|Sent on:||Sunday, October 27, 2013 8:10 PM|
I am inspired by Gordy to get out at least one Trip Report this year :-) Here goes...
Thirty-five hikers met at the Eaton Creek Trailhead in the Ocala National Forest last Sunday for the first installment of the Second Annual Western Corridor Hiking Series. There were folks from four FTA Chapters: FL Crackers, Suncoast, Hallifax/St. Johns and Highlanders. The weather was pleasant and sunny.
After a bit of wrangling about shuttles and drivers (this is always the hardest part of a hike!), we headed out, caravan style. After dropping some cars at a trail crossing on FR 1 – the endpoint for the short hike – we gathered again at Old Hunt Station.
The cool-headed and ever steady Bob Jones spoke briefly about the Western Corridor and efforts to keep it as a part of the Florida National Scenic Trail. After a brief stop for pictures at the roadside FNST sign, he led us into the woods.
Gorgeous wildflowers greeted us almost immediately! In about a quarter mile, we came to trail construction of a sort. It seems the Forest Service is moving the northern junction of the Eastern and Western Corridors a bit north of it's current location. We saw new orange blazes heading off to the southeast along with some flagging. Several people noted that the new blazes were odd-colored: orange but not “Florida Trail Orange”. Yes, it is a specifically concocted and quite distinct color - as anyone who has helped blaze the FNST knows.
We continued on to the current East/West split and headed down the Western Corridor. Not long after, we crossed a blue side trail that goes east to the 88 Store. This is a re-supply spot for thru-hikers and a great place for day hikers and work crews alike to stop for a beer at the end of a day in the woods.
One of the prettiest sections of this hike is in mile 3 to 4 where the forest floor is almost completely covered with an off-white, fluffy lichen commonly called 'deer moss'. Spectacular!
We saw two bears, each where the trail crossed forest roads. Bob explained this area of oak scrub contains one of the highest concentrations of bears in Florida. We had seen scat and paw prints in the sand.
At 6 miles – the take out point for the short hike – we had lunch. After some excellent conversation, we bid goodbye to just over half of our group.
There were some amazing mushrooms on display throughout this area as well as many large, colorful spiders. Some in our hearty crew were still hungry and tried to lick the banana (golden orb) spiders. (Check the photos for this hike!)
Eventually, we all made it to the Eaton Creek Trailhead.
Special thanks to our Sweep extraordinaire – John G. and to Andy for helping out with shuttling.
Much appreciated, Gentlemen!
Hike 2 (Eaton Creek to Sharpes Ferry Bridge) is being offered this Wed. Oct. 30 and Saturday, Nov. 2. Check the Meetup Event listings for details.
See you on the trail! Elizabeth