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[ft-l] The Big 360 Hike Returns!
Days into hike - 23
Latest segments hiked:
Green Swamp East - 13.5 miles (hiked in January)
Green Swamp West - 19.5 miles
Deseret Ranch and Bull Creek - 37.2 miles
Cumulative miles hiked - 228.7
Miles to go - 131.3
Comments: After almost a 6 month hiatus, your intrepid hikers are finally
updating the status of their hike. For any new listers out there, let me
summarize what the Big 360 Hike is.
A thru-hiker of the Florida Trail has two choices when hiking through Central
Florida. He or she may take the original corridor through metropolitan
Orlando, or the newer (and longer) western corridor which gained a lot of
publicity last year with the opening of the land bridge which routes a series
of hiking, biking and equestrian trails over Interstate 75. My hiking
partner, Sandra Friend, then a member of the Cracker chapter of FTA, played a
role in making the land bridge and the adjoining hiking trails a reality, and
was honored by being included in the ribbon cutting ceremony.
The idea for the Big 360 Hike was born shortly thereafter. With the
completion of the land bridge, we visualized the idea of a loop hike of
Central Florida comprising the eastern and western corridors. We ordered the
maps and began planning. As it turns out to be a total of approximately 360
miles, the choice of a name for the hike was fairly obvious.
Because Sandy and I are both busy working, we couldn't hope to set aside the
time to do the hike -- as we hope someone soon will -- as a single
backpacking trip. Rather we are hiking it as a series of day hikes, using
our cars to leapfrog ahead in segments along the trail. Most of our hiking
was done last October through December, and we were hoping for a March
completion to the hike, taking advantage of the nice winter weather.
However, our careers during the first 4 months of this year put demands on
our time which made hiking impossible. I also had another distraction in
December and January, as I got the bug to run a marathon in February. This
used a lot of time, as I was running 30 to 50 miles a week. Anyway, this
helps to explain why we are now hiking again in 90 degree temperatures, when
hikers with more sanity head north for their fix. We are determined to
finish this hike this summer.
We've hiked three sections since my last report, Green Swamp East and West,
and the Deseret-Bull Creek section. As we have just returned from the 3 day
hike of the latter, most of my remarks relate to it.
Most of this hike was on top of treeless levees which gave it a much
different feel than any other part of the Big 360 Hike. Lots of big views,
big sky and hot sun. The view into the wide expanse of the Taylor Creek
Reservoir was stunning and its numerous canals and tributaries kept us
company for over 20 miles.
The Deseret Ranch is private property and we obtained advance permission from
the FTA office and carried our membership cards. We shared the trail with
many herds of cattle, each separated by barbed wire into separate pastures.
Approximately every mile, we would have two negotiate a set of two fences,
and I'm sure this weekend we negotiated at least 30. There was no common way
to handle a fence crossing. And many times there were no stiles. We climbed
over, rolled under, squeezed between barbed wire strands held wide by our
partner. It became part of the fun trying to solve the problem each fence
We had hiked with cows plenty during this hike, BUT they were always on the
other side of the fence. In Deseret we were hiking with the cows. To
summarize the interaction, they were timid and docile. They always retreated
from us, sometimes over a mile out of their way to avoid us. All in all,
they were a pleasant diversion. I can't say the same about their ubiquitous
cow patties, which kept us looking down and dancing right and left for two
days. In looking down, I noticed something small and square. I stopped, and
picked up a functioning digital pedometer reading 119.38 miles. If anyone
knows to whom this belongs, please email me privately and I will see that it
gets reunited with its owner.
But there was wildlife here, too. We saw deer, a fox, raccoon, wild hogs,
armadillo, 11 gopher tortoises, herons, ibis, egrets, wood storks, osprey and
two snakes. Ample blessings bestowed by Nature on two wanderers who escaped
civilization for the serenity of a simpler way.
There is much more to tell, and I'll let Sandy chime in with her comments.