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[ft-l] Status - The Big 360 Hike

Length of hike - 360 miles

Starting point - Clearwater Lake - Ocala National Forest

Direction - Southbound

Latest Segment hiked -  Three Lakes WMA  (US 441 to SR 523)

Length of Segment - 8.4 miles

Cumulative miles hiked - 86.2 miles

Miles to go - 273.8 miles

Comments: 'Twas a beautiful weekend to be outdoors!  I hope you all got a
chance to hit the trails.  And, if so, please send a trip report.

After several weeks being too busy to hike, Sandy and I managed to get out on
Saturday morning to resume our trek.  The two wood storks and a great blue
heron we spotted in our apartment complex's retention pond before we started
were promising signs as far as wildlife was concerned.  

As you might remember we had to skip forward because of hunting season at
Deseret Ranch closing the FT through that section.  So we headed out to the
Three Lakes Wildlife Management area where our safety orange blazes were very
necessary due to an abundance of hunters we crossed paths with.  One wonders
whether a pink tutu would provide the same protection!  :)

Near the start of the hike we spotted a bald eagle circling above us, just
the type of event Sandy carries her telephoto lens for.  The slide promises
to be exciting because of Sandy's expertise and because the sky was so crisp,
vivid and clear a backdrop.  A 5 foot long black snake also posed for a shot
later on down the trail, but the armadillo and the third covey of quail we've
flushed so far on this trek proved too quick to be caught on film.  Even in
November, Florida's natural landscape provides much color and texture, from
the reddish orange of the pine lilies, to the purples of the blazing stars
and deer's tongue (which I had confused previously), to the glistening
texture of the carnivorous sundew plants I had never seen before.  Thanks,
Sandy, for identifying them for me!  We will be excited to share all the
wonderful sights in a slide presentation when we complete our trek.

During the post-hike car shuttling, we saw 6 turkeys on the side of the road.
 One wonders if they had double punched their ballots!  :)  We passed an
interesting looking restaurant by the name of "Lake Marian Restaurant and
Groceries" which had a Store 88 look about it -- meaning bunches of pickups
were parked outside.  On the sign it said, "Swamp cabbage!"  Well, our plans
for Dairy Queen were reversed as quickly as the networks changed which
candidate was projected to win Florida's electoral vote!  We had never tried
swamp cabbage before, an omission as frustrating as a hanging chad, or a
dangling participle, for that matter.  My friends, it was mighty fine
vittles!  The balance of the menu had a lot of variety -- things like gator,
catfish, frog legs and turtle.  I had a hankerin' for the catfish, gator and
turtle platter, but the $16.95 price was a bit much at lunch time, so I settled for a chef salad, but someday I hope to try it.  With food choices
like that, I'm sure the folks in Kenansville have no need for the
sophisticated metropolitan tastes to the North in Holopaw or St. Cloud!  It
was fun to listen to the local patrons chat, the conversation running to
hunting, livestock, crops and farm machinery.  Nary a word about politics!

Next up is a road walk of 70 miles, unless perhaps we can get permits to
backpack this coming weekend in the Green Swamp.  Either way, we'll be out
there all weekend.  Hope you can be too!

Happy trails,

Rich Evans