Little Manatee River State Park in Wimauma, Florida has two entrances. North of the river directly off 301 is a 6.5 mile trail loop and primitive camping site. South of the river is where the main campground, playground, picnic areas, and more trails are. I have been many times since 2013 and I usually take the north entrance.
Shortly after entering the woods, the trail splits. To the left it runs along a part of the river, sometimes overlooking it from high banks, other times running through boggy areas. This is where I have seen some rather large turtles, centipedes, spiders, a skink with red cheeks, and many sweet flowers. To the right the trail runs through a dry area with several open places covered by either grass or palmetto. This is where I have seen birds, dragonflies, and a dead tree swarmed by dozens of bees.
I have also seen many snakes and many more roots that look like snakes. I once encountered a trio of boars. They snorted at me and departed my presence rapidly as if I wasn’t cool enough for them to hang out with. For a second, I thought I was back in Junior High School. I once saw two bobcats in a tree! Even in the winter, I always find some animal life – even if it is only a distant vulture.
I returned to the part of the Little Manatee River State Park north of the river in September of 2014. Everything was different. This time I decided to take the shorter loop and avoid the perpetually drowned areas but the recent rain had made the entire area wet. On the way in I had to keep reapplying my bug spray to keep the biting flies at bay. It barely worked. In addition to flies, I saw lubber grasshoppers, several butterflies (including one that was solid orange), and ran into countless spider webs across the trail. I eventually picked up a stick to sweep out in front of me but somehow still walked into five more webs before my walk was over. Also, my stick was so rotted it fell apart in my hands, getting shorter and shorter. Sometimes, you just can’t catch a break.
The jungle was noisy this time. I heard sand hill cranes, intermittent choruses of very loud frogs, very loud bees, and the loudest cicadas I have ever heard in my life. I’m surprised my head didn’t explode. There was also a goblin. Seriously, I heard something approaching fast behind me that sounded like cross between a police car and a hyena, but when I turned to look there was nothing there and the sound stopped.
I crossed several puddles, muddy spots, and even a stream. Finally, I encountered a puddle that extended as far as I could see, the closest part of which was deeper than up to my ankles and farther across than I could jump. I attempted to drag logs to make a bridge, but it just wasn’t working right and I found the logs were covered in centipedes.
I also saw several interesting features I did not notice the last time I was there:
Later, I went when it was dry. Even though I have been to Little Manatee River State Park before, it seems I am always finding new things I never noticed before, such as trees with unique twists in them, single charred trees while nothing around them is burned, and trees in various states of decay. When I returned in February of 2016, I saw a hollow stump I had never before noticed. Only the bark remained, greatly resembling puff pastry. I also saw several trees with swollen balls on their branches – and not all in the same part of the trail. Are they truly new? Or by noticing one was my mind primed to notice the others? I was also noticing the odd shapes of large flakes of wood scattered everywhere. What goes on when I’m not there?
215 Lightfoot Road, Wimauma, Florida
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.