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[ft-l] Trip Report (belated)

I really enjoyed your trip report. Having grown up in the area and lived th=
ere most of my life until I took a detour to serve 20 yars in the Navy,and =
moved back to good ole North Central Florida. (Go figure, with all the purt=
y places I done seent:-D)I was laughing pretty hard at times reading your r=
eport. Funny thing is that I went to schrool with them thar pipples, God he=
lp me. I loved your rat in full armor. Round the "mountains" of Ocala we re=
fer to em as Possums On The Half Shell and thems good eaten too.

Thanks for the bit of levity in an otherwise ho hum day,


-----Original Message-----
From: ft-l-admin@mailman.backcountry.net
[mailto:ft-l-admin@mailman.backcountry.net]On Behalf Of
Sent: Thursday, January 30, 2003 8:54 PM
To: at-l@mailman.backcountry.net
Cc: ft-l@mailman.backcountry.net
Subject: [ft-l] Trip Report (belated)

[ Picked text/plain from multipart/alternative ]
Plans.  Why make them?  I don=E2=80=99t know why I do.  Nothing I do ever w=
orks out
like I plan, so why bother?  When I hike/camp especially.

I got a late start on Saturday.  I intended to leave at 3:00 a.m. to get to
the Florida Trail trailhead at Juniper Springs in the Ocala Forest at 8:00
a.m. to begin my six mile hike to Hidden Pond, a popular, "unofficial"
campsite in the middle of the Juniper Prairie Wilderness, the southernmost
designated wilderness area in the southernmost forest in the United States.
I was going to hike in, set up camp, spend the night there, and then hike o=
on Sunday and continue from there.  Well.  I didn=E2=80=99t leave at 3:00 a=
.m.  I
left at noon.

Due to my late start, I needed to find a place to pitch a tent when I
arrived, and had called Alexander Springs to inquire about the availability
of campsites.  I was told to "come on up, we got plenty."  I got there at
4:30, leaving me enough time to set up the tent and go explore a little.  O=
my explorations, I was a little frightened to see all the BEWARE OF BEARS
signs posted all over the place, but it kept getting darker and colder and =
got hungry and so those worries out weighed the bear worry.  I made dinner =
Mountain High brand Beef Stroganoff.  Very yummy and quick and easy and no
mess.  Eat right out of the bag, packaged in such a way it had a bottom so
the stuff didn=E2=80=99t spill over.  I had some Duraflames in the truck wh=
ich I used
along with a bundle of wood I bought at gate, and made myself a yummy fire.
I pulled on both pairs of long johns, some fleece pants, a long sleeved tee=
a fleece pullover and my parka.  I had on my newly purchased and oh-so-love=
camouflage gloves and my ridiculous and hideous face mask (get down with my
bad sky piece!) and plopped the Petzl on my forehead, turned it on, and wen=
exploring around Alexander Springs, hoping to find someone to talk to.  I
walked passed three guys, and they looked at me strangely, not knowing
whether I was man, woman or child.  I expected them to say something along
the lines of "what the hell was that?"  But instead, I was rewarded by one =
them saying to the other, "Wow, that=E2=80=99s convenient."  I wonder what =
was so
convenient?  My bad sky piece or my Petzl.  I reckon it was the Petzl.  I d=
=E2=80=99t have to hold a light, and could put my hideous gloved hands in m=
y parka=E2=80=A6
.barely.  I had so much stuff on, that my arms nearly stuck straight out to
my sides. I was a living, breathing, cartoon.. Southpark style.

As I was walking along, what did I find in the bright light of my Petzl? A
rat in full body armor.  Yup, folks, an armadillo.  It  sauntered across th=
foot path I was on.  It stopped for a second and looked at me, both us
admiring or contemplating the strangeness of the other, and then he/she
sauntered on, as much as a rat in full body armor can saunter.  I=E2=80=99d=
seen an armadillo before, and I was so excited that I did a little jig, but
you couldn=E2=80=99t tell I was dancing under all them layers.

