old fire tower site.  This hike will start on the yellow-blazed Brissy Ridge Trail, which heads right.  As an alternate route, you could start on the Sulpher Springs Loop, hike to the old fire tower site, and then hike a short connector trail to rejoin this trail description just before the big descent.  Such a route would reduce this hike’s distance by about 0.5 miles and form a true loop.
            The slightly rocky trail heads just east of north as it descends very gradually.  The hillside is quite steep with a false summit of Paris Mountain rising to your left and Buckhorn Lake lying downhill to your right.  At 0.4 miles, a gap in the trees to the right gives a nice view east toward a rural area north of Greenville.
View east from Brissy Ridge Trail
            0.7 miles into the hike, you reach a signed trail intersection with the red-blazed Kanuga Trail, which goes left.  This intersection forms the loop portion of this hike.  For no reason, I chose to turn left here to hike the loop clockwise and use the Brissy Ridge Trail, which continues to the right, as my return route.
            Whereas the Brissy Ridge Trail was bustling with activity on my visit, the Kanuga Trail featured considerably less traffic.  A few views of North Lake, which lies almost 300 feet below you, open up to the right, but for the most part the thick tree cover prevents views.  The park’s large collection of oak trees tried to carpet bomb me with acorns throughout my hike.  I managed to avoid a direct hit, but thousands of pieces of shrapnel covered the trail in several areas.
Hiking the Kanuga Trail
            Named for an old road, the Kanuga Trail ascends gradually to cross the 1600-foot mark and reach this hike’s highest elevation.  At this point, the signed connector trail to the old fire tower site exits left.  A side trip to the fire tower site will cost you 0.3 miles one-way of distance and about 120 feet of elevation gain.  I had already seen the fire tower site when I hiked the Sulpher Springs Loop, so I decided to forego another visit.  Also, if you took the alternate route along the Sulpher Springs Loop at the start of the hike, you would join this trail description at this point.
            The Kanuga Trail now begins its descent to North Lake, and trail traffic becomes even lighter after you pass the fire tower connection.  The descent is never steep; it starts gradual and then becomes moderate as you get closer to the lake.  A single broad switchback drops you into a rhododendron-choked ravine where a couple of short wet rocky areas will need to be negotiated.  Overall, the going remains fairly easy.
            At 2.7 miles, you reach the lower end of the Kanuga Trail and its intersection with the North Lake Trail, which goes straight and left.  The North Lake Trail forms a loop around its namesake lake, so you could go either way here.  The option going straight provides the shortest route, but I chose the longer more scenic option by turning left.
Intersecting the North Lake Trail
            The easy North Lake Trail heads clockwise around the lake with the lake on your right and a gradual hillside on your left.  This segment of trail passes four reservable trailside campsites.  All of these campsites were vacant on my visit, and this area should provide a nice camping experience in a fairly secluded area (by Greenville County standards).
            2.9 miles into the hike, you step across North Lake’s main feeder stream.  The trail curves right and soon passes the nicest trailside campsite of them all due to its location right beside the lake.  Just past this campsite, look to the right for a postcard view of Paris Mountain looming behind North Lake.
Paris Mountain behind North Lake
            The trail next crosses the dam that forms North Lake and then crosses the unusually narrow concrete spillway on a short metal bridge.  An interpretive sign tells of North Lake’s history as a drinking water reservoir.  The lake served as an open-air cistern for Table Rock Reservoir, the city’s main municipal water supply, until the 1980’s.  Although Paris Mountain State Park has existed since the 1930’s, this section of the park was added only in 2003.
            At 3.4 miles, the green-blazed Pipsissewa Trail exits left.  This trail is our route back to the mountaintop, so turn left to begin the Pipsissewa Trail.  After tracing around the foot of a low ridge, the trail heads up a small drainage before making a left U-turn to undertake the bulk of the climb.  The Pipsissewa Trail gains 200 feet of elevation along its 1 mile of distance, but the grade is so gradual that I barely broke a sweat.
Climbing on the Pipsissewa Trail
            After topping a ridge on the east side of Paris Mountain, the trail curves right.  At 4.4 miles, you reach the top end of the Pipsissewa Trail and its junction with the Brissy Ridge Trail, which goes straight and left.  For the shortest and easiest route back to the trailhead, continue straight on the Brissy Ridge Trail.  Some more gradual to moderate climbing over slightly rocky trail will bring you to the Kanuga Trail junction at 4.6 miles.  This junction closes the loop.  Retrace your steps along the balance of the Brissy Ridge Trail to return to the trailhead and complete the hike.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Poinsett State Park: Coquina and Scout Trails (Blog Hike #492)

