Second annual florida hike-n-hang
I'll be first, I guess.
The hike and hang was a big success. Big thanks to Old Dog for the 6 gallons of water he cached at the 1/2 way point. We'd all have illnesses from the ugly water that was available. one dozen people in all.
I walked up from Dade City and got lost again. Separated from the trail in a stretch that was infrequently marked and criss crossed with game trails with no real track to follow. then couldn't find it again. Walked for a long ways on a two track I found and misidentified. (they all look alike) I flagged down a pickup and asked if this road went where I wanted and he assured me I was okay That was sort of true. Two hours later, I flagged down the next pickup only to find I was still 10 miles from the water tower and headed away from it. He was nice enough to give me a ride there. Got there just in time to meet MAD777 and a bunch of others who just arrived.
Had a nice night. Turtle lady showed up.FLrider pedaled a beach cruiser bicycle nearly 100 miles to get here.
The Saturday hike was nice and brisk. Old Dog, pushing his "Sherpa" ran us into the ground. We camped next to a prairie (dry lake with grass growing in the bottom) it was beautiful. Owls, turkeys and an occasional Hog had wildlife duties. and coyotes yelping too
The hike in this morning was just fine too. Hitched a ride back to my car from Old Dog and hurried home to wash off the hiker funk.
97 Miles, Exhaustion, and Murderous Road Design--What a Weekend!
My weekend started dark and early, waking up before dawn on Friday. After a little last-minute food preparation, I loaded the pack on my seat rack and headed out into the misty morning. By eight AM, I was headed southwest, beginning my race against the sun. I rode on down FL 121 towards Williston. As I pedaled in the foggy morning, I stopped several times to get photos and video of the beautiful farm country I was travelling through.
I reached Williston, approximately 23 miles from my home, by ten AM. Stopping in for a bite to eat at a local Hardees, I texted Mrs. FLRider to let her know I was on the road and doing well. After a second breakfast and a refill of the Camelback, I turned south onto US 41.
Leaving Williston, I continued pedaling on as the day heated up to sauna levels. The pavement down here can be as much as ten degrees above the air temperature elsewhere, and it got up into the high eighties on Friday. Which was very evident to me as I found my rear tire going flat. Stopping on the side of 41, I spent an hour cursing and moaning as I changed out my flat tube for a new one--a three-quarter inch piece of tire wire had become embedded in my rear tire. Of course, at least two vehicles saw it as their solemn duty to honk at me because I had the temerity to be changing a tire on the side of the road. Meh.
After an hour spent in the brutal sun, I reapplied sunscreen before mounting back up. Soon enough, I was back in the saddle, spinning through the mounting day. The road had one more trick to play on me, however; as I crossed over into Marion county, about five miles north of Dunnellon, the shoulder sporadically began to disappear and reappear. And, of course, the traffic picked up because I was approaching a metropolitan area. Murphy strikes again!
After a nerve-wracking hour of playing tag with seventy-mile-an-hour traffic, I reached Dunnellon (and a proper bike lane!). I stopped in at a local McDonald's to refuel and text the wife again. My stay was perhaps forty-five minutes or so there, before reapplying sunscreen again (notice a pattern here?) and mounting back up on the bike.
I headed south from Dunnellon on US 41 once again and began to keep an eagle eye out for Withalacoche State Trail signs--the trail is a Rails-to-Trails conversion and would take me almost directly down to the Richloam area. Soon enough, the trail caught my eye, and I shifted over away from traffic and into the shade.
The Withalacoche State Trail is very beautiful. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys cycling. I rode south on the trail, my legs beginning to tire, as the day waned. I stopped in after twenty miles or so in Inverness, at a local bike shop, to replace my spare tire. Another ten or so brought me down to Floral City for my final stop along the trail, to get water at a local Dollar General.
I continued on down the trail, downshifting into first more often than I would really have liked, as I raced the waning sun. I kept seeing the mile markers along the trail, thinking that I had farther to go than there was daylight. Shockingly, I came upon the terminus along CR 39, about five miles sooner than I'd thought. This meant that I'd be able to beat nightfall!
Stopping to fill my water and wash up a bit at the bathroom there, I left the Withalacoche State Trail for SR 50. Headed eastbound (and somewhat down), I felt the sunset gild my back. Exhausted now, I was somewhat worried by the traffic on 50--and even more so, my inattention.
Fortunately, Clay Sink Road came up soon enough to keep me from suffering a mischief. I rolled along down what had become somewhat bumpy pavement for another two miles or so before coming to a Y intersection. Less than half a mile later, the Richloam fire tower loomed into view. Hallelujah! An end to my--wait, I still have to get up in the morning and hike. Well, crud. :lol:
Seriously, though, I was relieved to see the fire tower before complete dark. It meant I was off of the road and headed in the right direction. As I unmounted the bike and reconfigured my packs to a hiking mode, I reviewed the map and signed in at the little checkpoint in the parking lot.
