Park at the H.H. Buckman Lock Visitors Area (seemingly shut down) and walk the mile down Buckman Lock Road, crossing FL 19. There, you will see the FT (Florida Trail) sign and be tempted to go straight in, circumventing a gate. Look instead to your immediate right, and you will spot a small bridge made of just a few planks. Cross that, and you will not miss the trail to your immediate left leading into the woods.
Hiking the Trails and Some History of the Mondex Complex
The trails back here have many beautiful views including several ponds and great hiking. Yet, the trail origins remained a mystery to me on initial visits. They are roads shaped like a neighborhood blocks. And yet I saw no homes, abandoned or otherwise. Also, the roads seem still in use as I saw fresh tire marks, mostly from tractors and trucks, with trash dumped in some areas.
Mondex Complex. It is comprised largely of wetlands with the ponds I saw intended as retention pools when the complex was still being developed. Today, the Mondex Complex’s wetlands function as the headwaters for Camp Branch Creek, a tributary of the St. John’s River. And the runoff feeds 404 acres of floodplain, according the PLC. Their intention is to restore this area of mesic and wet flatwoods, floodplain, and hydric hammock. That is because the area serves as a home to a wide variety of plant and animal species including black bear.
The trail is easy to follow with orange markers and I understand leads to FL 20. I turned back after a few miles in, with a 7.2 mile hike round trip. Very peaceful and nice back there, and the ponds offer great viewing, especially if you like dragonflies!
Trail Images Below
Southern Black Racer
Dew on Spider’s Web
Pond in Summer
Pond in Winter
Purple Seating or Laccaria amethystina – purple mushroom