Trails: Coquina and Scout Trails
Hike Location: Poinsett State Park
Geographic Location: southwest of Wedgefield, SC
Length: 3.4 miles
Difficulty: 4/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: September 2014
Overview: A pair of loop hikes that tour the park’s highs and lows.

Directions to the trailhead: From Wedgefield, drive SR 261 south 6.6 miles to signed Poinsett Park Road.  Turn right on Poinsett Park Road, which deadends 2 miles later in the park.  Poinsett Park Rd. is paved but bumpy, so take it easy on your drive in.  Park in the paved cul-de-sac parking area at the road’s end.

The hike: Located at the end of a 2-mile-long dead-end road, rustic and remote Poinsett State Park protects 1000 acres between the High Hills of Santee to the east and the Wateree Swamp to the west.  The park’s location allows plants common to both the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Atlantic coastal plain to flourish here, thus yielding an unusually high amount of botanical diversity.  The park is named for John Roberts Poinsett, an amateur botanist and South Carolina native who popularized the poinsettia as a Christmas flower.
            The area containing Poinsett State Park is sometimes called the mountains of the midlands.  Though these “mountains” are molehills compared to those of the upstate, this land has more relief than any area southeast of Columbia.  In terms of human history, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked in these mountains.  The CCC quarried local coquina rock (a type of limestone) and used it to build several trail shelters and the Old Levi Mill Pond.  They also built the trails near Old Levi Mill Pond, some of which will be traversed on this hike.
The park’s rural location means that it sees far fewer visitors than many state parks.  The park has a small campground, which features 24 full-service sites and 26 tent sites.  Four picnic shelters, canoe/boat rentals, and five cabins round out the park’s facilities.
Perhaps the park’s main feature is its extensive network of trails open to hikers and mountain bikers.  The Palmetto Trail, South Carolina’s master path that treads northwest to southeast across the state, passes through the park.  The route described here uses part of the Palmetto Trail as it combines two short loops both of which leave from the main parking lot.  The 1.5 mile Coquina Trail, generally regarded as the park’s best trail, circumnavigates Old Levi Mill Pond, while the 1.9 mile Scout Trail explores the sand hills and some of the park’s primitive facilities.
Start of Coquina Trail
The sign for the Coquina Trail located right beside the parking area marks the end of that loop trail for us.  To find the beginning, angle right through the grassy area to the park office, then continue to the right to the spillway and dam that forms Old Levi Mill Pond.  A stone bridge crosses the spillway, and a wooden post marks the start of the Knot and Coquina Trails.  If you look even further to the right, you will see the ruins of an old grist mill that predated the Revolutionary War.
Grist mill ruins
The trail crosses the dam before swinging right and then left to cross the pond’s main outlet stream on an old but sturdy wooden bridge.  Now heading upstream with the pond to the left, you climb one of the midlands’ “mountains” to an elevation some 50 feet above the pond.  At 0.2 miles, the Knot Trail, used mainly by mountain bikers, exits to the right at a signed trail junction.  Turn left to follow the lime green blazes of the Coquina Trail.
Old Levi Mill Pond
After dipping toward the lake, the trail curves right to climb again.  The Knot Trail rejoins from the right, and after a steady moderate climb, you reach a CCC-era trail shelter at 0.5 miles.  Notice the steep stone steps up to the shelter and the shelter’s excellent brick construction.
CCC-era trail shelter
A little more climbing brings you to the Coquina Trail’s highest point, which at roughly 200 feet of elevation is 100 feet higher than Old Levi Mill Pond.  At 0.7 miles, you pass a post that states you are half way around the Coquina Trail.  This point is very near the park’s southwestern boundary, so do not stray from the trail hoping to get hilltop views (that turn out not to exist anyhow).
