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  • Archive for February, 2011

    So many things to write about. I blog in my head often but I never get around to writing it, being at a computer once every two weeks!

    A few days ago we hit 3,000 miles of hiking this year. We’ll wrap up the trail in about 11 days, or 220 miles left for the year. Shortly after it will be a year since we started this crazy hiking adventure on Springer Mountain. How can it be a year already?

    Since White Springs we have had beautiful weather. It’s supposed to stay nice until the end of the week and then it looks like a few rain days may be around—crossing fingers for night rain! There’s nothing better to getting out of the tent to clear skies and the sun coming up. That said, it has been warming up to the 70’s during the day, which is nice, but it has been more sweat inducing.

    We had a plesant three nights along the Suwanee River. Then we walked through some pretty unpleasant logging roads, but I was glad to be on them since the rest of the area was quite flooded. Then we took a good jaunt down the Aucilla River which goes under ground for a bit and is visible through sinkholes along the rest of the way it follows the trail. In St. Marks NWR we got wet in the first mile trying to enter the area, and it was cold water! Brrrrr! Numb toes are not nice. But it was really nice to walk along the levees out there and get within a mile or two from the Gulf of Mexico. You could see the waves *farrrrrr* out there. That morning we detoured to the Visitor Center to get our backcountry permits and then hitchiked across the St. Marks River. Yes, we had to hail a boat to cross the river! Luckily it didn’t take too long and we resupplied at the tiny grocery store and had lunch in the town that reminded me of Everglades City a bit. We had one more night in St. Marks before hitting Appalachicola National Forest. After dealing with some of the colder water crossing we’d decided that wading through 2-3′ of cold water in Bradwell Bay was not going to be fun so initially Chris and I were going to take the trail up to Monkey Creek and ditch. We called the USFS to find out the current water levels in that section and then were told they’d just did a controlled burn in the area and we were to stay out. So, we managed to bypass Bradwell Bay by necessity! WOO! I wouldn’t mind doing a swamp tromp under normal circumstances—warmer water, no pack on my back—but it just seems so ridiculous that there are all these other opportunities to avoid water and then they just send you right through it. It’s almost like the FTA needed a hard section and this was it. So, perhaps one day we will come back and hit this section up and actually take our time and enjoy it.

    The rest of Appalachicola was pretty nice after Porter Lake. We had some water crossings, these ti-ti strands (tie-tie is the pronunciation) that would be every 1/2 mile between nice dry pine areas and eventually Chris and I gave up taking our boots on an off and wading across and just put our water shoes on for the rest of the day.

    Right now we are coming up on a roadwalk. A nasty one. It’s worse than the 30+ one we did a few weeks ago. We’ve done 10 this morning and will do 44 in total by tomorrow. We’re planning about 30 tomorrow, which will now be our longest day ever. Do-able but probably not enjoyable. We actually have very little natural areas left to hike in, Econfina Creek WMA and Eglin Airforce Base being the two more prominent ones, a few small pieces including the beach at the end. But other than that it will be roadwalks and private land.

    Here are a few photos:

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    Where the Aucilla River goes underwater. A pile of logs and other debris on the surface.

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    Sinkhole on the Aucilla River

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    Sunset on the Ring Levee campsite at St. Marks

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    “The Cathedral” in St. Marks, a lot of old cabbage palms. Pretty cool!

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    Shephard Spring before the Wakulla Field Campsite in St. Marks. Small gator in here.

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    Walking the forest roads around Bradwell Bay Wilderness to avoid the burn area.

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    At Porter Lake in Appalachicola we met three people who were just kinda living in the woods. More on them later when I do my big write ups.

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    Speaker and his pancake experiment

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    “Ridley” relaxing at the Vilas Campsite in Appalachicola

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    Through Shuler Bay in Appalachicola. One of the few areas with bog boards. Bog boards are needed in many more areas!!!!

    Not sure if I will update again or not before we finish. We hit a few more towns but I don’t think we are planning to stay in any of them unless we are caught in a roadwalk again and have to.

    Looking forward to a haircut, a pedicure (lost two toenails this trip) and food. My hiker appetite has just kicked in—of course, 11 days before we finish! Gah!

    Rain. *bleeping* rain. So, yesterday was a day reminiscent of the day we stayed under the bridge with Cubbie and Dilly Dally in Pennsylvania. Cold, cold, miserable rain. There are practically no shelters on this trail, however there are a couple in this section and thankfully we ended up at one yesterday for lunch where we could actually eat lunch instead of stopping for five minutes to shove a few bars down our throat and continuing on with our heads down. If we hadn’t been close to town it would’ve been a place we’d of holed up in for the day.

    And then we white blazed into down. That’s kinda a blue blaze, but sometimes there are alternate white blazes around really bad parts of trail, in which that wasn’t really a bad part coming up, but it was going to cut about four or five miles off our day as the trail meanders around the Suwannee River there and avoids going through most of White Springs—and we were cold and soaked through so we said we’d just road walk into town. It was pretty miserable.

