Well, my buddy Will and I hadn’t had the opportunity to hike together for about three years. Ah the perils, er, joy of having kids. 😉 He was able to get away for a little this weekend and while I had my own things going on we decided to make a quick weekend of it. It quickly proved obvious that we weren’t going to be able to make our proposed hike so we scaled back. In the end it turned out to be the right decision.
We left work around 4:30 and headed west down I-10 towards the Deep Creek trailhead inside the Osceola Natl Forest off US 441. It was 7:20pm by the time we hit the trail after placing a vehicle at Stephen Foster. The sun set quickly and we soon found ourselves hiking in the dark down paved and unpaved roads.
Help Waldo navigate and find the blaze…
We hiked to Randy Madison’s property and surprisingly did so with relative ease. I think we scared a few people as we walked by their houses when they least expected anyone do be out wandering but nobody shot us so I count that as a good thing. We even found the break in the fence line with ease and headed into the woods. After 6.21 miles we decided to stop. However, we didn’t stop at the shelter. Instead we chose to stop in the open meadow by Randy’s deer stand. The sky was clear and the stars were out in force. Why block the scene with trees? After a quick dinner of cold, leftover pizza we hit the sack.
Will put his solo tent right next to the stand. I’m sure it was comfortable since the meadow grass was nice and soft. I scored a couple of trees along the edge of the meadow. They were at the max range of my gear, though, and for a minute I wasn’t sure my suspension was going to reach. I managed to work it out, though.
The morning was cool and wonderful. I just wish my internal clock had let me sleep in. Of course that rascal of a woodpecker was determined to make sure I couldn’t sleep. Oh well. Just another way to enjoy the great outdoors. I decided that while Will was still sleeping I’d take the top off and fix breakfast. I fired up my Venom alcohol stove and kicked back to the sounds of nature and some maple & brown sugar oatmeal.
After breakfast we broke camp and decided to push on. Buddy hopped back in his pocket and snorted that he was ready to hit the trail, too. If you’re a FTA member I’d highly recommend stopping by the Madison shelter. It’s a quaint little shelter with some very nice touches and the rocking chair inside was incredibly inviting. If you’re hiking in the winter there’s a very nice wood burning stove to drive the chill away.
After passing the shelter we were soon joined by Randy who’s wife Melissa had spotted us. After graciously providing us some ice cold water we hopped in Randy’s truck after he twisted our arms and talked us out of the boring road walk from his place to the Bell Spring trailhead. Ok, so it didn’t take a lot of twisting. Randy took us back the way we’d come and dropped us back on Falling Creek Rd. to give us a longer walk along the Suwannee River. It didn’t take long to get into some gorgeous trees. This also proved to be one of the most active hikes I’ve done in Florida as far as wildlife goes. Mr. Otter scurried around the other bank as we passed by but didn’t pay us much attention.
We did take a little unexpected detour. I’m going to blame the deer. I don’t care that they’re not here to defend themselves. It’s their fault and I’m sticking with that. As we were crossing through a nice open field with a gorgeous oak tree Will spotted some deer in the meadow. We rushed past the tree to catch a glimpse and spied the blaze across the field. Unfortunately it was the wrong way to go. We later realized that the tree was double-blazed and we had to backtrack to pick up the turn we’d missed. Silly deer.
Along the way we saw a variety of birds and animals. We were joined in our adventure by rabbits, more deer, a fawn, a hawk, and a cute little snake. At another point Will spotted what sounded like a very cool blue skink. I never saw it. In case you’re wondering why Will was seeing everything it’s because I let him walk in front to clear the spider webs for me. I have to admit that he did a great job! He’s my designated web eradicator. 🙂 The cool thing about the skink is that as we looked for him we noticed an odd object in the tree. It turned out to be a fish head. Had we not been skink hunting we would’ve walked right under it.
This is about the point that it turns south. It had been drizzling on us off and on throughout the day. This is contrary to what we were expecting since the day started off so nice and clear. With about our miles remaining we rested at a picnic table overlooking the river. Before we were done it started drizzling again. We loaded up and headed out.
We didn’t make it very far before the rain began to fall heavier. It got harder and faster and soon we were in an all-out downpour. It get ugly and miserable fast. Our clothes quickly got soaked. I wish I could say that I have high praise for my Sea to Summit silnylon poncho but I don’t. It wasn’t long before water was shooting out the sides of my boots with each step. The trail was quickly flooded and we had to straddle it as we walked to keep from walking through inches of standing water.
The longer we walked the wetter we got and the wetter we got the more we wanted it to just end. About the time we’d really had enough it let up. Then we heard a voice behind us as Marc from Tampa joined us. He was happy to learn that he wasn’t the only fool on the trail that day. He was also happy for meeting the first hikers he’d met along the trail since starting in Tampa at the first of the month. He’d already covered 300 miles so he wasn’t doing too bad. The kicker is that he’d never hiked or camped before. He just felt led to sell everything he owned and start hiking. The Florida Trail was just a conduit to the AT and eventually the American Discover Trail. The ultimate goal is to hike all the way to Wyoming. Go Marc!
The three of us trudged into Stephen Foster Culture Center State Park around 5:30 on Sat afternoon wet and tired. Marc was off in search of a shower and we were excited to get back to the car. I’d been talking up the awesome buffet at the Telford Hotel the whole day and we both had fried chicken and chicken fried steak on the brain. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. As we pulled up the parking lot was empty and I noticed an ugly, horrible sign in the window with some of the most evil words I’ve ever read after a hike: Closed for Remodeling. NOOOOOOOOO!
We decided to head back to my truck on 441 near Milton’s Store and look for anything promising. We ended up at a BBQ joint not far from the Telford. Hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy some good fried food the next time. 😉