Just past the halfway marker, the Knot Trail exits right for good, and shortly thereafter the red-blazed Hilltop Trail does the same.  The Coquina Trail traces the rim of a deep ravine before curving left to descend somewhat steeply toward the pond using two switchbacks (yes, these are bona fide mountain switchbacks!).  If you see some of the Coquina bedrock for which this trail is named, examine it carefully for fossils: this kind of rock is famous for housing fossils of prehistoric aquatic creatures.  The presence of said fossils reminds you that this land was underwater many millennia ago.
After completing the descent, the purple-blazed Laurel Trail exits right.  Turn left to stay on the Coquina Trail as it enters Shank’s Creek’s wetland area at the head of Old Levi Mill Pond.  Wooden boardwalk constructed patchwork style gets you over the wettest areas, but some muddy areas will still need to be navigated without aid.  The sparse canopy lets in plenty of sunlight, so this is a hot, muddy, buggy section of trail in the summer.
Boardwalk through wetland
After crossing the wetland, the trail curves left to begin the Coquina Trail’s final segment.  At first the wetland and then the pond are visible to the left, and the park entrance road can be heard through the trees to the right.  At 1.5 miles, you come out at the grassy area beside the parking lot, thus marking the end of the Coquina Trail.
Heading toward Scout Trail
To start the Scout Trail, walk across the parking lot and look for the brown carsonite posts with arrows that direct you to the trail.  The orange-blazed Scout Trail heads north on a wide sandy two-track old road.  A hill rises to the right, but the initial segment of this trail is nearly level.
Just past 1.6 miles (or 0.1 miles into the Scout Trail), the Scout Trail splits to form its loop.  The faint orange-blazed trail that climbs the hill to the right is easily missed, so this description will continue straight on the old road and use the faint trail as its return route, thus hiking the loop clockwise.  The Palmetto Trail shares this path.  In the direction you are walking now, the Palmetto Trail would eventually take you to Oconee State Park near Walhalla.
Trail to Campbell Pond exits left
2.1 miles into the hike, the Palmetto Trail exits left to head for Campbell Pond and Campbell Creek.  Our hike stays on the wide Scout Trail as it begins a long, gradual climb away from Campbell Creek.  As the trail curves right, the yellow-blazed Whippoorwill Trail crosses the Scout Trail a total of 3 times over a span of 0.3 miles.  The Whippoorwill Trail extends for 5.3 sharply curving miles, and it is used mostly by mountain bikers.
At 2.6 miles, the Scout Trail comes out at a primitive campground, where the old road you have been following ends.  Though orange blazes have been abundant up until now, you may not find one up here where you need it most.  You want to walk near the woods on the right side of the campground and look for an orange blaze on a pine tree at the edge of the woods; this marks where the Scout Trail exits the grassy campground area and reenters the woods.
Scout Trail reenters woods
Now on a narrower less well-maintained track, the trail heads south and, 2.9 miles into the hike, arrives at a collection of picnic shelters.  One shelter in particular is called the Overlook Shelter.  This shelter exhibits a CCC-era stone base and provides a partially obstructed view west toward Wateree Swamp.
View from Overlook Shelter
Just beyond the Overlook Shelter, the trail reenters the forest and begins a moderate descent.  The trail on the ground is rather faint here, so watch for the orange blazes to stay on the trail.  The trail meanders downhill, and at 3.3 miles you intersect the wide sandy two-track to close the loop.  Turn left and walk the final 0.1 miles back to the parking area to complete the hike.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Santee National Wildlife Refuge: Wrights Bluff Nature Trail (Blog Hike #491)