    So, the motel we’re at we decided is a one step up from the Doyle hotel in Duncannon and a step down from the Relax Inn in Atkins. It’s more of a place that people live at than come to stay for a night or two. The manager debated for a minute where he could put us, then cleaned it then went to Dollar General to buy us towels and a rug. That’s how interesting it is. But it’s just fine for hiker folks!

    There have been some trail maintenance issues in this section, particularly in a section called the Lake Butler Forest, which is really a timber plantation and sometimes the trail goes through these clear cuts with awful, awful rows and in between are full of water. Again we were nicely offered some white blazes down some other logging roads and we pondered why they bothered putting them in such a section to begin with. You could see the trail off to the side by the only pine trees left standing with the blazes.

    We are supposed to be having better weather these next few days with a chance of rain on Thursday that I’m hoping is passing and not an all day event again. Then it appears to be sunshine, sunshine, sunshine—whoopppiiieeee!

    As for the tent we’d already decided when we got home we’d order a new tent because our fly leaks. There is just so much condensation and rain and dew from the humidity here that it never dries out so some of the tape is delaminating. But then the other day we noticed a pole was cracking and that was it, we didn’t think it would last another month. So, we called up Travel Country an Orlando based outfitter yesterday and had them overnight a new tent to us and it arrived this morning. *phew*. So, hopefully we are all set for awhile.

    Both Chris and I are kinda curious as to the last 500 miles. We really don’t know much about the Panhandle other than our short stint near Camel Lake in Appalachicola. We do know we may be wading in some water in Bradwell Bay and in the Appalachiacola section, but other than that we are kinda unsure about it as we never really explored this area. I do know we walk along the Suwannee for a few days before heading towards the Big Bend of Florida and St. Marks NWR.

    Should be interesting. 500 miles, and sometime around March 8th we’ll be done. Not sure when we will have internet again so either I’ll post or get my brother to post for it. *thanks bro*

    IMG_0506
    Camping in Lake Butler Forest—with Speaker.

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    Packing up yesterday morning in the rain.

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    A mural in an old building here in White Springs. It used to be a cafe but seems to have closed and is now something else. A lot of things in White Springs are different and more outdated than what the book says.

    Oh, the highlight of yesterday was seeing our second skunk. It was kinda cute just toddling down the side of a dirt road, we let it cross the road before we kept going (didn’t want to smell like skunk and be wet!). No photo though.

    We are one month in and half way done with the Florida Trail. We haven’t seen the sun since Tuesday evening. Blech. This is supposed to be the Sunshine State, but I think we are too close to Georgia. Tomorrow we shall cross under I-10 and in a few days cross under I-75 and then I think we go under I-10 again at some point as we walk west towards Pensacola.

    In the passed week since we left suburban Orlando we finally entered the forest again. We got into Seminole State Forest before lunch last Friday and saw a controlled burn in the distance. Eventually the trail almost came next to the burn as they continued to start new burns further north as we kept going. At one point we backtracked a bit just in case it got closer, but luckily we never got too close, but it was close enough to cause concern. I was miffed they didn’t post a warning at the trailhead that it was going to be that close to the FT. We took a break at the Shark Tooth campsite where we lingered for a bit since we took a rushed lunch and the helicopter starting the fire flew over us and so I know they had to have seen us as we were laying on the ground in the sun. Oh, sun–I miss you.

    Then we went to Ocala Nationanl Forest for about three days and for the most part it was awesome. I was disappointed in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness….too much palmetto for me. Speaker caught up to us that night and he was recounting what someone had told him that it had been overly burned and it used to have more trees than it currently does. I was definitely dissapointed in the area. I really loved the section from Hopkins Prairie campground north to Rodman Dam. Twice in this section we heard a weird animal noise at night, once really close to the tent, it was a rough-bark/quack noise. Any idea what this is? Racoon? We did hear a bit of it last night.

    Then we’ve had rain or overcast since Wednesday morning. Yuck. We enjoyed a jaunt next to Etonia Ravine, where in rare form for Florida we walked along some bluffs to a creek down below. Cool stuff! We’re starting to see some clearer springs and creeks than we have been used to. Thursday night we were close to Camp Crystal Lake, a boyscout camp, and Keystone Heights was close by and so we decided to call up the local pizza joints to see if they would deliver. Luckily Dominos did so we ordered two large pizzas to split between the three of us! SWEET! Certainly no 501 or RPH shelter, but if you are camping next to Camp Crystal Lake, pizza can be delivered!

    For most of yesterday we walked along the Palatka-Lake Butler rails-to-trails cooridor, though we did do a roadwalk bypass to skip a bridge that was out over the New River, and this morning we found two smaller bridges out but were able to cross by log and rock hopping.

    Anyway, we will be planning a nearo in a few days so I am excited about that and a chance to shower and get a bed.

    Here’s some photos:


    The third bear we saw in Ocala. Was not that interested in getting off the trail.

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    One of the nicer campsites we had in Ocala

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    That light would be my headlamp…

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    The 8th largest cypress tree in Florida

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    Before the rain Wednesday night

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    Pizzaaaaaaaa! 🙂

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