This past weekend I hiked the North loop at Annutteliga Hammock. There are several location of this broken land and easy to get confused. The State of Florida plans on buying lands from 491 down to 476 (Centralia Road) over to US 19. The State of Florida envisions a wildlife corridor that connects Chassahowitzka WMA to the Withlacoochee State Forest and eventually to the Green Swamp. A wonderful plan indeed for the naturalist…but realistically an ambitious one when dealing with the pressures of development and growth in these areas. This small parcel of the Annutteliga Hammock lies off 491 in Hernando County just south of 480 and the Citrus County line. This tract contains hilly pine ridges and karst features of the Brooksville Ridge including large sinks, small terrestrial caves, and limestone outcroppings. There are two 2 mile hiking trails and three primitive campsites only one half mile from the parking area. It is like hiking the Citrus loops without the grueling commitment of hiking 12-14 mile loops in a tough terrain. It is a Citrus Sampler Platter! All the joys of Citrus, the caves, sinks, sand hill ridges, sweet smelling pine forests, and lush oak hammocks in a 4 mile loop! The primitive campsites are located 1/2 mile down the center trail that both the North and South loops share. There are picnic tables and fire rings but not much else. Backpacking your equipment in is a must but you really only have to hike 1/2 mile, set up camp, and continue on exploring the area at your leisure with a much lighter load.
This past Saturday, I hiked the north loop. The 3 miles gave my legs quite a work out while I enjoyed the giant sink just past the camp. This large sink was steep on one side and had shallow walls on the other. Since it is currently Florida’s dry season, I ventured down into this limestone crater to explore. To my delight I found delicate Southern Maiden Hair ferns lushly protruding from the lime-rock walls and cabbage palms inhabiting the bottom-land. Some of the lime-rock was solid and hard while other pieces crumbled like chalk. The chalky section seemed to mostly be underneath a large hardwood tree and appeared to be held together by the tree roots. Erosion by the elements was apparent here and it was matter of time before the lime rock disappeared taking away the trees support system. Yes that tree will eventually uproot and fall over….but only time will tell….it could be next rainy season…it could be in 20 rainy seasons. Satisfied with my geologic find, I keep my eyes open for more clues as I am careful to scan each side of the trail. As I follow the loop around the back I begin to notice a pile of loose rocks and a dome shape over near a small Cedar Tree. I walk over only to find a small well that penetrates at least 15 feet down. The hole is lined by rocks with tree roots growing through the opening allowing enough room for only a small animal to fall. I use my headlamp to study the walls and floor. The walls are smooth solid limestone rock with periodic ripples and the floor is covered with oak leaves. I did not see any remnants of animal bones but I am certain that there are some hidden below the debris. This well is dry right now. Is it deep enough to access the water table in the summer or was it made just to catch and hold rainwater? Those are questions I ponder as I inspect the hole and its surroundings. I did not see any obvious remnants of a homestead so I continue on back down the trail. Was this the work of early white settlers or was it an archaeological find left behind from our native Americans?
Not 2oo yards from the first well, I spot another well on the opposite side of the trail. It was built almost identical to the last one. Down a little further I believe I spot a third one…but it appears that a large rock was pushed over to cover the cavity….or was this just a piece of limestone sitting in a shallow hole. I needed to explore the area more but the sun was beginning to set. I finish the back leg and turn back to the south to finish the loop happy with the finds I had while out exploring today. Annutteliga is thought to be Muskogee for “obstacle..sitting there.. ” and hopefully the State can overcome these obstacles and realize their dream of a wildlife corridor…but for now it is an intriguing piece to explore!
To view more photos on Flick click on Withlacoochee Annetteliga Hammock photo album.
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