In the course of another thread, it seemed that the idea of a "no-underquilts" hang might be popular here in FL.

I figure Hidden Pond is good and central to the state, is free to camp, offers a place to swim during the heat of the afternoon, has a communal area, and has plenty of spots to hang from.

I just discovered that I have Saturday evenings off...even if I still have to work 9-5 that day, it means that I can get out to Hidden Pond that evening. So, I should be arriving at ~9 PM on 7/20/2013 (assuming I don't get home, shower, and out the door until 6, and that it takes me about an hour to cross the prairie from Pat's Island). I'll be departing Tuesday morning to head back to my job.

Hidden Pond is located in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness Area in Ocala National Forest. It can be accessed via trail head anywhere along the Florida Trail, but the closest two trail heads are at Juniper Springs (approximately five miles south of Hidden Pond, behind a gate, monitored, and requires a $12.72/vehicle/night fee) and Pat's Island (approximately three miles north of Hidden Pond, no gate, but two miles into the back country and doesn't require a fee).

I'll be hiking in from Pat's Island. The parking lot there is approximately two miles down FR 46, just north of the Yearling Trail trailhead and Silver Glen Springs on SR 19. From Pat's Island, go east (right) on the road bed until you see the trail head for the Florida Trail. Turn south (left) and follow the orange blazes for about three miles. Hidden Pond will be a sandy-beached squarish pond on your right hand side, and there will be a well-traveled trail leading off to the right into a pine and oak stand towards the other end of the pond just before you reach the pond.

If you come in from Juniper Prairie, head north (right) at the FT trail head and follow the orange blazes for approximately five miles. Hidden Pond will be on your left-hand side, and the trail leading back to the pines and oaks will be just after the pond rather than before.

A couple of notes about being in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness:

Water can be scarce here, depending on what the weather has been doing for the last couple of months. The only two water sources that I trust in the area are Hidden Pond itself (about three miles from Pat's Island and five miles from Juniper Springs) and Whiskey Creek (located about a mile south of Hidden Pond, so about four miles from Pat's Island and four miles from Juniper Springs).

There is very little overhead cover. I do not recommend walking in from either end in the heat of mid-afternoon unless you take precautions regarding sun exposure and carry at least two liters of water per person (honestly, I prefer three). I've done it several times, both in the morning and the afternoon--once just after a thunderstorm came through and raised the humidity to 100%. I've been dehydrated across there before, and I don't recommend it as a pastime. The cooler, morning hours are best, followed closely by during the dark hours--but make sure you have a good headlamp with fresh batteries if trying this; the orange blazes on the trees are not reflective.

Bugs get bad in Florida during the summer, and Juniper Prairie is no exception. Expect to need to Permethrin your gear and coat your legs in bug spray to avoid chiggers and ticks and definitely bring your bug net! Mosquitoes through here range from not-so-bad (if it's been dry) to fairly terrible (if it's been wet). Banana spiders abound, so be prepared to take a web to the face at some point if you're not careful about carrying and using a knockdown device.

Note that, despite the name of the hang, I don't recommend that you bring nothing for under insulation. You shouldn't need anything, but--depending on weather--that could change in an instant. Bring what you think necessary for your comfort in the expected weather for the weekend!

I don't have any specific plans for this weekend aside from just showing up, but a day trip or two to the springs might be nice if folks want. If not, well, there's always something to do out in the woods!

Hope to see everyone there!