Saturday, April 14, 2018

Three Days On The Withlacoochee State (Rail) Trail

After a good day of rest we were excited to start our explorations of the Withlachoochee State (Rail) Trail.

The weather had other plans.

Rain Rain
No riding on this day.  We were socked in for a good 24 hours.

That's o.k. a little forced rest and web catch-up time is never a bad thing.

By the next morning the sky was clear and we woke up to yet another morning in the 50's which warmed to low 70's.  It was a great trail day!

1 Withlacoochee Trail - Come On Mom
Hop-a-long and Boneless are saying "Come on, Moms!  We're ready, already."

2 Withlacoochee Trail - Beginning (1)
At the Ridge Manor Trailhead, on the trail and ready to roll.

5 Withlacoochee Trail Scene
This was the scene for most of the day.  We were wonderfully isolated and it had a very rural feel.

7 Withlacoochee Trail Flower
At one of our first rest / water breaks, Nicole spotted these while chasing down a skipper butterfly.

3 Withlacoochee Trail - Common Buckeye Junonia coenia Butterfly (1)
Then Darlene called her away to see this - the Common Buckeye Butterfly - Junonia coenia.

When she returned to the area the skipper was in, Nicole had considered not trying to photograph it.  After all, she has seen a lot of skippers.

8 Withlacoochee Trail - Whirlabout (Polites vibex) Skipper Butterfly (1)
Good thing she changed her mind because this was a new-to-us skipper - the Whirlabout (Polites vibex).

4 Withlacoochee Trail - Moth Mullein (Verbascum Blattaria) (1)
Although we have seen Mullein in other states, seeing it in Florida was new for us.

4 Withlacoochee Trail - Moth Mullein (Verbascum Blattaria) (2)
The Moth Mullein flower - Verbascum blattaria - is very pretty.

6 Withlacoochee Trail Scene
Heading on down the trail...

... an Eastern Towhee was singing ...

10 Withlacoochee Trail Nicole Photos
... and Nicole found something that interested her.

After months of chasing Pearl Crescent Butterflies and hoping (to no avail) that at least one was a Phaon Crescent

11 Withlacoochee Trail - Phaon Crescent - Phyciodes phaon Butterfly (1)
a Phaon Crescent - Phyciodes phaon - had finally made an appearance!  It was an exciting few moments for sure.

11 Withlacoochee Trail - Phaon Crescent - Phyciodes phaon Butterfly (3)
You wouldn't know that this little beauty (with its wings extended) is only the size of your big toe-nail.

12 Withlacoochee Trail River
Another little bit down the trail and we see this sign pointing to a trail into the woods.  Why not?

13 Withlacoochee Trail - Break
Yup, this looks like a great place for a lunch break.

14 Withlacoochee Trail - Break Scene
- The Withlacoochee River and the trails namesake -

17 Withlacoochee Trail - Break - white-marked tussock moth caterpillar - Orgyia leucostigma (1)
This wonderful spot was further enhanced by the sighting of a new-to-us caterpillar.  This is the White-marked Tussock.

17 Withlacoochee Trail - Break - white-marked tussock moth caterpillar - Orgyia leucostigma (6)
Orgyia leucostigma - hanging on...

16 Withlacoochee Trail - Break Scene
Break over...

18 Withlacoochee Trail Scene
... back to the trail.  Miles to go...

Bike Mirror Selfie

20 Withlacoochee Trail - Pricklypear Cactus Opuntia humifusa
Just before our turn around point we saw a Prickly Pear Cactus in bloom.

Usually the second half of a trail brings about fewer photo opportunities.  Not this trail though.

21 Withlacoochee Trail - Prince Baskettail Epitheca princeps Dragonfly (3)
Several hours were invested in the ID of this beautiful and new-to-us Dragonfly. 

21 Withlacoochee Trail - Prince Baskettail Epitheca princeps Dragonfly (1)
Not only were the wing patterns unique but just look at the beautiful blue eyes on this Prince Baskettail Dragonfly - Epitheca princeps.

