We packed up the pups and headed over to Oscar Scherer State Park for a day of hiking Florida style.
FLORIDA BACKPACK ESSENTIALS
Water: Electrolyte enhanced water and extra water for the dogs with a travel water bowl. We try to carry as much water as possible as we tend to wander off and end up doing a much longer hike than we originally plan.
Sun Protection: The Florida sun can be extreme in the winter and especially in the summer as many trails do not offer abundant trees with full shade in South Florida. I wear a wide brimmed sun hat that has UPF 50+ protection rating. My current favorite is Outdoor Research Helios Sun Hat the suggested by my Dad the chef and Appalachian Trail hiker thatatguy on Facebook One of his goals is to be on the trail as much as possible. He keeps up with the latest hiking gear innovations and comes up with inventive ways to save on hiking basics. My Dad also suggested to get cheap hiking poles at a local discount department store instead of the $100 variety that is sold at outdoor sporting stores. My cheap hiking poles are lightweight and work great.
Gear: I checked into purchasing a pair of snake boots online, however at $150 a pair, John came up with a cheaper version, discount department store rubber rain boots at $19.99 – works for me. I am not fond of running into snakes on a trail. In Florida, there are snakes on the sidewalk, in the grass, by the lake etc…so just in case I meet a snake or run into a swamp I am all set.
Clothing: Lightweight long sleeve shirt for bug protection, hiking pants (lightweight and durable) and sunglasses.
Tech: Android device with offline maps to assist with GPS navigation on the trails. We are trying out the android app BackCountry Navigator PRO GPS from CritterMap software LLC.
Snacks For People: Trader Joe’s organic cranberry nut trail mix. Review: not the best snack mix. We are planning to create our own trail mix version with cashews, dried mango and chocolate please!
Snacks For Pups: Trader Joe’s chicken sticks. Lucy gave her approval, “two paws up”. When we go hiking the dogs have expectations that at the top of a mountain or edge of a swamp (lol Florida) they will get some special pup treats on the trail.
OSCAR SCHERER STATE PARK
Oscar Scherer State Park opened in 1956 as part of the Florida State Parks system. The Park entrance fee is five dollars per car and all of the trails allow pets. If you plan to visit several state parks while in Florida it might be wise to purchase a Florida State Parks pass to save money. The park is located in Osprey, Florida just a few miles south of Sarasota, Florida. The park started out with 460 acres donated by Oscar Scherer’s daughter. The original park was extended to about 1,400 acres with the purchase of land to protect Florida Scrub Jay habitats. Oscar Scherer was famous for developing a shoe leather dyeing process in the late 1800’s. The park was dedicated in his honor.
NATURE VS. PROGRESS
Currently, because of continued development in the area around Oscar Scherer, the park is surrounded by a few busy roads including Interstate 75, and Tamiami Trail. There are also some housing developments that you can see from some of the trails. However, once you drive into Oscar Scherer State park nature wins and it mostly feels like you are in a much more remote location. Oscar Scherer has hiking and biking trails. It includes a portion of the 10 mile Legacy Trail (a rails to trails bike path that goes from Sarasota to Venice, Florida). The park also offers many other activities including camping, kayaking in South Creek and picnicking in the pine trees. We noticed a large group having a Birthday party in one of the shaded pavilions complete with barbecue food and games – fun!
The campground it situated in the trees by the South Creek. The campground offers fully equipped sites for RVs with electric and water. The restrooms feature hot showers and there are also sites for tent campers. The facilities are clean and the grounds at Oscar Scherer seem to be meticulously maintained. The campground borders the Green Trail which can be accessed by crossing over a bridge near the visitor’s center, traveling to the back of the campground to the trail head.
There is a boat launch available if you bring your own kayak or you can rent one from the Ranger’s station. We saw several kayakers enjoying the day on the South Creek, a waterway that snakes through the park. The creek is a mixture of salt and fresh water (brackish water). It eventually flows out into the Gulf of Mexico. A variety of Florida wildlife can be seen on the South Creek Trail that borders this waterway.
Green Trail – should be named the Sun Shock, Scorched Earth Trail
We had grand ideas of visiting several trails at the park with a goal to complete each trail. However, when we attempted to hike the full length of the Green Trail, we were greeted with sun, sand, minimal trees and a Florida Gopher tortoise (land dweller). Fortunately, this tortoise prefers hot sandy environments near the woods (perfect location). This tortoise does not depend on standing water as a water source as it gets most of it’s water from food. Some people consider this type of tortoise meat a delicacy although hunting is illegal and the Florida Gopher tortoise is listed on the endangered species list as threatened. This tortoise should be able to enjoy his later years (they can live to be over 100 years old) in his secured home area in the park.
Continuing On The Trail…
The two mile trek felt like five as we were in the direct sun and even at 70 degrees it felt like 90 degrees. When the land consisted of a large ranch in the past some of the trails that exist today were used as cattle trails in this area. I feel bad for those cattle. Several parts of the trail were closed when we visited the Green Trail to possibly protect the Florida scrub jay habitats. This is a good trail to avoid. A better option for sun and sand would be to visit Siesta Key beach in Sarasota, Florida. After hiking the Green Trail we asked the Park Ranger if any of the other trails at the park had some shade trees. The Ranger confirmed that the only trail with full shade at the park is the South Creek Trail.
South Creek Trail
South Creek Trail – wonders of Florida
The South Creek Trail is the only trail to hike at this park. It borders the South Creek. There are kayakers on the creek and lots of tree cover to keep the hike cool. The trail starts at the picnic area near the visitor’s center and travels by a second picnic area with kayak rentals. The views along this trail open up to some larger areas of the South Creek. There is a small Florida style waterfall near a wood bridge and some audio kiosks with information about the history and nature in the park. Pumpkin and Lucy enjoyed the experience but as always Lucy rolled in the sand and dirt to give her approval. Lucy has the title of “dirt dog” but she is a cute corgi!
Location: Oscar Scherer State Park is located in Osprey, Florida – 1843 S. Tamiami Trail, Osprey, Florida 34229
Phone: (941) 483-5956
Attire: Bring hiking gear and snacks or plan a midday picnic break
Fees: $5.00 entrance fee per vehicle, $2.00 for bikers and pedestrians; Picnic pavilion rental is $30.00 for the small one and $60.00 for the large one. Camping $26.00 per night with electric and water.
Hours: 8AM – dusk 365 days a year,
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