Ascent of Spruce Creek Preserve High Point on 2015-03-07

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:Willie-Weimaraner Musser
Date:Saturday, March 7, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Spruce Creek Preserve High Point
    Elevation:41 ft / 12 m

Ascent Trip Report

Had heard about this hike from Nate Lundberg who said it has a surprisingly a lot of vertical fun for lands that are on the coast. He was right. This state land is part of the FDEP, SJRWMD, and Fl Community Trust Fund and contains a lot of differing ecosystems and plant communities to enjoy. There are many unique land formations here for FL in that there is sandy xeric scrub finger sitting up above a freshwater tannin creek bound on the west side, another small tributary of brackish water on the east and the large semi-estuarine Spruce Creek salt marsh grass to the north with big bluffs of exposed sand looking down over the creek. Spruce Creek in this area is quite wide like a small river. The many overlooks from the bluffs are quite lovely.

There are miles of horse trails, bike trails, hiking trails all with many "shared path" concepts. The place is very well signed. The bike trails are fantastic with many hairpin curves and they deliberately play around the slopes so you can get constant terrain changes and as much as 20 to 30 feet of fall or gain along the circuitous path. The entire Doris Leeper trail is over 7 miles long. Much to my surprise, dogs on leash are allowed. Perfect for Willie to have a nice long adventure in the woods. Warning the bikers out number the hikers and trail joggers about 20 to one so you have to be on your toes as there are many people pushing their limits around those blind corners.

My trip -
We parked at the obvious cul-de-sac shaped parking lot. Then Willie and I hiked down from the 25 contour to the west to find the bridge shown on the map. We first explored the area west of the small fresh water creek. This area is a separate preserve area with another name. We hiked all the way to near the state highway and then backtracked back to the creek and bridge. Then we decided to jump on the Doris Leeper trail and share the road with the bikers and we enjoyed the meandering and hilly terrain heading north. Much of this trail runs next to the steep face near the freshwater creek. You constantly move in and out of plant communities. The highest ground above elevation 30 is xeric species such as sand pine, myrtle oak, and Chapman's oak; the mesic species occupy the ground around elevation 20 to 30 and there are communities near the higher part of that range that is classic laurel oak but at the lower ends the communities becomes large hardwood hammock with live oak and magnolia.

In much of these areas you see native Zamia integrifolia floridana (Coontie) all through the woods mixed in with scattered palmetto and sabal palm. The coontie found naturally like that are threatened and rare although you can buy them at any nursery. It is still interesting to see them growing like the natives used to see them representing the old living cycad species still alive in the USA. Cycads are most closely related to gymnosperms with their reproductive cones but look somewhere between a palm shrub and a fern but they are not related in any way to either.

Near the hairpin curves and bail out sign "C" is the USGS highest ground. Appears in the sand pine scrub near the yellow trail. There is another spot in the reserve that reaches the 40 contour in the dwarfed scrub bisected by a maintenance road if someone wants to investigate that area too.

We continued north using the bike trails being passed a few times. The first look out is out on the finger point far to the north. The fence stands at least 20 feet above the tidal marsh flats below despite what the USGS top shows. People hike down around the fence and go touch water there. I did too. It is a very steep bluff and heavily eroded from people going around the fence. It is tempting to see the water from both vantages. They will need to add a wooden stair eventually as the draw to go down is too much.

On the way back there are many more scenic overlooks along the western edge of Spruce Creek.But the bluff is 30 to 35 feet above the water in places. Each place has a wooden fence encouraging hikers to stay up on the bluff but once again the draw to the water in each has created many alternate paths off the bluffs. There is a 30 foot gain between each of those areas and the trail. The main trail that shows off this views runs parallel to the Spruce Creek but is not the bike trail.

We headed east and crossed the power easement and found the most eastern portion of the trail system. This loop actually appears to go across a shell midden about 10 to 15 feet above the creek. Shells can be seen in the trail in this section. No signs explaining what indigenous peoples left their harvesting remains there but surely that is what was going on there. Once back on the power easement I found the yellow hiking trail that goes east beyond the Doris Leeper area and found the bridge to the east. We hiked over the bridge and up to the other side until the terrain became less hilly and backtracked back over the bridge and back to the power easement. By now, i accounted for about 400 feet of additional gain in the hilly bike trails, step downs to Spruce Creek, and investigating each creek and bridge crossing. With enough work in for the day we bailed on the last segment of bike trail and took the yellow maintenance road west through the low scrublands and back to the car in the parking lot.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:531 ft / 160 m
    Total Elevation Loss:511 ft / 154 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7.7 mi / 12.4 km
    Grade/Class:1 & 2
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Weather:Pleasant, Windy, Overcast
54F and windy but pleasant
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:131 ft / 39 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 36 ft / 11 m; Extra: 95 ft / 28m
    Loss on way in:95 ft / 28 m
    Distance:3.4 mi / 5.5 km
    Route:see report
    Start Trailhead:Bridge Crossing Spruce Creek Trib west  5 ft / 1 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:416 ft / 126 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 16 ft / 5 m; Extra: 400 ft / 121m
    Gain on way out:400 ft / 121 m
    Distance:4.3 mi / 6.9 km
    Route:see report
    End Trailhead:Parking Lot  25 ft / 7 m

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