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[ft-l] Sunday Hike (kinda long, sorry)

Hi everyone!  I hope your holiday weekend was wonderful.  I know mine was.

I finally got outdoors this weekend and did some hiking!!  My plan going into 
the weekend was to go to Collier-Seminole State Park on Saturday afternoon, 
camp at the designated camp site, and then hike the rest of the loop on 
Sunday.  Motivation got the best of me...or shall I say LACK of motivation 
got me Saturday.  So I decided on a dayhike of the park's 6.5 mile loop trail 
on Sunday.

I dragged myself up early on Sunday and after the 45-minute drive, arrived at 
the Park's Ranger Station looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  "Not too 
bad" I thought.  "I'm here early."  It was 11:15 am.  Okay, so that doesn't 
seem too early, but it was for me.  I brought a sandwich and some snacks for 
lunch on the trail.  The ranger told me that a couple of guys had hiked the 
loop Saturday and they said it was in pretty good shape, some muddy areas, 
but usually space to skirt the edge.  I thought "Wow!  That sounds great."  
This trail is notoriously wet.  As a matter of fact, about a year ago, in 
November I believe, I called and asked about the conditions of the trail.  
The short, and only response I got was "It's under water."  Needless to say, 
I didn't hike the trail that day, and never hiked it until yesterday.

I wondered about the trail when the Ranger suggested I take my cell phone 
along "just in case" I had problems, and they'd have their rescue ATV out 
right away.  Hopefully he was just being cautious since I was a female hiking 
alone.  I paid the park fee, got the gate combination and drove to the 
trailhead.  As soon as I opened my car door, I was glad I brought mosquito 
repellent.  While they weren't as bad as in the summer, the mosquitos were 
there, and hungry.  I put on my boots and my fanny pack and headed out. 

The first thing I realized about the trail was how different it was from the 
AT.  The AT is the last place I went hiking.  This was no beaten path.  And 
that was fine with me.  I had seen 2 other cars in the lot, so had reason to 
believe someone had hiked this trail before me today.  Even so, I was amazed 
at the number of spider webs stretched across the trail!  And even more 
amazed at how I couldn't see them until they stuck to my face.  And arms.  
And legs.  I was covered in webs.  I didn't stop walking, in fear of becoming 
the spiders' lunch.  It only took me until about the millionth web before I 
finally picked up a stick, held it up in front of me and let it lead the way. 
 (My right shoulder is sore today.)

The trail was in pretty good shape.  Other than the grasses brushing and 
scraping my lower legs constantly, it was in good shape.  I passed some muddy 
places but not too bad.  That would change.

The blue-blazed trail to the campsite starts at about the halfway point 
around the loop trail.  It's 0.4 mile to the site.  The site consists of a 
sign saying you can camp anywhere within 15 paces of the sign.  There wasn't 
much of a fire pit, but I could see where it was.  I found a neat "bench" 
there.  Hanging horizontally between 2 pines was a pine truck, which worked 
beautifully as a place to rest.  Until I sat down.  And the mosquitos found 
me.  So I got up, and ate my sandwich on the go.

I hiked counterclockwise on the trail, and shortly after I rejoined the 
orange-blazed loop, I found the swamp.  I got hints that it was becoming 
wetter when I started tripping over cypress knees.  I think I stumbled more 
over those than I whooshed away spider webs!  I kept thinking I'd quit 
stumbling, but I guess I never learned.  The trail became muddy, then wet.  
First ankle-deep water, then calf-deep.  Finally I was walking in water up to 
my knees.  It was great!  Looking around, all I could see was cypress trees 
and water.  I loved it!  It reminded me of my schooldays when we had to go 
slogging in the swamp.  I always loved those trips!

After the swamp, the trail alternated between dry, calf-deep shoe-sucking 
mud, and one or two water crossings, not deeper than the knees.  There were 2 
bridges, one of which mysteriously allowed me to cross about 2/3 of the water 
before I had to step down into it and wade the rest of the way across!  

The trail was well-blazed all the way through.  The last 1/4 of the trail 
needs some work, as I had to limbo under and crawl over and around dead and 
alive bushes and trees.  The ranger told me they need to do some prescribed 
burning on that part of the trail, but he didn't seem to think it would be 
anytime soon.

Two hikers who were ahead of me told the ranger they saw a black bear.  I 
only got to see the droppings of the bear.  At least I assumed that's what it 
was.  Plus I saw deer tracks and droppings, an egret and a crane.  Oh, and 
another bird which I think was some kind of hawk, but I didn't get to look 
closely or for very long.  He was much more alert than I and took off 

All in all, I had a wonderful time.  Here are some of the things I learned:
-I hike much quieter on dry land than in knee-deep water.
-I hike much quieter with dry boots than with wet.
-I can't seem to pass by scat without poking through it to see what the 
critter's been eating.  Gross I know.  But I wanted to know what left the 
presents on the trail for me.
-Spiders build webs VERY quickly.  At least 2 people hiked the trail before 
me yesterday and I STILL was covered in webs.
-It's good to hike alone so you can stop when you hear a noise and look to 
see what it is.
-It's good to hike with someone so you have 2 sets of eyes and ears.
-I need to get out more!

Hope you have happy trails!  I know I will!
Teresa in SW Florida

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