Kratzert Tract -- Lake Monroe Wildlife Management Area (12-31-17)
My final destination in a trifecta of beautiful hikes, this short stroll through the Kratzert Tract of the Lake Monroe Wildlife Management Area followed up my earlier explorations of the Black Bear Wilderness and Hickory Bluff Preserve. It ended up being a very interesting place to wind up the 2017 hiking season for me...and not for the reason you'd expect. The Kratzert Tract represents the smaller (~3,300-acres) of two chunks of land which make up the 7,400+ acre Lake Monroe WMA. It was originally known as the Osteen Ranch but was renamed in honor of one Minnie Kratzert, who was owner of the land previously, when it was acquired by Florida in 1987. The Tract protects a large area within the St. John's River floodplain and is quite wild in nature. The 1.6-mile loop represents the only maintained path within its boundaries. The rest of the Kratzert is only accessible to those outdoors-people who are willing to dive into its thickly vegetated backcountry on their own. Aside from being proximal to my two earlier hikes the Kratzert Tract seemed more than a suitable place to complete my day in the woods of Central Florida.
So what made this hike a bit more interesting than I planned? Well, the hike started off uneventful enough. I began by descending into the nearby woods across a small field and making a right to make my way around the loop in a counterclockwise direction. Admiring the mixed forest of pines, oaks, and palms I had become accustomed to this day I was nearly halfway around the easy loop when a man strolled out of the forest ahead of me...in blaze orange. Almost immediately it dawned on me that as a 'wildlife management area' this property was most likely heavily used for hunting. Sure enough, a quick chat revealed I was visiting on the last day of firearm deer season and the hunter voiced his concern that I wasn't wearing brighter colors. Apparently there was a notice of this at the gate which I foolishly had missed. The hunter advised me to not look "too much like a deer" on the rest of my hike. I chuckled nervously and thanked him. The remainder of my hike was enjoyable enough though I immediately shifted walking gears from second to fifth! Whistling loudly as I went, I snapped pictures as quick as I could as I passed through the wonderfully wild floodplain forest. I even spotted an Armadillo tunneling under some nearby palm fronds! Despite my nerves being heightened it was an enjoyable walk overall.
All that being said...I'd highly recommend this little walk. Just be sure to be more aware of hunting seasons than I was when you go! It's an easy walk and one I'm sure would be great even with little kids. So, without further adieu, come along with me on my last (and quite memorable!) hike of 2017. As always...ENJOY!!!
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.202099, -82.620130
Mileage Hiked: 1.6 miles Hike Duration: 0:35
Trailhead Temp: 65'F Trail Traffic: 5-10 people
Min. Elevation: 40' Max. Elevation: 25'
Total Vertical Gain: 15' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 9'