Trail: Wrights Bluff Nature Trail
Hike Location: Santee National Wildlife Refuge
Geographic Location: southwest of Summerton, SC
Length: 1.4 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: September 2014
Overview: A short, nearly flat loop to several wildlife observation areas.
Refuge Information: http://www.fws.gov/santee/

Directions to the trailhead: In central South Carolina, take I-95 to US 301/15 (exit 102).  Exit and go north on US 301/15.  Drive US 301/15 0.3 miles to the refuge entrance on the left.  Turn left onto the newly paved refuge road, and drive the refuge road 1.1 miles to the signed nature trail parking area; it is reached just before arriving at a vehicle gate.

The hike: Established in 1941, Santee National Wildlife Refuge protects 13,000 acres of land on the east side of Lake Marion in rural southwest Clarendon County.  The refuge only owns 4400 acres; the remaining 8600 acres are leased from Santee Cooper.  Santee Cooper is South Carolina’s state-owned utility company that was established during the 1930’s New Deal era to provide utility service to rural areas.  The company also owns Lakes Marion and Moultrie and operates them as sources of hydroelectric power.  At the time of their construction in 1939, Lakes Marion and Moultrie were the largest earth-moving project in American history.  Over 42 million cubic yards of earth were moved, and over 3.1 million cubic yards of concrete were poured to build the two lakes.
            The refuge has greater significance than its public works history: it is the southern-most migration point for naturally migrating Canada geese.  The refuge also provides nesting opportunities for neo-tropical migratory birds, thus making it a major destination for birding enthusiasts.  The refuge’s Nature Center, open 8am-4pm Tuesday through Friday, contains information about the refuge’s birds and wildlife.
            In terms of trails, the refuge has many miles of old roads that are open to hikers and bikers but only 2 designated hiking trails.  The Dingle Pond Trail (not described in this blog) provides a 1 mile out-and-back hike along the southern bank of its namesake pond.  The other option is the Wrights Bluff Nature Trail, the 1.1 mile loop described here.  Tacking on a short side trip to the Santee Indian Mound, one of the region’s largest ancient ceremonial mounds, lets you add some history to your wildlife viewing.
Trailhead: Wrights Bluff Nature Trail
            Begin at the rear of the parking area where a brown metal sign to the right of the vehicle gate announces the trail’s beginning.  The trail surface alternates among sandy dirt, mulch, boardwalk, and small pebbles as you head north through the dense vegetation.  Because this area is surrounded on three sides by water, mosquitoes and other biting insects pose a real nuisance in season.  Be sure to come prepared with plenty of insect repellent and/or long sleeves with a mosquito net.
            At 0.2 miles, you reach a boardwalk that marks the first wildlife observation opportunity.  A wall of rushes makes a nice natural bird blind as you peer out into Cantey Bay’s shallow waters.  On my visit dragonflies buzzed around the wetland, and an egret stood in the water.  Binoculars built into the boardwalk allow you to identify wildlife that is further away than you can see with the naked eye.
Looking out onto Cantey Bay
            Back on the main trail, you quickly leave the boardwalk as the trail angles left to cross a gravel refuge road.  This road is a continuation of the one beyond the vehicle gate at the trailhead, and thus it is usually closed to vehicle traffic.  Near 0.5 miles, you reach an elevated wildlife observation platform.  Climbing the 16 steps to the platform gives a nice view north into the refuge’s sunny grasslands.  I could detect no activity in the grassland during my afternoon visit, but such would surely not be the case in the morning or the evening.
View from observation platform
            Past the observation tower, the trail curves left as Lake Marion proper comes into view through the trees on the right.  Several long boardwalks carry hikers over wet areas.  Bottomland hardwood forest surrounds the trail.
            At 1.1 miles, you close the loop as the trail exits the forest at the parking area.  Before you leave, there is one more place you should visit.  If you turn right, walk a short distance on a gravel path beside the entry road, then turn right again to walk through a mowed-grass area, you will find yourself at the base of the Santee Indian Mound.  The earthen mound stands about 20 feet tall, and a staircase allows easy access to the top.  Interpretive signs at the top of the mound tell the mound’s long history (which includes its use as a British fort during the Revolutionary War), and spectacular views of expansive Lake Marion open up to the west.  This mound makes an interesting way to add some history site to your wildlife refuge visit.

