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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.

Happy trails,

Solar Bear