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[ft-l] Ocala National Forest Trip Report - Final Chapter

I awakened late on this Sunday, which would turn out to be the last of our 
trip through the Ocala National Forest.  My three partners were just about 
packed up for their day's hiking to begin.  Soon they were gone, apparently 
deciding that the end was in reach and this wouldn't be a small mileage day.  
I took my time packing up, enjoying a hearty breakfast, and paid a visit to 
Store 88 one last time for a Coke and to fill my water bottles.  At 10 am I 
started out on what would be a mostly solo day in the woods.

A couple of miles north of Store 88 is Grassy Pond Campground.  On the way, I 
hatched a plan.  It was likely they would take their first break there.  If 
they were still there when I arrived, I would leave them a message scratched 
in the sand letting them know I had a jump on them.  I finally decided on an 
arrow pointing back to Store 88 with the caption BEER and underneath it 
another arrow pointing to the end of the trail I was heading with the caption 
BEAR (my trail name being Solar Bear).  Figuring that their break would soon 
be over, and knowing how fast a walker Dark Star is, I kept going to Lake 
Delancey at a good pace, taking no breaks.  Occasionally, I would put arrows 
in the sand, making sure to let them know I was ahead.  My only aim was to be 
first to Lake Delancey, figuring all would need to stop for water.  I would 
claim victory in my silly little game and we would all hike the remaining 7 
miles together.  I spent 80 minutes there, enjoying my little siesta, but 
surprised that they hadn't shown up.

When I packed up and returned to the trail, I saw three sets of footprints 
leading north!  They hadn't stopped, so now the fox was chasing the hounds.  
Since I took such a long break, I knew they would be far ahead and I would 
have to motor.  Fortunately, I was refreshed from my break, so I set out with 
a purpose, probably exceeding a 3 miles an hour pace.  It took me all of 5 
miles to reel in the first hound.  I found Not To Worry taking a break 
alongside a jeep trail.  I was glad to see him.  The chase was over.  I had 
missed my buddies, and was feeling rather sheepish for the silly game I had 
played.  I made the mistake of taking a break there.  It turned out to be 
heavily tick infested.  I picked off over 20 ticks over the next two days.  
I'm hoping Not To Worry is careful in his tick inspections as well.

Shortly thereafter the trail emerges at the Rodman Reservoir, a very nice 
sight to behold.  NTW and I took pictures with each others cameras, then we 
headed down the trail and found Prairie Dog and Dark Star waiting for us at 
the Dam.

We took a break, during which time I took off to take more pictures.  When I 
returned to my pack, they had begun the last segment of the hike to the 
Rodman Campground, paying me back for my little prank by taking my Lekis with 
them.  So I walked the last mile feeling naked without my walking sticks, but 
thankful to have three wonderful hiking buddies to share these experiences 
with.  I hope I can hike with them all again.  It was a great pleasure.  I 
missed the Ruck (an AT event in PA) this weekend, but being out there hiking 
is a pretty darn good excuse!  :)

Happy trails,

Solar Bear

"The true profession of a man is to find his way to himself."  Still looking, 
but I'm not finding any blazes.  :)
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