Florida Lake Loop is part of a 167-acre property owned by the Town of Freeport since 2002, with trail maps available from the Freeport Conservation Trust. This 2.9 mile loop, using the orange Lake Loop and blue-blazed North Loop trails, skirts the edge of shallow Florida Lake, passing through wetlands and forest. The trails are accessible from a well-marked turnoff (blue sign for Florida Lake parking) off Route 125/Wardtown Road in north Freeport, leading to a small (six cars or so) parking lot. A map kiosk is located a short walk down the gravel trail towards Florida Lake (this map is faded, so the orange trail appears as yellow). This lake gets its name from the resemblance of its meandering finger-like shape to the familiar southern U.S. state.
On the Easter Sunday we visited, mud season was very much in effect, necessitating waterproof boots and a certain agility in negotiating logs over standing water. The turtles sunning themselves on the small outlet of the lake gazed at us with exasperation, then slowly slide into the cold water, no doubt gurgling mild turtle swears as they dove. Nesting boxes line the lake itself, and tree swallows wheeled past our heads in blurs of blue-green and white, feeding and diving inside the small shelters.
Heading counter-clockwise around the orange trail, a small spur led to a secluded pond, and we doubled back through the muck to continue around Florida Lake. Princess pine lined the trail, and soon we encountered exotic bright green and reddish Northern Pitcher Plants in the wetlands to each side of the log bridges leading around the south side of the loop.
The trails to the east and north sides of the lake weave in and out with snowmobile trails, and were peppered with the sweet song of brown creepers. Canada geese and mergansers patrolled the lake’s center, and a bald eagle and loud, rowdy crows patrolled the tall trees ringing the shore. We also saw fresh beaver-chewed saplings, and what looked like a lodge on an island nearby.
The blue trail led off to the right, making a longer curve towards Collins Brook. At one point, we reached a “Wrong Way” sign, despite no indicator beforehand of a turn to the blue trail. On trails, as in life, it always makes more sense to mark the correct path well than to put up warnings of wrong turns. The wrong way, however, led shortly to the right one, and followed the banks of the brook back to Florida Lake and the parking area. The short, circular hike took us a little over an hour to complete, and would be relatively easy for small children, with a wealth of birds to listen to and observe.