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[ft-l] Fw: Presidents Day weekend hike

> Completed the hike from Juniper Springs to Rodman Dam over the
> President's Day weekend. You asked for trail comments on the FR88 to
> Rodman section, but since the trail crosses FR88 three times, I'll deal
> with the entire segment from SR40 north.
> Outside of the Juniper Springs Wilderness Area this is the Taj Mahal of
> trails, wide and clear with a good even surface and generally good
> blazing. Even in the Wilderness Area it is better than average. I was
> expecting much worse there, considering the Forest Service sign at the
> wilderness edge which notes that the trail is maintained to a lesser
> standard and warns of possible problems from fallen trees, bad weather,
> lack of vehicle access and animal encounters. All of the fallen trees
> had been stripped of their branches and foliage, so they presented no
> obstacle. Despite the stipulation of using only hand tools in the
> wilderness, it was obvious most had been cut with a chain saw. The
> trimmed trees were quite in contrast to what I encountered last year
> outside the wilderness on the section between Alexander Springs and
> Juniper Springs. There the trail was completely blocked many times by
> trees with full foliage. Sometimes I had to crawl under them, other
> times it was necessary to get off the trail and wade through the
> palmetto.
> This whole route is parched. All of the wet prairies are dry, including
> Hopkins Prairie. There is still a pond at Hidden Pond, but it is
> shrunken. Lake Delancy is little more than a mudhole. Any fire in the
> Forest now would almost certainly turn into a catastrophe.
> There is quite a bit of ATV use around Lake Delancy and the riders have
> ventured onto the trail for short distances, but not enough to be a
> serious problem.
>   I didn't meet any FTA members, at least not that I know of. I
> encountered three Boy Scout groups, totaling at least 35, between
> Juniper Springs and SR314, as well as about a dozen other persons in
> groups of two and three. Between SR314 and SR316 I came on Mike Smith,
> age 21 from New Mexico, part of a group of five that is attempting a
> hike from Key West to Quebec. Their walk is called Hike for Hope and is
> for the benefit of the Oxfam charity. I hope they make it. They left Key
> West on Jan 1 and road walked to the start of the Florida Trail off Loop
> Road, and have been utilizing the completed sections of our trail ever
> since. These people deserve support and encouragement. They have a web
> site: www.hikeforhope2001.org. I didn't come across a single person on
> the trail between Grassy Pond and Rodman Dam, although I did see three
> hikers in the Lake Delancy campground. Tom Blackshear