Florida,  Hiking,  Outdoors,  Travel & Places

Florida Trail: Hickory Hammock to Hicks Slough (Avon Park Air Force Range)

This weekend, like last year, we went on a backpacking trip. This year we started off at the Hickory Hammock Florida Trail trail head on U.S. 98 between Sebring and Bassinger with the intentions of just walking north until we felt like turning around to come home.

We got a late start on Friday after sleeping in a bit and then driving the two hours north. Before we left we checked the weather and weren’t too pleased with the forecast—rain and then a cold front right behind it. It didn’t start raining until we entered Lake Placid at nearly lunch time. We took some back roads to get to the trail head and then we realized there wasn’t much in the way of food open on New Years Day out in the boondocks. Finally, after driving around for nearly an hour we drove into Sebring and found the Sebring Diner open and hoppin’! We were in luck, they had black eyed peas! We were having a minor dilemma of trying to manage to eat black eyed peas on NYD, though I know we didn’t do that last year.

With a full stomach we made it to the trail head around 1pm; the rain had mostly stopped. We ran into a small group of Florida Trail Association hikers doing a short out and back of six to eight miles and they warned us of the cold weather to come.

FT Hickory Hammock

At two miles we came across the Hickory Hammock campsite, a beautiful site underneath old live oaks. We stopped for a short snack and pee break and we were on our way. Shortly after we left we passed a hiker and his dog, said a quick hello and we mosied on down the way.

At 4 miles we came across an equestrian campground complete with decent port o potties and non-potable water (you can treat it), we then kept meandering north along the trail. About a mile north we entered the most boring part of the journey. I wouldn’t say it is entirely worthless, but it wasn’t necessarily pleasant. The Montesdeoca Ranch borders the Florida Trail and you have to walk along the fence line for about three to four miles. The area is mowed but the grass is made up of clumps of smut grass and it gets really old trying to walk over the clumps. Also, directly to the east is the Kissimmee River, which can sometimes flood the trail. Luckily, we didn’t have any flooding problems!

Kissimmee River Wetlands;

The good part about this section was the amount of wading birds we saw. Sandhill cranes can be heard a good distance away and we caught a few mating dances from afar. A bald eagle flew over us as did a a couple of caracara.

About three quarters of the way up the fence line we were noticing dark clouds in the distance, getting worried that we’d have to put our rain jackets on. Sure enough we saw the rain in the distance, grabbed our jackets just in time to have the rain come down followed by a gust of wind that knocked the temperature down about 15 degrees. Brrrr! We were afraid the front was going to take its time to blow through, but we didn’t have to wait too long for the wind to die down a bit.

Mosquito Hammock
It was nearing sunset when we made it to Mosquito Hammock, but the sky had cleared up and we had a beautiful sunset, albeit cold! We kept toasty at night we our new 15* bags—so warm I didn’t want to get out in the morning!

Avon Park Air Force Range FT
We kept heading north towards the Avon Park Air Force Range, which can be closed to hikers if they are doing maneuvers. About two miles north of Mosquito Hammock is where you run into the range, you have to climb over a stile to get across the fence and there is a board up showing a map, paperwork to fill out and a sign saying the dates of closures and openings. It was open so we kept going north!

Avon Park Air Force Range FT
The oaks in this area were gorgeous! Ancient oaks covered in Spanish moss make for some dramatic shots! Too bad we didn’t have our good cameras.

Avon Park Air Force Range FT
We stopped at Hicks Slough campground about three miles or so into the park and took a long lunch, sunning ourselves with a nice cat nap.

Avon Park Air Force Range FT
Another stile we had to cross in the range.

Avon Park Air Force Range FT
We stopped at an old orange grove on the way back to look at some rotting oak logs and to snack on some oranges…

Avon Park Air Force Range FT
I’m employing the Eliana method for eating oranges—very good, you should try it!

Avon Park Air Force Range FT

Avon Park Air Force Range FT
I forgot to mention that we saw a barred owl on our way up to Avon Park. We heard many others in the early morning and late evening, too.

FT Hickory Hammock

FT Hickory Hammock

Hickory the Dog
We were almost back to Mosquito Hammock for the evening when I spotted a dog. Up in a tree was its owner, Russell. Chris was a few yards ahead of me when I heard Russell ask Chris if he knew a geocacher friend of ours. Once I got up to the tree I recognized the guy as the one we’d seen the day before but also as someone we’d briefly met at Cacheapalooza a few weeks ago. We both had the mutual friend of another guy named Chris, who hiked with us for a day on our Ocean to Lake segment of the Florida Trail over Thanksgiving. Russell was also staying at Mosquito Hammock as was his dog Hickory. Hickory is a trail do for sure—bounding with energy! Poor pup had a ton of Caesar weed in his fur…I bet that will be a pain to get out!

We woke up this morning to temps of 35* and got on the trail to head back to the car. Russell hiked with us until Bluff Hammock parking lot which is 1.6 miles from Mosquito Hammock and we kept going the rest of the way back to our car.

I would recommend this hike for anyone who is interested in old Florida. It is peaceful, beautiful and a part of Florida you just don’t see that often.

And now I’m enjoying some good old fashioned comfort food—Rotel. mmmmmmm! Faux cheesey goodness!

This week: Cayo Costa State Park, Sanibel Sunsets, New Years Eve Sunset and failed moon rise (@%^$ clouds!), and whatever else you feel like hearing from me!

Oh yeah, my friend Meghan is working on a blog/website…check it out here!

And a second oh yeah….my dad asked me today if I took my computer camping so I could post. Nope…it’s a wonderful little object in WordPress that allows you to schedule posts! I can now take one day and write several posts up for the next few days—isn’t that awesome??? I’m all for more free time.

And for the third OH YEAH—-we saw a bobcat this morning!! A very big score!


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