Posted: 8:17 am Saturday, December 2nd, 2017
By Ann Kelly
I have to say being a part of the Hiking Spree has been a real pleasure. Not only does it make me slow down to enjoy the beauty of Hillsborough County Parks, it has introduced me to parks I have not had the pleasure of visiting. It’s very easy to join and since our weather has finally cooled down you have plenty of time to complete the Spree. I’ve heard it has already surpassed the last few years with over 1,000 happy hikers. My first stop was in Upper Tampa Bay Park and I can now add three more to the list – Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa, Alderman’s Ford in Plant in Plant City and Lithia Springs in Lithia. Now this is what I really like about the Challenge. It’s the chance to explore trails with a good range of difficulty from easy to strenuous, and which are handicapped accessible.
Lettuce Lake is a level 2, or moderate. It’s one of my favorites with a great boardwalk and observation tower. I have found the storm damage from hurricanes varies from park to park, but it does seem that has also changed the landscape in another way. The wildlife I’m used to seeing is not as abundant or has moved/adjusted their habitats. Yes, its nature’s way and watching how it all comes back is a part of life in the Sunshine State.
Thanks to park worker Dylan at Lithia Springs I found the trails at Lithia Springs after driving right past them at the entrance. Loved the springs which were closed at the time. But there is a definite advantage to being early with cool air and the possibility of seeing a little more wildlife. My visit was over Thanksgiving weekend and the campsites were all filled but at 8 am there were very few awake. This is a level 3 trail that’s considered strenuous and I completely agree. It’s three miles long with plenty of inclines. Toughest one yet.
I had company for my trek through Alderman’s Ford – my good friend Ashley and her wonderful rescue dog named Shark Bait. Yes that’s his name and he’s such a sweet dog. We went to Alderman’s Ford since dogs are allowed on this trail, but only on a short leash. It was unfortunate that some other walkers chose to ignore that rule which is there for everyone’s safety. But the almost two mile paved trail was something very special early that morning with a lot of fog that made for some great pictures. The boardwalk was still being repaired so you could only go so far. But since I definitely plan a return trip I’ll let you know when it’s finished.
So that’s already four out of the eight required to complete the challenge already. If you like company on your hikes, keep an eye out for the guided walks. And please sign up to be a part of the Spree yourself. It’s good for your heart…and soul.