Santee Indian Mound

View of Lake Marion from top of mound

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Santee State Park: Limestone Nature Trail (Blog Hike #490)

Trail: Limestone Nature Trail
Hike Location: Santee State Park
Geographic Location: northwest of Santee, SC
Length: 0.8 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: September 2014
Overview: A short lollipop loop along the shore of a pond.

Directions to the trailhead: In central South Carolina, take I-95 to SR 6 (exit 98).  Exit and go west on SR 6.  Drive SR 6 west 1.2 miles to State Park Road and turn right on State Park Rd.  State Park Rd. ends in the park.  After entering the park, drive to the park’s main crossroads, and turn right on Cleveland Street, heading for the picnic shelters.  The signed Limestone Nature Trail trailhead is located on the right side of the road just before you reach the picnic shelters.  There is no designated parking area, but there is plenty of roadside parking.

The hike: Located on the west shore of Lake Marion, South Carolina’s largest freshwater lake, Santee State Park consists of 2500 sandy-soiled lowland acres in the heart of the famous Santee Cooper region.  (For more information on the Santee Cooper region, see the next hike.)  The park features a 158-site campground, 30 cabins overlooking Lake Marion, 2 boat ramps, and 6 picnic shelters.  The park’s location far from major cities makes the park less visited than you might expect given its excellent amenities.
            The park contains several hiking trails, the longest of which is the 7.5 mile Hiking/Biking Trail.  I came here intending to hike the long trail, but other members of my party were not up for such a lengthy endeavor.  Thus, I settled on the short Limestone Nature Trail described here.  I did not get the miles I wanted, but I still had a nice hike.
Trailhead: Limestone Nature Trail
            The signed trailhead for the Limestone Nature Trail is located on the south side of the picnic area entrance road.  A sign warns of alligators, though I did not see any of those intimidating reptiles during my visit.  The sandy dirt trail immediately enters the forest, descending slightly.  Ignore an unmarked trail that exits left for the picnic shelters.  The picnic shelters are another place from which this hike could be started, but the trailhead near the picnic shelters is not marked.  Thus, that trailhead may be difficult to find if you are not familiar with the area.
Bridge over pond

Tree-lined pond
            At 0.1 miles, you reach the bank of a large pond that the trail crosses on a long wooden bridge.  The view left looks out to Lake Marion, while the view right is of a tree-lined pond.  At the far side of the bridge, the trail splits to form its loop.  Expecting a flat low-country hike, I was a little intimidated by the relatively steep trail going straight, so I turned left to hike the loop clockwise.
            The trail stays close to the pond as it curves right to rise slightly.  I saw some common birds and aquatic insects around the pond, and a pileated woodpecker flew just a couple of feet over my head.  Despite the trail’s name, the only exposed limestone I saw on this trail was the sand under my feet.
            0.6 miles into the hike, you come to an unmarked T-intersection with trails going right and left.  You need to turn right here to continue the Limestone Nature Trail.  The trail going left rises slightly to quickly reach the paved Lakeshore Campground and boat ramp road, which in turn could be used to reach the Sinkhole Pond Nature Trail, another of the park’s short trails.
Hiking over the high ground
            The remainder of the Limestone Nature Trail stays on the high ground in the middle of the U-shaped pond.  The final few feet to close the loop may be the steepest trail this side of Columbia.  After closing the loop, a short walk back across the wooden bridge to the park road is all that remains to complete the hike.