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[ft-l] Back on the Trail
You may have heard that I was laid up with a bad back and the flu. It caused
me to miss a weekend of hiking with Sandy, but she found three friends who
ably filled in for me in my absence. Though my back isn't a 100% yet, I
decided to test it with about 21 miles of hiking this past weekend. Though
I'm a bit sore, I think it was the right decision.
Friday -- Blue Springs State Park - 8 miles
You've heard a little about our Friday hike from Jeff Walters. This was
definitely our wettest hike to date where we waded through three foot deep
waters of a lagoon still enlarged from recent rains. No sane people would do
this, but as it was only Sandy, Jeff and me, we plowed forward. How else
could one expect to see fish swimming in the trail? I took a souvenir near
where the trail ends at the St. Johns River, a small pumpkin Halloween
whistle. Since we had hiked almost 4 miles to get to the St. Johns and could
clearly see the dock at Blue Spring a couple hundred yards away across the
river, Jeff gave thought of swimming for it instead of the long waterlogged
walk back. Instead he settled on a different plan -- hitchhiking! He waded
out into the river and attempted to convince two boats going upriver to pick
us up. The fisherman looked on us as one would look on escaped inmates from
the asylum and kept to his course. The other was a party pontoon boat, and
while we provided much in the way of entertainment to the drunken revelers
aboard, it didn't seem they caught the drift of our need. Alas! We turned
back and trudged and waded from whence we came.
Once we got back to a dry stretch of the trail a gopher tortoise was busy
doing nothing in particular as we approached. It was right on the trail.
After an appropriate time while we attentively watched its busy portrayal of
a statue, we made our way around it and returned to the parking lot. It was
decided (by those who didn't have a bad back!) that we should walk along the
boardwalk and see if any manatees were in. We were rewarded as we saw a big
watery shadowy swim lazily upstream toward the spring, a nose occasionally
surfacing to take in air. What a regal, if homely and corpulent mammal!
Saturday -- Little Manatee State Recreation Area - 6.5 miles
It was a long drive to Sun City near the gulf, but this hike provided a
pleasant time for us. Just when the enormity of our task and our tight
schedule seems to make this seem like work, Nature has a way of making the
work fun. This loop trail spends about a quarter of its length either along
the Little Manatee River or its tributary, Cypress Creek. I love walking
along rivers, alert for the opportunities to spot the varied wildlife that
reside or visit there. At one point three large fish that I'd guess were
bass swam quickly upstream in shallow waters clear enough to allow the fish
no place to hide.
The orange blazed trail crossed Cypress Creek twice. The creek is about 20
feet across with a sandy vegetation free bottom with about 6 inches of water
lazily making its way to the Little Manatee. Sandy and I were both
spellbound by its stunning beauty. We've never seen a creek like this! We
took a break at the bridge that crossed it to let it sink in to our memories.
You'll have to see this for yourselves. Reading about it just won't do.
A special tribute to the trail master here. Though we passed countless
downed trees that had recently toppled during the tropical storm, the trail
was as well manicured as I have ever seen a trail. If anyone knows who this
person is, pass our kudos on to him or her.
Sunday -- Lake Kissimme State Park -- 7 miles
The wildlife knew that I was pooped and out-of-shape and achy from the last
two hikes and endeavored to take my mind off it. Sixteen deer cavorted for
us during the first three miles. Mostly laid back too! Two were even lying
down and took their time getting up as we approached. It must be their
intelligent smugness knowing they were safe from those rascally hunters.
This was my fifth hike of the Buster Island Trail and each time I look
forward to the amazing spot where the trail ascends up and over the roots and
knees of two huge live oaks. When these oaks were young a couple hundred
years ago, they were about 25 feet apart. Now each sports a trunk about 8
feet in diameter, and where their roots intersect and compete, the trail
ascends about two feet right over the top of them. Each oak is majestic in
its own right. Together they allow you to pass through a corridor the
imagineers at Disney could never recreate. I like that! Nature is a
During the last 4 miles of hiking another 2 deer showed themselves. Then on
the three mile drive from the parking lot to the park exit, we saw another 8
deer. In all, we saw 26 deer for the day. I found this quite a coincidence,
as I had just finished reading an old Appalachian Trail journal from a guy
named Elmer Onstott who hiked the AT in 1968 at the age of 69. He kept a
list of all the wildlife he saw in his six month journey on the trail. Yep,
you guessed it. He saw 26 deer, something we managed in one day.
Solar Bear and Navigator