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[ft-l] The Big 360 / Seminole Ranch to Deseret Ranch
- Subject: [ft-l] The Big 360 / Seminole Ranch to Deseret Ranch
- Date: Mon, 23 Oct 2000 19:00:36 EDT
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Call us stubborn. When you work on a trail with Wiley Dykes Sr., that trail
HAS to go somewhere, right?
Such was our assumption on setting up a section hike through Tosohatchee.
Rich and I had helped with cutting new trail north from the Bee Line into
Tosohatchee -- new thru-trail, although blazed white because it hadn't been
"certified" yet. So we left my car at the end of a dead end road along the
Bee Line, and drove up to Tosohatchee's Power Line road to catch where we'd
left off on the FT at lunchtime. Started at 4 PM to make it down what we
thought would be four or five miles of trail. Six, tops.
It had been a beautiful day thus far. We started off in Seminole Ranch,
treading through dry streambeds in places where the old FT bridges had fallen
into disrepair. In patches of dense hammock, we swung sticks at spiders in
the path. The ground was uneven, with toe-catching divots by armadillos, and
downright dangerous diggings of the wild hogs. Wandering cypress-lined creeks
drain this area, bending and turning through unusual switchbacks that require
crossing and recrossing the deep drainages. Most were dry, but the ones with
water shimmered with tea-colored reflections of cypress knees.
Crossing SR 50 at the Christmas RV park, we lost the trail momentarily. It
used to pass behind someone's house (we found the old blazes) but now that
someone has painted "No Trespassing" in large letters across his shed, and
put up a not-so-amusing "Trespassers Will Be Composted" sign on his gate.
Consulting the map, we discovered a roadwalk down St. Nicholas Road was in
You would think with that name, it would be a jolly road. Not so. Growling
dogs behind high fences. Every trailer, every tumbledown shed festooned with
"Keep Out," "No Trespassing," "Beware of Dog." The only redeeming sight on
the street was an unusual piece of yard art, a chainsaw-carved and painted
pine tree trunk that looked like an artistic rendition of the jolly saint's
Reaching Tosohatchee, we wandered through the massive burn. Much of the
reserve was hit by wildfires a couple of years ago; a charred and almost
broken FT marker stands testimony. Leafy green sabal palmetto with blackened
trunks? Here, the norm. Distracting blobs of blue, green, and yellow paint
decorated what remained of the grand old pines. The remains of a paintball
game, or something more insidious-- say, trees marked for lumber? If so, a
terrible loss, since these survivors of the fires are the last pines in that
part of the forest.
Mosquitoes gathered en masse, chasing us down the trail. Although DEET kept
them off us while we walked, even a momentary halt for a photograph was
enough to invite dozens of bites. I painfully held my bladder until the
elevation rose high enough that the swarms dissipated a little.
After some discussion in the morning, we'd settled on a mid-point car
placement at Powerline Road, so we drove back up to Seminole Ranch to
leapfrog the other car forward. Stopping at Fort Christmas to snag a picnic
table (you can do that on a section hike), we discovered that Christmas is
named after the fort, circa 1837, and the fort got its name from construction
starting on Christmas Day. There's a nice little history museum inside the
reconstructed structure, open on weekends.
Cars back in place, our plan was to finish Tosohatchee (the ongoing hunt made
it impossible to camp there) and head off to find a campsite after hiking. As
we hurried down the trail towards Jim Creek, the sky grew brighter and bluer.
A large black snake sunned itself on a fallen log; cloud-like tufts of
goldenrod and purple deertongue colored the fire-stricken forest. Here, the
pines are dead, mere hulks waiting to fall (blazes hurry the process, it
seems). Eventually, we got to Jim Creek, an ancient strand of cypress. The
mosquitoes were waiting.
And the trail ended!
Arrgh! We walked up Fishhole Road, looking for orange blazes. Looking for
white blazes. No luck. We found a few orange tapes tied in the forest,
followed them, thinking they were trail-in-progress. They petered out. The
sun was getting lower. Less than an hour of daylight left. What to do? We
couldn't get back to our starting point in time, but we knew my car was along
the Bee Line. So, let's find the Bee Line, and walk the fence back to my car.
Practical plan. Poor choice.
Within a half mile or so heading west along the fence, breaking through thick
brush, dodging spiderwebs, climbing over deadfall, we came to a swamp. Damn!
I was reluctant to step into it, since I was hiking in running shoes. But
what else could we do? (Hindsight: climb the fence and walk along the Bee
Rich found me a stick so I could poke ahead of where I was walking, and I
sunk one foot after the other into the swamp. Startled a beautiful buck with
a huge rack of antlers, likely hiding out from the swarms of hunters in the
reserve. Did I mention the mosquitoes? Or the cypress trees snagging my hair?
I was beginning to feel a little lightheaded. Stream of consciousness took
over: "Why am I here? What am I doing? I'm thirsty. Where's my water? It's
getting dark. I don't like walking in swamps. Is that a snake? Where's my
We made it through the swamp...only to come across Jim Creek again. Damn!
Damn! I turned to Rich. "I am NOT wading across that. No way."
So we looked for a way to climb the fence. Found, coincidentally, someone had
cut the wires exactly where we needed to get through. Clambered up to the
bridge, westbound traffic whizzing by at 70 mph every few seconds. Crossed
it. Talked a little. Decided roadwalking the Bee Line, soggy shoes, swamp
mud, and all, was preferable to climbing back over the fence and risking yet
There were several more swamps, as it turned out. So although I felt kinda
stupid, cars whizzing by, walking on the berm along the Bee Line, at least I
wasn't in another swamp. At least with our orange vests, people probably
thought we were highway workers. And then, I swallowed a bug.
As I was choking, Rich grabbed me and pointed down the slope. "There's your
car!" Sure enough. Darkness nearly complete. And, coincidentally, another
hole in the fence just where we needed it. No camping tonight, I declared. No
way. I want a shower-- and the hot tub at the apartment. At home, I scrubbed
off the swamp slop and found a tick or two, pulled chunks of cypress trees
out of my hair. Discovered a mean little two-fang spider bite on my hand.
Slept like a rock, in my own bed.
The next day, we returned to the scene of the adventure. THIS TIME, we hiked
NORTH from my car to find the connection. I doubted it existed. But, sure
enough, after coming across a bevy of hunters hanging out on Fishhole Road,
we found the white blaze / orange blaze intersection. It's poorly marked.
It's SO easy to blow past it...it would help tremendously if there were
double white blazes BELOW the orange to indicate the intersection. But damn
if it wasn't right where we saw our first hunter the day before.
To finish up the weekend, we walked the new trail over Wiley's new stile and
out to SR 520, then roadwalked to Deseret Ranch. The trail is rough where it
gets off the road and follows the fenceline, but it sure is pretty. Besides
the wild sow and piglets, we startled a deer, and saw this bizzaro
safari-vehicle-tank - like contraption humming through Deseret, filled with
guys in khakis. Weird.
It's a pity that we have to skip ahead in the journey, since the closure of
Deseret to hikers (but obviously NOT hunters) pushes us more than 30 miles
south, to Three Lakes. One last bit of wilderness before the roadwalk to
Oh -- and the new trail in Tosohatchee ISN'T on anyone's map. The FT map does
show the orange blazes ending at Jim Creek, just like they did. My
suggestion: blaze the intersection better, or blaze the orange north up
Fishhole Rd to meet the white blazes heading west.
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