A good time was had by all! Weather was magnificent, company was even better. Found time to hike, bushwack, shoot the bull, and even nap. Evidence:
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Looks like a good time. Sorry I missed it.
There's always Buck Lake!!
Wish I would have been able to make it, but...
The Greater Gainesville Gathering was a blast, despite some unfortunate obstacles.
I woke on Friday morning at 7:00, expecting to have all of my errands done by 9:30 and to be on the road towards the campsite by 10:00. This was not to happen, sadly...
Everything went well until I stepped into the bank. I'd forgotten that Friday was December 2nd...and there was a line to shame Santa waiting for me. No big deal; I'd just message everyone who was going to show on Friday that I would be a little late.
I walked out of the bank, after a wait of forty minutes for a ten-minute errand, to find that my bike's rear tire was flat. Well, crud.
I lugged the thing the two miles back to my house over my shoulder and commenced replacing the tire. It was now about 11:30, and I was itchy to be out at the site. By noon, I was on the road, still cursing under my breath at the Chaos Gods and Murphy, who is Their prophet...
By 1:00 PM, I'd arrived at the campsite. It turned out that OldScout had an emergency come up that was going to prevent him from coming. So, I hung the hammock and took an hour's nap. I headed back to town around 2:00, to be certain that I was there in time to take a shower before work.
After getting out of work around 11:30, I headed back home, loaded the bike, and headed back to the campsite. It was an interesting ride, full of people and light as I left Gainesville; the town rarely sleeps before 4 AM on the weekends. As soon as I passed the last streetlight on Hawthorne Road, though, I felt utterly alone. Every five or ten minutes, a car would speed by at eighty miles an hour, but that doesn't really count as company. By the time I turned on to CR 2082, there was no one. I didn't see a soul--despite some lights in the small community of Rochelle--all the way out to the campsite.
As I rolled into the 'site proper, at about 1:30 AM, I scared what sounded like six or eight deer out of their minds. I only saw three of 'em, though, as I whipped the headlight around to see what was making the ruckus.
After hanging my bear bag and setting camp, it was probably closer to 2:00. I threw a hot water bottle into the Hennessy, hoping that it would make a difference against the expected low-40s of the night. It did, even though my underquilt adjustments were...less-than-perfect.
I had some trouble getting to sleep that night; I blame the Mt. Dew I drank at work to bring my energy levels back up before the end of shift. Despite this, I slept like a log once I'd fallen asleep.
Waking up at about 11:00 AM Saturday morning, I rose slowly and made coffee before doing anything else. Once the caffeine rush hit, I scouted around the area, looking at various hang sites and coming to the conclusion that we'd be overstocked for the number of folks coming. I waited until 2-ish again, and then loaded the bike back up for the run into Gainesville.
Work was slow on Saturday, so I was able to leave by 11:00 PM. I arrived home to find that Mrs. FLRider was still up and about--a rare occurrence. After some time spent with the wife, I got back up on the bike and headed out towards the campsite again.
I'd received a message from Duffy saying that everyone had arrived who was going to--though I was unsure at the time if we'd get anyone else. So, as I came into the campsite, I was careful not to shine my headlight into anyone's hammock. Which was a great idea, at least until I realized that I'd left a pack of pre-cooked bacon in my backpack when I'd hung my bear bag.
After an half an hour of playing "find the bear bag in the dark", I realized that I wasn't going to, and decided to chance that a critter would get to it. Turns out that no one did, at least this time, thankfully.
I woke at about nine-ish, only to find out in the round of introductions around the camp that I'd managed to hang my bear bag not twenty feet from Duffy's hammock...oops... After profuse apologies on my part, he gracefully decided to forgive me.
We sat around for a while, admiring everyone's stoves as we made coffee or tea or cocoa, each to his preference. ofceb surprised everyone as he made a pair of very delicious blueberry muffins on his stove. Heck of a trick, that.
After breakfast, we took a look at each others' gear. ofceb takes the sewing award with his very professional-looking underquilt, made from an old sleeping bag. I wouldn't have known that it was a DIY item if he hadn't said so. Duffy's topquilt, made from a RayWay kit, was also very impressive. Johnny Walker takes the ultralight award for the weekend, packing quite a bit of volume but little weight into a frameless pack that he humped on our first hike.
Before heading out on the hike, I decided to hang my bear bag again. Some muttering about free entertainment was made...and it turned out that it was. I managed to get my rock bag tangled twice--once without managing to hang onto my line. After clambering up the tree to retrieve it (thank goodness live oaks are easy to climb), I took another throw. Which managed to tangle it so badly that I snapped the mason's line I was using when I tried to tug it free. Never had that happen before...
Fortunately, ofceb took pity on me and offered to "hang" it in his truck while we were on the hike.
After changing, we went for a short hike--about four or five miles, all told. The perimeter of the WMA was beautiful, ranging from old hardwood hammocks full of live oak, to swampy areas containing bald cypress and reeds, to prairie areas that would normally be full of water, to upland longleaf pine areas that held saw palmetto and wiregrass. It was a fun trek, taken at an easy pace.
After returning to camp, lunch was eaten and everyone but me started packing up. ofceb had to leave pretty much immediately, due to work and family responsibilities. Johnny Walker and Duffy, though, were able to stick around for a while.
Duffy came up with this crazy idea to bushwhack across the preserve, using compass direction and the map. Well, it wasn't that crazy; both he and I had had basic land navigation at some point in our lives; his was associated with his military service, and I was a part of JROTC in high school. Still, both of us were very rusty and it wound up showing. Johnny Walker was kind enough to not point that out, thankfully...
We traveled to the southernmost trail intersection in the WMA and took our bearings to find our way back to the campsite. Heading out cross-country, things went very well until we hit a thicket of scrub oak. It was thick enough that we were walking four to six inches above the actual ground, and would have needed a machete and quite a bit of gumption to continue on through it.
However, all was not lost; we backtracked and continued around the edge of the thicket until we hit the westernmost point. Once there, we took a due northerly bearing and continued on (the westernmost point was on the same line as the campsite). Unfortunately, we'd forgotten about declination--which was marked on the maps of the area, to our eventual chagrin.
After about three-quarters of a mile of bushwhacking, we came upon the red trail, just west of where the campsite was. We were off by less than a hundred yards, which lines up almost perfectly with the declination marker for the map (attached below). Our intended route is marked in red, while our actual route is marked in blue. Our hike around the perimeter of the WMA is marked in yellow.
After the hike and some more jawing around the picnic table, Duffy and Johnny Walker took off for home as well. I settled down and read for a bit in the hammock.
It seemed that I blinked my eyes and it was dusk. Surprised, I rose and fixed dinner while building a fire in the ring (thanks, everyone, for both bringing and gathering firewood) to keep me company against the gathering dark.
I probably fell asleep somewhere around 9:00, only waking a couple of times during the evening to visit the bushes. I woke at 10:30 this morning, as refreshed as I've felt in a good long time, and decided to pack up and head home a day early.
It was a good time, and one that's worth repeating sometime in the near future. Thanks to everyone for coming out and sharing a good weekend!
Looks like a wonderful place to camp! My wife & I went up to my alma mater, Univ of Florida, over the Thanksgiving holidays. She hasn't stopped talking about how beautiful the moss was hanging from the oaks.
Nice trip report, Rider! We need to do it again, soon. :D
That trip you were talking about, over by Florahome, what time frame were you thinking about? After looking at my calendar, I'm completely booked through to the second weekend in January.
Looks like you all had a nice trip. Wish I could have joined ya! Was that area closed for hunting while ya'll were there? Always good to brush up on the compass skills!