The St. Johns River floodplain is still well over its normal level, which translates to wet feet at Bull Creek, Tosohatchee, Seminole Ranch, and Bronson. Water levels are dropping slowly. The worst water was reported at Bull Creek, up to waist deep (with alligators, of course). The Central Florida Crew is working on hurricane damage weekly, so expect the trail to be pretty clear by the end of December. Some rerouting had to be done in Little Big Econ because of heavy erosion from floodwaters.
Sandra and John discovered Deer Park Road in Deseret closed as of 11/21/17. Osceola County reports that the road is closed “until further notice” because of damage to bridges from Hurricane Irma flooding. FTA has issued a notice to hikers and confirms that Osceola County plans to start rebuilding the bridges at Wolf Creek and Pennywash Creek in late January. Section hikers should plan to skip around this section. As of 12/11/17, a report from a local hiker said it was passable with caution and at your own risk. This will only remain the case until bridge reconstruction starts. Thru-hikers have the option of walking around it farther to the west. Here is the most efficient route we could determine:
DESERET CLOSURE ALTERNATIVE ROADWALK
1) Leave Bull Creek via Crabgrass Rd from the hunt camp on the west side of loop, 2 miles north of the loop junction after you leave Forever Florida. Use either Crabgrass Rd (a dirt road) for 6.8 miles, or follow the forest roads shown on this map through Triple N WMA between parking areas to its camping area along US 192, where free tent camping is permitted and water and vault toilet available. Check in with the camp host. Crabgrass Rd is 6 miles of rural dirt road, plus 0.8 mile west along south shoulder of US 192 to Triple N. Total mileage (via Crabgrass Rd) 10.7 miles if starting from Forever Florida’s Illahaw campsite, 23.4 miles if starting from Three Lakes campsite.
2) Continue west from Triple N along south side of US 192 through Holopaw (resupply) and Harmony (resupply) to Old Melbourne Hwy. Enter Lake Lizzie Preserve and follow red trail for 3.1 miles to established camping area. Use this map to find the camping area. The preserve is owned by Osceola County and on their website says $15 for a campsite. Call 407-742-0200 (weekdays, daytime) or reserve online.
Total day’s mileage 16.4.
3) Leave Lake Lizzie Preserve camping area along the blue trail to the northern trailhead of the preserve at Midland Dr. (1.6 miles on trail). Back to roadwalking: Midland to Bass Hwy to Pine Grove Rd northbound to Nova Rd eastbound. Access to water is extremely limited. Once past Deer Park Rd and Cox Creek, rejoining the FT, there are places where hikers can camp in the DOT right of way outside the Deseret fence. Total day’s mileage 21.8.
4) From camping north of Cox Creek to Tosohatchee Tiger Creek camp via FT is 15.8 miles.
FTA is also looking into the potential of opening up a newly negotiated trail corridor between Harmony and Nova Rd to shorten the above route. We’ll keep you posted as to that development.
ECON BRIDGES CLOSED
Signage at the Geneva Wilderness trailhead on 12/10/17 says that the bridges over the Econlockhatchee River in Little Big Econ State Forest are closed. The official word is an equestrian rode a horse across them and damaged the decking. Seminole County has posted them as closed until repaired, but local recreationists have removed the county’s barriers and have been crossing them anyway, as they report them as being passable with caution.
Here is the Notice to Hikers that FTA posted on 12/14/17 regarding this situation. Per the notice, follow Snow Hill Rd north to the white-blazed trail that starts just north of the highway bridge over the river to resume your walk in the woods, reconnecting with the FT on the north side of the river at the bridge at the Flagler Trail. See this map.
HIKING DETAILS for the Orlando section