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Natural Wonders: World’s Tallest Geyser, North America’s Smallest Bird and Best Shade Tree

Discover the world's tallest geyser, North America's smallest bird, and the country's best shade tree on these three treks.

The Country’s Best Shade Tree
Lounge under pre-Civil War specimens of a Southern icon.

The Wonder
Live oaks’ majesty rests not in height, but in spread: Their snakelike branches undulate from earth to sky and back to create a sun-stopping lattice. Though live oaks sprout across the southern U.S., north Florida’s long growing season and clay- and shell-enriched soils create ideal conditions for large medusas, including the state champion, which could shade an Olympic-size swimming pool. Deep root systems and rot-resistant wood help live oaks survive numerous hurricanes during their several-century lifespan.

The Way
Pick up the 13.6-mile out-and-back Bulow Woods Trail outside the gate of Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, three miles west of Flagler Beach on CR 2001. Tunnel through one of eastern Florida’s largest remaining old-growth live oak hammocks, where Spanish moss drips from a ceiling of gnarled branches. The orange-blazed trail is most spectacular from miles 1.5 to three, but don’t miss the 500-plus-year-old Fairchild Oak near the ranger station at mile 6.8.

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