Sunday, January 29, 2012

Florida Trail: Corbett Wildlife Management Area

In early January, Papa Stumbles and I explored a section of the Florida Trail in the Corbett WMA near West Palm Beach, FL.  It is a different environment than the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor WMA  that I reviewed last year.  If you have a few hours (or a few days) and want to get to know one of south Florida's wilder areas, this is a great place for it.  Come prepared, and you'll have a nice time.

We intended to hike part of the one-way, orange-blazed 9.7 mile section of the Florida Trail described (in reverse order) here.  Unfortunately, our enthusiasm did not make up for our inadequate attire.  One often brushes up against the plants and encounters spider webs.  Wear pants.  This is also a marshy environment, often muddy and entirely submerged in places.  Wear shoes that can get wet.  We lacked both, and decided to turn back at several points rather than press forward.
Another soggy "dead end" for the ill-equipped.
As a result, I can't give you a straight trail description, but we did get to see much more of the area by driving from section to section and exploring on foot at intervals.   Here are my tips.

Before You Go.  Hunting is allowed in the WMA during parts of the year.  Check the website in advance to make sure you are hiking in a non-hunting zone.

Getting Started.  Immediately upon entering the WMA, you'll notice orange blazes on the road.  Click here for Google directions to the WMA entrance.

This is part of the Florida Trail, but walking along the road isn't the most exciting thing.  Officially, the trail section begins at the parking area next to the Hungryland Boardwalk.  (Follow signs from the entrance.)  However, you won't be able to make it very far before encountering a large pond that you'll have to hike through.  Therefore, I recommend driving approximately 0.75 miles along Stumpers Grade Road until the orange blazes disappear.  Here, the trail turns away from the road and you can get going.

Unofficial parking spot shortly before the Florida Trail turns off Stumpers Grade Road.
Joining the Florida Trail, Take 1.  Turn right from Stumpers Grade onto the trail (or any of the many spur trails) and, after about 50 yards, you should see a sign for the Ocean to Lake Trail.  Turn left.  From here, the trail cuts through a beautiful swath of large palms.  On your right (north), you'll begin to see a large pond/prairie coming into view.

The trail will "dead end" at the prairie/pond.  It actually doesn't end - you are supposed to wade across!  In the alternative, you can take the Wetlands Bypass trail, which is white-blazed, to the left.

The Wetlands Bypass doesn't bypass all wetlands - just that pond/prairie.  Soon, you'll come to another marshy end.  You can push through and keep going, or turn back to the road.

Florida Trail, Take 2.  If you want to stay relatively dry, head back to the car and drive another 0.5 miles to the "Trail" #7, which turns off to the right.  This isn't a trail so much as another road that hunters and AWDs use.  Walk or drive on down.  The road ends at another pond, but you'll intersect the Florida Trail shortly before the pond and can explore the orange-blazed route in either direction for a while.

Camping.  Along Trail #7, you'll pass a handful of campsites.  We found one with a still-smoking fire in it.  Thankfully, the considerate campers (sarcasm) left several cups and beer cans to use to gather water to douse the fire.  They also left hotdogs and other food on the ground, along with spent shotgun shells.  Thanks, guys.

Public Service Announcement
Seriously, if it's too hot to touch, it's too hot to leave.  And please, Leave No Trace.

This is one of more than 15 camping areas in the Corbett WMA.  During the right time of year (read: not mosquito season), this could be a nice place to pitch a tent by the car for a night.

Route-finding / exploring.
And so on.  Once you've exhausted Trail 7 and it's many side roads and trails, there are many other trail-roads in the WMA to meet back up with the Florida Trail and otherwise explore.  Check out the map for other options.  Be flexible, and have some fun out there.