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CEDAR KEY: Dennis Creek Trail At Shell Mound
Walk with us on the Dennis Creek Trail at Shell Mound in Cedar Key Florida. Page 3.
It wouldn't be hard to miss the Dennis Creek Trail because there is just one little sign for it that says only, "Dennis Creek Loop Trail, One Mile." There's nothing to alert you that this trail is, in our opinion anyway, the best part of the Shell Mound park.
But the trail is not hard to find if you're looking for it. There are only two parking lots within the Shell Mound park, and the Dennis Creek Trail is found at the first little parking lot you come to.
Coastal marsh is common along the Gulf coast but unless you have a boat you are usually standing on a highway or trail looking out upon the marsh.
Now that our interest in the marsh has been awakened it's time to surrender to our curiosity and The Dennis Creek Trail, which takes you out upon the marsh and makes you part of the action.
The trail is a loop which takes you alternately through the woods, into the marsh, along the edge of lakes teaming with birds and other wildlife, and then back into the woods. The official part of the trail is well maintained, with boardwalks to help you over any wet ground. Benches are offered here and there along the way.
If you relax patiently on a bench along the lake early in the day you can witness the coming and goings of various creatures who arrive for breakfast and a drink.
Unlike the state parks, there are no gates, guardhouses or rangers that limit access to Shell Mound during certain hours. You can drive right into the park at any time of day or night.
Sunrise photographers, crack of dawn fisherman, wildlife lovers, and bird watchers will appreciate having access to these lands and waters during what many will consider the very best part of the day.
On the day these photos were taken I had driven across the state in the freezing dark so I could arrive at Shell Mound before the sun, and was rewarded with a glorious morning I shall long remember.
If you hang around long enough sooner or later you will be drawn off the maintained trail into the marsh grass. Very unofficial narrow foot paths leading into the field of grass will seduce your curiosity until you can no longer set aside the question of where they lead.
A deeper need you've been too busy to reflect upon lately has drawn you off the highway, into the parking lot, on to the trail, and now the magnetic force of chest high marsh grass extending unbroken off to the horizon is pulling you deeper into the center of this primeval vista.
You proceed hesitantly at first, both because it seems almost sacrilegious to be participating in an interruption of this scene, and because the grass is so dense you can't see more than a few inches beyond where you are setting your feet, one carefully after another.
With each step the confining comforts and complex demands of your modern suburban lifestyle begin to slowly fade into the background. Your pace begins to slow, not for lack of interest, but because it no longer seems as urgent that you get somewhere different than where you already are.
A hundred yards somehow becomes a mile and you look up to find yourself far from the tree line, exposed under an ancient Florida sun, a child under a big blue sky, and a mile of grass extending out from your heart in every direction.
You're freer, and more vulnerable, than is your habit, and your soul is fed the kind of meal your instinct has been quietly asking for.
The spirits of a thousand Indian children are carried in the cool winter wind that is pushing the hair back from your face, and you can almost hear them now, welcoming you to Shell Mound.
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