Day 29 miles: 409.9 – 425.6

After leaving the check-in station at Clearwater lake I headed back down the road 1/4 mile or so to where the trail head was. I immediately started looking for trees on the trail and found a nice pair about 25 yards from the parking lot. It was so cold that I was rubbing my hands together to warm them up as I quickly set up camp. Once my hammock and under quilt were up, I placed in my sleeping bag and woobie, made sure my food was in the sent lock plastic bag, inside the sent lock bear bag, inside a trash bag, inside my pack then wrapped it all up with a poncho and leaned it against a tree. I then jumped into my hammock and covered myself up leaving my bag on the ground for the bears to find. I figured that if they could still smell my packaged food through all that, they can have it! I also figured that since it was so cold out, every animal in the forest is probably bundled up for the night like me. I took off my socks once I warmed up a bit and hung them from my trekking poles and went to sleep in my hiking clothes.

In the morning a couple of cyclists showed up to ride the trail next to the Florida Trail. I was close enough to hollar at them and I asked them what the temperature was. They both said the temp gauge in their trucks said 38 degrees! It sure felt like it, and I’m pretty sure it might have been cooler than that before the sun broke. Brrr!

I got up and packed my gear as fast as I could, so I could get moving down the trail and generate some body heat. My hands were cold and I wanted gloves, but it was also the first morning in the 30’s and they are not worth carrying around for one day out of the month. I also new it was going to warm up soon, so I kept on with following the orange blazes.

The section I hiked today (and will finish tomorrow) is the section I hiked back in October for a “pack shake down”. Thats where you do a week long hike in the woods to see what you need and what you don’t need in your pack to get as light as possible. Already knowing this section had it’s privileges like knowing where the good water sources are, and on what hills I would get cell service from. Speaking of hills, the past 400 miles of hiking have been through flat swamp land, now all of a sudden there is a typographic change in the terrain and my legs were quick to notice!

I do love this section of trail for the soft sand paths through the pine trees and palms and gental hills. It’s a nice mix of Florida scenery with something different under foot, almost like hiking the trails in Indiana. The only problem today is that my right Achilles Tendon is acting up again. I don’t know if it was 22ish miles I walked in total yesterday, or if my tendon healed while walking on flat ground, and now the hills were stretching it beyond it’s capabilities. Either way, it’s painful to walk again so I’m glad tomorrow is a short day and Saturday is a pre-planned zero day for a much needed shower and laundry.

Todays destination was Buck Lake. Of all the places I’ve been to in Florida, Buck Lake is one of the prettiest camp spots around. I camped here back in October and I new it would be an overnight spot while hiking the Florida Trail. The last three miles of today were slow due to pain, but once I got here my spirits lifted and I was excited to finally be back! I took a moment to sit and stare across the lake and relax my body, then I pulled all my camping gear and laid it out to dry in the sun. This mornings dew was heavy and I think it’s going to be a cold one again tonight, so I wanted everything as dry as a couple of hours in the evening sun could get it.

I’m also officially in bear territory. There are signs posted everywhere to hang your food, what do if you see a bear, and what to do if a bear attacks. I’ve also been seeing posts online where bears are getting into peoples tents (with them inside) to get food! I’m glad I smell as bad as I do tonight, and I put my bag in the concrete outhouse for safe storage tonight. It’s going to be an exciting next week or so as I pass right up the middle of their main habitat. On that note, I’m not going to hit the next town for 140 miles, so I’m pretty sure cell signal will be out until then. I will post when I can, but it might be awhile before the next group of daily blogs get posted. Don’t worry though, they will be here soon.

cool history of today’s and tomorrow’s miles. The first section of the Florida Trail

the new terrain and scenery of the Ocala Forest

I had to get creative with 550 cord to get the hammock between these distant trees

the beautiful Buck Lake

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