In and around Stephen Foster Folk and Cultural Center

Azaleas Along the Florida TrailI originally planned to hike the Florida Trail from Suwannee Springs.  But, I knew things weren’t going as planned when the desk clerk pointed out that rain was expected, followed by a cold snap. Last I checked Wunderground, my weather source reported that clouds were predicted. Back up in my room, they were calling for a minimal chance of rain. However, an hour later, it became 45% chance. Not surprisingly, when I walked to my car, a misty drizzle fell.

Alternative Plan: I decided to drive ten miles to stall for time and hike a different part of the Florida Trail: that which traverses Steven Foster Folk and Cultural Center State Park .  If the weather stayed awful, I could visit the museum and the craft demonstrations. White Springs also looked like an interesting place to take photos.

I arrived at the Florida Trail trailhead in the park. Drizzle continued, and the air temperature hovered in the mid-fifties. Well, I am a Floridian and a little rain doesn’t stop us, though the cold gives us pause. The trail follows the river closely. Like a roller coaster it goes up and down for the full three miles to the boundary of the park. Great for my need to hike some hills  As an out-and-back, it wasn’t as many miles as I had hoped, but the hills and wet sand gave the boots and the lungs a reasonable workout.

There are many scenic overlooks along the river, but there’s also a lot to see on the ground, such as these oddly colored fungi.

Colorful Fungus on a Log

Spectacular wild azaleas grow all along the river.  Azaleas along the trail came in all shades of pink with some areas thick with colorful bushes.  It appeared that I was probably lucky as had the season been warmer these may have reached the end of their blooms.

Pink Azalea surround the Trail

The Suwannee is a favorite of canoeists and kayakers, as it provides rapids and opportunities for long distance trips

Canoeist on the River

After the hike, I headed into the museum, which pays tribute to the music of Steven Foster, with ten quite unique dioramas that memorialize his songs.

Stephen Foster Diorama

and a carillon (not working and needs repairs). Steven Foster wrote over two-hundred songs, many about the South. He never actually visited Florida.

Next, I headed into White Springs, the former home of an early twentieth century era spa. In its heyday it was home to fourteen luxury hotels. Many burned in 1911, so not much remains and the town now has fewer than 1000 inhabitants.  The Telford Hotel, built early in the 20th century, has been closed since 2014.  People still remember eating and staying there, though. Telford Hotel

Next door, the lovely Sophie Jane Adams house dates to 1893, though I wasn’t able to find out much more about the house.

Adams House, circa 1893

The bad weather turned out to be a blessing as I didn’t spend my entire day on the trail. Tomorrow, though is another day!

Down Upon the Suwannee River

Bridge Over the Suwannee River

I’m heading into the stretch for my hike preparation. I now have eighty some odd miles on my boots and I’ve hiked as far as ten miles at a time.  But…I still haven’t done the kind of elevation gains that the REI folks recommended. Other than flying somewhere, I think that I am not going to find a 2000-foot elevation gain in Florida, or in Southern Georgia, for that matter. But the authors of the Florida Trail Guide   (the Florida Scenic Trail is Florida’s version of the Appalachian Trail) put together a listing of hilly portions of the Florida Trail.

The stars aligned!  Last week the Suwannee Spring Reunion music festival, an annual event, at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park popped up on my calendar wish list for the same  weekend that I wanted to do a long hilly hike. (I had wanted to visit the park for a long time) And….the trailhead for two Florida Trail hilly hikes happened to be just across the river on the other side of Suwannee Springs. About a 3.5 hour drive, this clearly was an overnight trip and I gave it two nights, with Sunday at the festival. Monday and a few hours on Tuesday will be for hiking. Camping at the park or motels in Live Oak are options, but need to be reserved well in advance of a festival.

The Festival was well worth the visit with some amazing Americana music (bluegrass, blues and country). Great for listening and photography. Sunday has two active stages; thus, you move back and forth…no downtime between bands.

The Infamous Stringdusters

 

Ralph Roddenbery

Bring your own chairs. Vendors sold food, much of it even healthy and there is also a café on site.  The Festival Park hosts a huge number of campers during events and many people stay for all three days.

SOS Cafe

I think they might want to call this hippy fest if the name hasn’t been taken already.  More tie dye here than probably existed during the 1960s, both for sale and on people.

Tie Dye Everywhere

After I finished listening, I headed over to Suwannee Springs across the road.  The ruins of the Suwannee Springs spa, which existed before the Civil War, remain as well as those of an old train trestle. A closed car bridge crosses the river to the trail.  Tomorrow looks to be some fun climbing. I can’t wait!

Suwannee Springs Spa Ruins

Foot Bridge Leading to the Florida Trail