Location: Quincy, Florida
Webpage: Florida State Forest
Description: The Bear Creek Educational Forest is located on a 492 acre tract of Lake Talquin State Forest and consists of an air-conditioned class room and the Terry L. Rhodes Trail System. The Forest is used primarily to conduct free educational programs about the natural environment to school groups, Scout Troops, daycare, and other youth organizations. The Trail System consists of three trails: Living Forest Trail (0.8 mile round trip) that starts of the parking area and connects with the other two trails at the observation deck extending out over the beaver pond. There are “taling trees” along the way to help identify native trees and plants. The Ravine Trail (1.4 mile loop) that features arboretum signs and lettered interpretive stations for more information about the ecosystems visited by the trail as it circles the beaver pond. The Bear Creek Trail (2.2 mile loop) traverses a range of ecosystems from hardwood bootoms to the longleaf pine-wiregrass community.
1) The “talking trees” along the Living Forest Trail were cute and would be of interest to young children (if they stood still long enough to listen to them). The one we tried provided basic information about the trees in the area from the tree’s point of view.
2) The Ravine Trail was all we had time for as we had only a few hours before sunset. However, we enjoyed the hike very much and even learned a few things. One of the numbered kiosks described an alligator slide that the gators would use to get in and out of the pond. We fortunately did not see any alligators, but I certainly know what to look for in the future. Another sign identified basswood trees (I couldn’t very this without leaves on the trees), which are rare in Florida since they need a cool and moist environment. However, in the north facing steephead with one of the three cool springs that feed the pond, they obviously found an environment they could thrive in. There are also glimpses of a longleaf-wiregrass forest on the top of the hill as well as planted slash pine still being managed by the State Forest.
3) The Ravine Trail is moderate in difficulty with a few short steep stretches, but for the most part is a good trail. We did not have time for the Bear Creek Trail, but the information states it is also of moderate difficulty. In total we spent two hours hiking in the forest and could have spent more.