It’s not quite big enough to be a ghost town. But the pioneer homestead at Pat’s Island echoes with voices from the past. Here in the late 1800s Reuben and Sara Long, together with 11 children, migrated from North Carolina and eventually floated up the St. Johns River on a raft to Silver Glen Springs. Not far away, they established a homestead where they would scrape a meager living out of the Big Scrub, the unwelcoming thicket at the heart of what became the Ocala National Forest in 1908.
The last of the clan to remain, Calvin and Mary Long, happened to find a new friend come calling in the 1933. It was the famous author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who had moved down from New York to take up Florida as her new home. The family stories they shared became the inspiration for her most famous novel, The Yearling, which tells the tale of a boy with his pet fawn coming of age in an unforgiving world.
The Yearling Trail is a journey through the world of the Long family, as well as the novel and movie they inspired. Two loops (4 or 5.5 miles) circle Pat’s Island, and several historic points of interest dot the trail along the way.
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IF YOU GO: The Yearling Trail is located in Ocala National Forest between Astor Park and Salt Springs. The primary trailhead is on Highway 19 across from Silver Glen Springs. An alternate route begins at the Florida National Scenic Trail trailhead on the Forest Road 46. This is not a strenuous hike, but can be unpleasant in the heat of summer. Ticks and Red Bugs can be a nuisance year round. The trail consists of a 4- and 5.5-mile loop.