After we left Astor Park and from visiting the Bartram Tree we continued west down SR 40 through Ocala National Forest. We had thought about going down to Alexander Springs at first but with the rain showers it didn’t seem like an ideal thing to do. Instead, Chris looked at the GPS and opted to head north on SR 19 towards Salt Springs into a part of the of the forest we hadn’t driven through before. Well, we’d been on a bit of it before, when we’d been transported from the end of the Juniper Springs Run at the Juniper Take-Out in 2009 when we’d paddled the Juniper Run. And actually…I’m thinking on this harder, we actually went to Silver Glen Springs after that to swim a bit.
As we drove north I looked for that spring but it wasn’t until now, looking up at those old photos and finding a video labeled Silver Glen Springs did I realize where it was. We came to Salt Springs and opted not to head towards town or the recreation area for the springs and instead turned down CR 314. We were enjoying the drive down the new road when we looked over and saw a weird missile thing in front of a VFW post and by the time we decided to turn around and check it out we had reached FR 88 and I saw a sign for the 88 Store. I mentioned it to Chris and said that we had to go down there because the 88 Store was one of our stops along our Florida Trail hike, where we’d mailed ourselves a package.
But first, we went back to the missile for a few photos! Here’s a bit more information about the missile. It was one of those things that you just had to go and see what the heck it was and we had ample time and nowhere to be, so might as well stop!
I had been glad we had seen the 88 Store sign because while I could have looked it up after all of these years, I hadn’t. And in my head I really had no way of knowing where it was in relation to the trail other than being north of Salt Springs. And we had pitiful cell service in the forest so it wasn’t like I could have looked it up. The sign was fortuitous.
It was about three miles down FR 88 to the store and honestly, I was a little nervous going to this outpost in the middle of the national forest. It’s part convenience store and gas station, and part bar. It’s one thing to roll into the joint with a pack on and a week without a shower and another to show up in a rental car with a 3 year old in tow!
When we pulled up we noticed a small restaurant had been added out front and I was a bit jealous about that—it would have been useful to have back then! I’m pretty sure we heated up frozen burgers or something like that while we resupplied and showered at the time. This time we popped into the convenience store and talked to a few people who worked there, telling them how we were driving around and wanted to revisit a place from our hike.
Forest found a snack inside and went back out with Chris to ride the automated car out front—that was a new addition if I recall. Inside, I flipped through the log book to find our entry as well as our friend Speaker’s entry and then looked for a few other names I recognized.
You read read about our hike through this section here.
After we drove back down to CR 314 I knew that the Florida Trail crossing wouldn’t be too far. I thought it might have been further down but it didn’t take long for us to arrive. Chris pulled off the side of the road and out we went, ambling north along the trail. It had started drizzling a little bit again and we weren’t prepared for any kind of long hike, so a short exploration was about all we could manage. Forest did want to continue hiking down the trail but we had to convince him we couldn’t go hiking down there. I remembered this section fairly well, it was sunny and rather warm when we’d walked through here on our thru-hike. We’d had lunch in a sandy scrub area somewhere a few miles ahead of here, where later we would have arrived to the 88 Store in the early to mid-afternoon.
I was surprised at how many of the plants I could identify but still need to look a few of them up. I think we all would have enjoyed a hike and overnight on the Florida Trail. Next time!