I headed out down the trail towards where the meeting point had been set. Soon after I entered the trail, I met lilricky headed in the opposite direction. He mentioned that the site was up ahead and hard to miss due to the smallish fire that was going. Sure enough, less than a quarter mile later, I saw those flickering flames off to the side of the trail.
Rolling into camp, I greeted MAD777, olddog, Grinder, turtlelady, hangNyak, and a few others. olddog was kind enough to show me a pair of trees that were fairly spaced for hanging. I wound up choosing another pair, but it was very nice of him to do that for me. After a little while spent eating and yakking around the fire, I hung my bear bag and hit the sack.
I woke a few times that night, once to the sound of a truck going by--the camp was right next to a forest road. Still, it was one of the better sleeps of my life. I wasn't as exhausted as I'd expected; it was in the top twenty of my life but not number one. Which was nice when I woke feeling refreshed Saturday morning.
I woke with the dawn and started "coffee" for myself. I'm usually not a morning person, but everyone seemed okay with that. After my first cup, I was feeling a little more human and able to interact with everyone. lilricky mentioned he was going to head back to the spigot to get some water and greet the Saturday morning crew, and I asked if I could stash my bike tools in his car. He very graciously allowed me to do that.
While we were out in the lot, I topped off the two bottles I'd gotten back in Floral City, just to be sure I had enough water for the day. The five liters I was carrying brought my pack weight up to about the thirty-two pound mark, and I have to say that it carried well for so much weight. I really didn't feel uncomfortable, even though it was over 15% of my body weight.
As everyone gathered for the hike, turtlelady took photos and said goodbye, since she wasn't coming along. We joked and laughed as everyone finished breaking camp. Soon enough, we were headed out into the warming day. olddog was in front with the sherpa, and man can he set the pace! I was still a little sore from the ride down, but that walk knocked it right out of me.
We saw a little water down in the Little Withalacoche, but it was stagnant and muddy. Fortunately, olddog had the foresight and kindness to cache quite a bit of water down by Pole Bridge Road. We stopped and ate lunch there, trying to beat the midday heat in the shade. Several folks carried a gallon or more of water with them out of there--I topped off all five liters of capacity before going.
We continued on, right on up to Blue Sink. It turns out we probably could have filtered from Blue Sink; underneath the duckweed, the water was fairly standard for Florida. Tannin-rich, but usable.
After taking a short breather at Blue Sink, we rolled on at a more sedate pace. Shortly, we saw a sign for a new primitive campsite. Apparently, it was someone's Eagle Scout project; I'd seen a few benches and picnic areas along the Withalacoche State Trail that had the same sort of signs. This, though, was more impressive; a picnic table, a fire ring made of local limestone, and three sections of telephone poles made a nice view over a dry prairie.
Everyone spread out around the rim of the prairie, finding hang spots where available, and started to settle down for the night. I took a short hour nap before heading back over to the central site for dinner. I guess I was more tired than I'd thought. After a short while making and eating dinner, I spent a little time talking around the table. Everyone seemed tuckered out by the hike, though, and soon went to bed.
I went back over to my hammock and laid down. After some judicious repositioning of my PLUQ to ward off some of the eighty-plus degree heat, I fell asleep within minutes. Only to wake at about five AM to pull the quilt back under me to ward off the damp chill...heh...
I woke just before dawn, and enjoyed a lazy morning of channeling Shug as I enjoyed coffee from the hammock. By the time I finished and packed everything up, almost everyone else was packed and eating breakfast over at the campsite. I shot a few photos and video as I jawed around the table. Soon enough, we were headed back on out down the trail.
An hour and an half, maybe two, and we were stopping for lunch again, in a beautiful oak hammock. After a few minutes of talking and eating, we rolled out again. We'd passed a pair of vehicles just before stopping for lunch--it's turkey season down here in FL right now--and we ran into the owners, just having bagged a bird, soon after lunch. Greetings were exchanged, and we continued on.
Fairly soon, we were crossing SR 50 again and headed back towards the fire tower. We reached it at about twelve-thirty or one PM, and everyone started packing up for the ride home. I'd texted Mrs. FLRider on Friday to see if she could come pick me up; I wasn't looking forward to playing with traffic on 41 again. Fortunately, she was able to and was to meet me at about two-thirty.
I spent the hour and an half wait making lunch and reading on my phone, in one of the most beautiful park areas I've had the pleasure of spending time in. And here my story ends, with the most wonderful wife in the world picking me up on time and spiriting me home. It feels good to be home.
Pictures and video will follow some time tonight or tomorrow.