20 Miles on the Florida Trail

Citrus County Wildlife Management Area, Withlachocee State Forest, Taylor Campsite, 20 miles

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On one of the coldest weekends of the year my dad and I set out from Mutual Mine campsite in Withlacoochee State Forest to hike part of the Florida Trail.

For this trip I wore long sleeves, leggings, a wool cap, Darn Tough socks, and Vasque hiking boots. I packed my sleeping bag, my poncho liner (also known as a woobie), a vest, mid-weight layer, sleeping pad, mug, and a short sleeved shirt (juuuuust in-case it decided to warm up.) (It didn’t).

We hiked roughly 13 miles the first day to get to Taylor Campsite, a primitive site with plenty of space for many chilly hikers and a fire.

The day was cloudy and the landscape relatively flat, minus a few hills and the Lizzie Hart sink. Our pace was about three miles an hour and we stopped for a ten minute break at the top of each hour.

Once we arrived at our campsite we were greeted by two hikers who had already set up camp for the night and, thankfully, had a fire going. We set our Big Agnes tent up as fast as we could and then put our backpacking chairs up in front of the fire.

After some s’mores and long exposure pictures of the fire, hikers midnight (9pm) rolled around and the cold had gotten to us, so we climbed into our woobie lined sleeping bags for a brisk night in nature.

The next morning was beautiful because the sun was coming up, but convincing myself to climb out of my sleeping bag into the frosty air was a challenge. Nevertheless we packed up, had some oatmeal, said goodbye to our new friends and set off, hot tea in hand.

To finish off our loop we walked about seven miles, at a slower pace because we were out of hiking shape and my hiking boots betrayed me by accosting my feet with blisters.

The sun warmed us some even though the air was still chilly, but it made for a gorgeous hiking day.

All told we were back to the car around 11am and home in time for the Steelers game.

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Summer Camping

Camping in the summer? In Florida?

Definitely as crazy as it sounds, yup.

Although not terrible 🙂

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27-28 May 2016
Withlacoochee State Forest, primitive campsite

My dad and I packed everything up on Friday and walked 4 miles into our campsite from the state forest parking lot.

We stayed at a primitive campsite, meaning there was no water source or close neighboring sites. We had a picnic table, fire pit, plenty of space for a tent, and almost perfect hammocking trees.

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After setting up camp we hiked over to the river (Withlacoochee River) in order to cool off. The river had a nice sandy shore and down a little from where we were a rope swing hung above the water. The water was murky and had an orange tint from the trees. Lots of bubbles attached to unseen river life appeared on the surface mysteriously.

 

After swimming we came back to camp and had a dinner of MREs and a fire building lesson. After hanging out for a bit we went to bed. It was terribly hot, almost too hot to sleep, but our insomnia was awarded with the nostalgic sight of fireflies lighting up the night sky.

On Saturday we hiked a ten mile loop off of our campsite. Hiking in Florida in the summertime is not necessarily something I say I recommend. The heat was almost unbearable, making the hike a lot less pleasant than it could have been. I also got a number of blisters from my hiking boots…not the best day spent on the trail.  Following another lunch of MREs and some more hanging out in our hammocks (ha ha, get it?) we packed up camp and headed home.

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2o-21 August 2016
Withlacooche State Forest, Crooked River campgrounds, site 63

For this camping trip we opted to stay in one of the tent only campgrounds, meaning each campsite was marked off with a number and came equipped with a potable water source, a place to park your car, a picnic table, a firepit with a removable grate, bathhouse access, and the potential for neighbors.

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On Friday afternoon we set up our tent and hammocks, but this time we had bugs nets for our hammocks as well. We hiked a trail right along the river, but I am unsure of the mileage. The trail was very canopied and the sky was a little cloudy and it was almost evening time, so the weather felt very pleasant.

After finishing the hike we attempted to build a fire. We started out with a cottonswab soaked in vaseline (it works, I swear), tinder, and twigs. Following that we added more twigs and then bigger pieces of wood, stoking the coals and flames along the way. All things considered, it should have been a great fire, but all the rain we’ve been getting had made everything damp so the flames never quite caught the bigger pieces of wood. We worked at the fire for almost an hour, adding lint, steel wool, more wood, trail maps, several more matches, and even toilet paper, but it never become a solid, roaring fire. However, we did manage to get enough flames to make a few s’mores and thats really what matters most.

After s’mores we had an MRE dinner and then played a couple hands of a card game called Spit that I learned at summer camp from some campers. Around nine we climbed into our bug netted hammocks for bed (the tent was set up incase it started to rain at night). After about an hour of reading Harry Potter with my headlamp I went to bed. In my hammock (ENO double nest) I had a small inflatable backpacking pillow and a woobie, which is a poncho liner that is standard issue in the army. Essentially, its a poncho liner that can also be a blanket, rain tarp, insulator, something to sleep on top off, etc. Its thin and light but also warm and rain resistant. 10/10 would recommend getting one off Amazon.

I slept very well in my hammock. The air was cool so I wasn’t hot, the wind was minimal, and it didn’t end up raining after all. The moon was so bright it practically lit up the whole sky.

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The next morning after an MRE breakfast and coffee and tea courtesy of a small portable camp stove we packed up camp and drove to our next hike location. We hiked a short 2 miles in another part of the Withlacooche. The heat and bugs were killer, so we hiked short and then drove on the dirt roads cutting through the woods before going home.

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Camping in Florida in summer might be slightly insane, but, despite heat and bugs, not summer is complete without a camping trip.