Wandering in Bayard Conservation Area

The weather had warmed up somewhat, but there was still a bit of a chill in the air due to the wind blowing occasionally. Still, I deemed it the perfect day to go on another adventure in search of yet another hidden natural environment. The explorer in me has been screaming for sometime now and I wasn’t going to ignore her any longer.

After searching around on Google Maps, I found a nearby nature preserve hidden away in the outskirts of Green Cove Springs. Bayard Conservation Area. This is it. This is the place I want to see. I grabbed two cameras along with everything else I needed, got dressed and jumped into my car to head off towards the preserve. I decided to venture early into the morning to not run into a bunch of people at the wrong time.

The paved road eventually gave away to a rough dirt and sand road the further I drove into the preserve. Worry filled my mind and I found myself whispering to the car to keep pushing forward and to not get stuck in the dusty road as I drove. Rows upon rows of tall trees surrounded both sides and the majority of them showed very little aging or damage as they stood tall and proud with bright green leaves.

I soon arrived at a particular gate point of entrance to one of the many trails in Bayard and decided to stop here. Not a single person or car was in sight and my nerves spiked a little. Am I parking illegally? Will my car get taken away? What if it isn’t here by the time I return?

I shook my head at such worries. This wasn’t the time for them. This area was begging to be explored and I wasn’t about to turn back. So I changed my shoes, pulled out a camera and left the vehicle to start my walk.

The sky was clear and in a bright shade of blue all over. It had considerably warmed up, but a breeze could still be felt if one stood under the few shaded areas. Nothing greeted me but more rows of towering trees and lush bushes near the edges of the rough path before me. I didn’t spot any twigs or large roots protruding from the ground, but I didn’t want to risk walking barefoot and injuring my feet.

The path seemed to stretch on for miles as I ventured and I did notice a few smaller paths carved out by previous visitors, but I refused to explore them. A few times I stumbled onto a nearby tree trunk marked with a spray painted white diamond and I realized quickly that this was a way to keep people from getting lost on the trail. Very helpful during the day. Not so much during the night.

As the path continued, there were some trees that curved their branches into the space surrounding the trail as if to reach for any visitor that passed them. I stopped to take a sip of water and listened for any sounds of wildlife nearby. Nothing but silence with slight chirping from birds and insects filled my ears. Just the way I like it.

Further down, I spotted a clearing and sped up my pace to see what was there. I soon came across a massive clearing with one lone tree on the far right. In this space, the sky could clearly be seen in its brilliance of gradient blue, but not much greenery grew in sight. If I ever wanted to buy land to build my small house on, this is similar to what I had in mind. Just with some more green color and maybe a lake or river nearby…

I snapped a couple of photos and moved on, eager to see what else waited for me. The clearing gave away to more trees on both sides, but I also spotted several smaller clearings with bushes and plants that swayed in the light occasional breeze. I decided to take a break underneath one larger tree and do some writing to clear my head. My feet and legs enjoyed the much needed break and I took several deep breaths to fill my lungs with the crisp, clean air. This was my happy place, one of the many places of comfort and solitude from everything. I secretly wished that I had packed a towel to lay on and watch for any planes or birds that soared by. But for now, this was perfect.

Some time passed before I stood up, collected my items and ventured on. More trees, both healthy and aging, surrounded the trail until I spotted another clearing up ahead. I soon stumbled onto it and snickered as the fields of dried up plants reminded me of the wheat fields I would see in movies and landscape photos. Healthy, lush trees surrounded the field in the far distance and the path split into two different directions. Stopping at another white diamond marker, I took more deep breaths and surveyed the scenery before me. The sun was much brighter this time, so everything was visible for all sides.

I’ll stop here. My legs and feet are starting to ache really badly and midday is approaching. The sunlight would be too harsh for more photos, but at least I can take my jacket off now.

Now was the time to turn around and head back to the car at the start of the trail. But I made sure to send off my gratitude up above for allowing me the chance to explore such a peaceful, serene place from society. With that completed, I ventured off back towards the entrance, making sure to not stray of the path. Perhaps another time. Or… at least until I find something like this preserve again.

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