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[ft-l] A wander through Cassia

Rich (Solar Bear) and I got it into our heads to section-hike Central 
Florida, so we're out on the trail when we can fit in it. Just wrapped up the 
northern part of the Cassia section yesterday. It was a perfect day for 
hiking, despite the on and off showers...unusually cool for August, with a 
wonderful cool breeze that kept the flying pests down. We encountered 
white-tail deer four different times during the day, and walked by several 
enormous sandhill cranes. From a distance (since they were in a pasture), I 
thought they were ostriches! The usual cows as well, with a stunning longhorn 
thrown in the mix for fun. And LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of spiders. Walk softly 
and carry a big stick this time of year.

A few comments about trail conditions. We were sorry to see extreme ATV 
damage to the trail between Clearwater Lake and SR 42. Obviously no one pays 
attention to the USFS signs that say "Foot Traffic Only." The trail segment 
past Camp La-No-Chee is beautiful, but tough to follow blazes (southbound) in 
places. One highlight, just south of the camp, is a massive slough popular 
with waterfowl. Another sandhill crane, various herons (white, green, night, 
blue) and coots made their appearance there. There's a wonderful stretch of 
baby live oak forest before you hit Maggie Jones Road.

The relo onto Maggie Jones Road was VERY confusing. Walking southbound, 
you're confronted with a scratched-out double blaze with writing that says 
"STAY ON ROAD." But you don't see another blaze until well after you walk by 
the Dreamweaver Ranch. Particularly annoying is the fact that northbounders 
have no such warning that they should stay on the road, so we feel we missed 
a nice stretch of trail along Tracy Creek to walk into the hot sun. So, can 
someone tell us (since there are NO blazes in this stretch) if this is an 
official FT relocation, or if an angry landowner scratched out the double 

Following the trail southbound through Royal Trails can be a serious 
challenge, due to the blazing *AND* the fact that someone (again, angry 
landowners?) seems to like to pile brush to obscure the trail at crucial 
junctures. We lost the trail a couple of times and had to double back. And 
does anyone know WHY there is a massive grassy airstrip hiding in the woods 
at Royal Trails? Since no roads (just gated sand paths) lead to it, it made 
me plenty nervous to hear a plane pass overhead.

There are some beautiful sloughs and swampy prairies hidden in this section, 
with plenty of opportunities to scout for unusual plants and waterfowl. I 
particularly enjoyed the series of sinkhole ponds and lakes. Much of the 
trail here is a long green tunnel through thickets. Beautiful!

Finally, the roadwalk on SR 44 to Seminole State Forest. It's a roadwalk. 
Trucks go waaayyy too fast. What else can I say? :) 

{{{{ BIG HUGS }}}} to the trail maintainers from Halifax-St. Johns who seemed 
to be just hours ahead of us at the southern end of Royal Trails, as it was 
wonderful to plunge into the woods and not get yet another legful of briar 
scratches! :)

Cheers, Sandy (Navigator)

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