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Geological Wonders of Florida

posted Mar 13, 2018, 3:18 PM by Justin P   [ updated Mar 13, 2018, 3:20 PM ]
Tuesday, I woke up and had breakfast at the hotel before checking out.  My first hike of the day was just a short drive to Falling Waters State Park, home to Florida's highest waterfall.  After paying admission, I drove to the main parking lot and set out.  It was just a short walk on a concrete pathway down to Falling Waters Sink.  A small creek tumbles down 72 feet deep into a sinkhole.  The overlook is partly down in the sinkhole and provides great views looking down.  This is a really unique waterfall - Florida may not have many, but this one sure is cool.  After some pictures, I headed back up and followed the short trail around the lake and then headed back.  From here, I got back on I-10 east towards Tallahassee and into Apalachicola National Forest.  Parking at Leon Sinks Geological Area, I hiked the loop around to see the many sinkholes in this fascinating area.  The first couple sinkholes were dry and barely noticeable, though one had some lovely dogwood blooming around it.  Soon I came to the gorgeous Hammocks Sink.  This sinkhole was wet and filled with the most beautiful blue-green water.  Professional divers had explored the underwater caves below this sinkhole, discovering more than 28 miles of caves and connecting to Wakulla sinks, 10 land miles away.  Continuing on the Sinkhole Trail, the next one was Big Dismal Sink, the largest in the area.  A wooden overlook provided nice views.  I then passed Big Eight and Magnolia sinks, though there was too much vegetation and downed trees for a good view.  Black sink was next, presumably named for the dark, tannic water in the sinkhole.  Next I came to Fisher Creek, the lost stream, which disappears into another sinkhole after flowing for less than a mile.  It was a very short hike to where the creek rises and this was the end of the Sinkhole Trail.  From here, I got on the Gum Swamp Trail and hiked through a very different landscape.  There were several swamps along the trail.  The first was Bear Scratch Swamp with really beautiful tupelo trees.  I passed a couple more swamps then turned left on the Crossover Trail and crossed a boardwalk through Center Swamp.  Then I started heading back, making a quick detour to see Gopher Hole.  This was really more of a cave than a sinkhole.  Back at the car, I started heading west, making a stop near Bristol at Apalachicola Bluffs & Ravines Preserve, a Nature Conservancy property.  The Garden of Eden Trail starts out following an old road through a pine savanna.  The first half mile or so was incredibly flat, but then it entered a more forested area and dropped steeply into a ravine.  Hard to believe such a drastic change in topography.  Across the ravine, the trail headed steeply up and then through another flat savanna.  Finally, the trail heading back into the forest, descending steeply and to a split.  I went right and climbed steeply back up to a high bluff over the Apalachicola River.  The views from up here were really great.  As the trail continued, there were several additional viewpoints of the river from high above.  Then it headed back down into the ravine and finished the loop and I made the hike back.  It was a really cool and beautiful area, though the mosquitoes were really bad.  From here, I drove about 2 hours west to Pensacola and spent the night at the Holiday Inn.