22 Withlacoochee Trail - Wild Petunia - Ruellia caroliniensis
We spotted some Wild Petunia - Ruellia caroliniensis.

23 Withlacoochee Trail -Giant Milkweed Bug Sephina gundlachii (1)
A Giant Milkweed bug was hanging around.

25 Withlacoochee Trail - Darlene Photos
We were seeing so much that Darlene commented we may not make it home before dark.

24 Withlacoochee Trail - Antlion Adult Form
Perhaps you have seen the cone shaped traps that the Antlion larvae makes in the sand?
Seeing the adult (winged) form though is more rare given that they are nocturnal so this was a pretty cool sighting.

26 Withlacoochee Trail - Salt Marsh Caterpillar (1)
One of the things that slowed us down on our ride home was all of the caterpillars crossing the path.

26 Withlacoochee Trail - Salt Marsh Caterpillar (2)
Of course we had to make sure that they made it across safely which sometimes involved transport.

27 Withlacoochee Trail - Finished
We did eventually make it back to the van though at nearly 18 miles of travel.

Our first day on the Withlacoochee was a great one and although we were pretty wiped out we definitely favored 18 miles over the 30 we did on the last trail.

Day Two on the Withlacoochee was a bit more crowded.  We started off from the Inverness Trailhead which is around the half-way mark of the trail.

The bikes are ready!

We rode the trail to Floral City and started out near Henderson Lake.

This part of the trail was more urban with a few more road crossings and restaurants / shops within sight of the trail.

Although we didn't see anything new-to-us Nicole did get a great side (underwing) shot of the Whirlabout.

She also got a couple of great shots of a Plume Moth that Darlene found.


When we reached Floral City we had plans to ride down to see the Avenue of the Oaks.  However, their sidewalk system was a bit wonky and kept ending which forced you to ride 50 feet then cross the road for another 50 feet before crossing the road back again.  After two crossings we gave up and figured we'd seen enough oaks already.  We headed back to the Floral City Trailhead to have lunch in the gazebo before starting our return trip.

On our ride back to Inverness Darlene spotted this gate to somewhere just hanging out in the forest.

We stopped to sit for a spell on a bench overlooking Lake Henderson

and ended Day Two at around 15 miles.

Day Three we intended another 15 mile-ish ride this time starting from the end of the trail in Citrus Springs.

At the literal end of the road pointing our noses south.

Again, a more urban section of the trail with many houses in view and a high number of road crossings.

However, it was very quiet and we saw few other bikers despite it being a Saturday.

3 Argemone albiflora White Prickly-Poppy Flower
We also saw a few new things like this White Prickly-Poppy (Argemone albiflora)

4 Long-winged Dagger Moth Cateripillar - Acronicta longa
and this interesting looking Long-winged Dagger Moth Caterpillar - Acronicta longa.

5 Red saddlebags (Tramea onusta) Dragonfly
It must have been hatching time for Red Saddlebags Dragonflies because we saw hundreds of them.

We anticipated around seven or so miles in and the same back however when we got to around five and a half someone was burning brush and leaves and such in their yard and the smoke was engulfing the trail. 

2018-04-14f Florida, Dunnellon - Withlacoochee Trail - Finished

So, we decided to turn around and make it a short day.

Still it was a really nice day and pleasant ride.

Even better was that when we returned to the trailhead and were preparing the bikes for loading we spotted a super cool, new-to-us insect crawling on Nicole's bike.

7 (1)
Meet Arilus cristatus - the Wheel Bug Nymph (immature phase).

7 (2)
One of these days we'll actually spot a mature Wheel Bug but for now this neat looking nymph will certainly do.

7 (3)

Well, that was our three days on the Withlacoochee State (Rail) Trail.  We covered 44 miles, enjoyed some beautiful weather and saw a lot of new things.

It is worth mentioning that we saw somewhere that the Withlacoochee Trail considers itself the friendliest trail and we can definitely confirm that sentiment.  Never have we said or responded to Hi, Hello, How are you? and Have a great day! so many times as we did during our three days on the Withlacoochee State Trail.


Until the next phase of our adventure...