Very Secluded Trails
By Lone_Star on 5/7/2013
Distance: 7.10 Miles Duration: 2 hours, 51 minutes
The Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary is a large plot of land off Hwy 327 that offers a few hiking trails. They all branch off each other in a "tangled mess" of loops.
As the name implies, the soil here is extremely sandy, similar to the fine sand you would find at the beach. In fact, millions of years ago this place probably was a beach. As a result, hiking in this type of soil can be challenging as you expend a lot of energy treading it.
Within the Sanctuary, there is a nice interpretative trail called the Longleaf Nature Trail (0.8 miles), the Sandhill Loop Trail (4.0 miles), and the Floodplain Trail (2.8 miles). I'll discuss each of these separately.
First, though, a short comment about signage and directions. When you enter the Sanctuary, you'll soon hit a fork in the dirt road. Go LEFT! If you go right, it will lead you to someone's home and a maintenance shed and coming back it's easy to get misrouted onto a dirt service road. It is nearly impossible to distinguish a dirt service road from the hiking trail, so the absence of a simple low-cost sign (<-- TRAIL) or trail map at the entrance of the Sanctuary is a major oversight.
If you go left, you will run into an Information Kiosk near a Pavillion. There you can sign the register and find printed trail maps, including a pamphlet for the nature trail.
As for the trails, the Longleaf Nature Trail is a small loop trail that features a bunch of numbered exhibits. They only make sense if you have the pamphlet describing what each number represents, so be sure to get a copy at the Information Kiosk.
The Sandhill Trail is a long loop trail that takes you back into the remote parts of the Sanctuary. As the name implies, the soil is sandy (thick enough to plant your hiking stick into and have it stand on its own). The trail also takes you past the Flatwood Ponds, but the ponds were dry the day I hiked.
Overall, these trails are well-marked with direction signs and the trees have painted blazes on them. The Longleaf Nature Trail uses white paint blazes whereas the Sandhill Trail uses red paint blazes.
OK, now a warning. Beware of the Floodplain Trail! This primitive trail uses blue paint blazes and takes you down along and provides scenic views of Village Creek, but the trail is extremely poorly maintained. I've hiked for many years and this was one of the more challenging trails to navigate because the trees, shrubs and vegetation were overgrown to the point it was hard to know where the trail was. The trail involves a couple of creek crossings and, at a few points, I lost the trail completely. Fortunately, in addition to the blue blazes (which sometimes are spaced too far apart), there are some small, circular direction arrows nailed onto some tree trunks at strategic places. Look for them to find the way.
In its current condition, the Floodplain Trail is an advanced trail. I would not recommend you hike it unless you have considerable experience and/or good compass/navigation skills because it is very easy to get lost or disoriented. You can always backtrack and having a GPS with you would be helpful.
The other thing about this trail is it is potentially dangerous. Do not hike it in shorts unless you have some high gaiters. It takes you along the creek through areas where the grass is dense and as tall as your waist, making it prime cottonmouth snake country. I was extremely vigilant, but regardless of my efforts, it would have been easy for snakes to conceal themselves in the grass or foliage. The net effect was a heightened sense of anxiety. I could not enjoy the scenery because of the level of paranoia and I was glad when I finished the trail.