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[ft-l] The Big 360 Hike - Update

Days into hike - 31     

Latest segment hiked:

Cross Florida Greenway to near Moss Bluff - 23.0 miles

Cumulative miles hiked - 317.6  

Miles to go - 42.4  

Comments:  Sandy and I had a chance to hike one day each of the past two 
weekends.  We took advantage of some recent trail development and the advice 
of Ken Smith to improve the hike by extending our hike further within the 
Greenway.  According to the maps the eastward hike of the Greenway ends at 
the Santos trailhead at US 441 where a rather longish roadwalk to Belleview 
and Oklawaha begins.  Instead, we continued across 441 past a historical 
church in what was once the town of Santos (a black community which 
disintegrated decades ago under pressure from the barge canal interests) and 
through some suburbs to connect with a system of paved trails in the 
Greenway.  In this area, the Florida Trail's familiar orange blazes reappear, 
and we followed them except in places where blackberry vines threatened to 
make us easy pickins for any nearby vampire.  In those areas, we retreated 
gratefully to the paved trails. After almost three miles, this becomes the 
Marshall Swamp Trail which has a noisy crushed gravel surface and is posted 
as handicapped accessible.

The 5.6 mile hike from the land bridge parking area was especially difficult. 
 It took us 4 hours.  In the sweltering summer humidity it felt like the set 
from the old Tarzan movies, which coincidentally were filmed in nearby Silver 
Springs.  A spider web clearing stick was a necessity as the leader (we took 
turns) had to deal with approximately 100 webs per mile.  So the spiders 
slowed us down, while their allies in an unholy alliance, the mosquitoes -- 
following us relentlessly in swarms -- gave us the impetus to move ever 
faster.  We've hiked this section twice, and have a very strong suspicion 
that the mileage is at least one or two miles greater than the map says.  
Though the trail is very beautiful in this section, we were VERY happy to 
reach the Santos trail head. 

Someday the trail will continue farther to the northeast of the Marshall 
Swamp Trail to hook up with the main trail at Store 88 in the Ocala National 
Forest.  Recent posts by Sandy Hubbard and Deb Blick discussed the 
trailblazing work done so far.  But for us, it was time, after 24 interesting 
miles to bid the Greenway farewell.  It was also time to acknowledge another 
milestone on our hike.  At Sharps Ferry Road we reached the northernmost 
point of the hike.  We crossed the Oklawaha River on an old fashioned 
drawbridge and shortly there after took a dirt road that borders the Ocala 
National Forest and heads southeast toward Moss Bluff.  At midday we took a 
break to visit a diner we had seen when we scouted this route for Nimblewill 
Nomad.  I'd be damned if I'd pass up this opportunity to eat at the Dam Diner 
which overlooks a dam of the Oklawaha.  It was everything I could have hoped 
for, good hearty food at a reasonable price where you can get a burger cooked 
medium rare if you want.  Mighty fine eatin' for trail weary hikers!

We faced with an interesting choice on Sunday, continue our hike or take 
advantage of free passes courtesy of Sandy's parents to see Silver Springs.  
Since the zoo animals are to be removed next month and I had never been to 
the attraction, it would be my last chance to see the park as it was.  So, 
needless to say, we took a day off from hiking.

Our schedules have conspired to keep us occupied the next 4 weekends, so our 
last 3 hiking days will have to wait a bit.  Enjoy the vacation from our 

Happy trails,

Solar Bear