I finally got too cold and headed back to my campsite and sat by the fire. =
had an old, round Persian rug that I intended to give to my mom, but decide=
not to since I was buying a house and I might need it in the new house, so =
was in my truck doing nothing.  Not that night, No sirree Bob. It provided =
a most beautiful and luxurious place to rest my feet.  I plopped down a bea=
chair on the rug in front of my fireplace.  All the comforts of home.  The
wood I got at the gate was NOT burning properly, being damp and all, as
everything in Florida almost always is, and my Duraflames had burnt out.  I
needed some more fake wood. I got in the truck and drove to the country sto=
and bar.  This place, barely big enough to turn around in, was warm and coz=
and I wanted to pitch a tent RIGHT THERE.  Anyway, it was little, and I
thought NO WAY is this place going to have Duraflames.  I had to ask about
the availability of Duraflames, as everything was placed willy nilly, with =
reason to the stock.  Well, having been in Ocala (which is essentially more
southern than South Florida) for a mere four hours, my accent was back in
full force.  The conversation went something like this:  "Ya=E2=80=99ll got=
 inny fake
wud?"  The girl behind the counter points to a corner and says, "Yeah,
hunneeee, over=E2=80=99n d=E2=80=99corner thar, if theys inny lay-ift, what=
zat on yur
hay-ed?"  I took off the bad sky piece so=E2=80=99s not to scare the locals=
, or the
wildlife for that matter, so I reckon she was talking about my Petzl, which=
had left shining brightly on, and forgotten to take off.  So there I walked
in, like a deranged miner, looking for fake wood. And beer.  Next door to
this dandy country store was a bar, and I nearly gave up the wilderness and
had drinks with the locals.  Alas, I stuck to my semi-plan, grabbed a six
pack of Heineken and the last two logs of fake wood.  They had one six pack
of Heineken and two logs.  I cleaned them out!  I was running short on cash=
and thought no way do they accept American Express.  Well, They take
everything.  Food stamps, Mastercard, Visa, fresh kill, you name it, they
take it, and even give you $20 extra if you need it.  So I paid for my
purchases and got myself some cash to boot.  Gotta love a country store lik=
that.  I drove back to camp and crawled out of my toasty truck, grabbed my
six pack and my fake "wud" and sat down in my beach chair on my luxurious
Persian rug and grew my fire and drank my beers.  All six of them.  Then I
had to go.  Dang, why didn=E2=80=99t I think of that?!?!?  I had to go, lik=
e twelve
times.  Ohh whine whine pooh!  I had to undo eighteen things just to pee.  =
wished I had added a diaper to those layers.  I didn=E2=80=99t want to leav=
e the
comfort of my fire, so I slept there.  The fire would die down, I=E2=80=99d=
 wake up,
put another log on, and go back to sleep.  I did this till the wood was gon=
 I finally put on my toasty-toes, and my hand warmers and climbed in my ten=
and into my 15 degree bag.  15 degree bag my ass.  I was freezing.  I was s=
cold, my snot was freezing.  It was gross.  Then, just when I thought thing=
couldn=E2=80=99t get worse, I had to=E2=80=A6=E2=80=A6 you guessed it, pee.=
  Out of the bag and out
of tent and into the cold and around a tree, unbutton, unsnap, unlace, pull
up, pull down one layer, next layer, next layer, last layer, squat and pee.
Then repeat the whole process in reverse.  Whew!  I slept little, but my fe=
stayed warm, thanks to toasty-toes.

Finally, morning arrived and I was just too cold to get out and cook
breakfast.  I climbed in my truck, and went on a hunt for a warm restaurant
and HOT food and HOT coffee.  On the way, I had to slam on the breaks of th=
truck to turn around and observe one of the most awesome sights I have seen
in a while.. It was cold, folks, 23 degrees according to the radio, and the
Springs themselves stay at a comfortable 72 degrees.  It was around 7:00
a.m., and the sun was coming up.  Palm trees and other Florida Foliage
dominated the landscape.  I had the road to myself.  I went over a bridge
that crossed Alexander Springs, and the steam from the springs floated abov=
with the foliage in the background, not a cloud in the sky, the sun shining
brightly over everything, trying its best to penetrate the fog over the
springs.  I wanted to breath in what I was seeing.  I wanted to touch and
feel it and be a part of it.  I reckon I was a part of it, although I felt
distant, manmade and thought out compared to this miracle of nature. This w=
a once in a lifetime.  It was God, and it was a site to behold, and one I
looked at while it lasted.  I was alone in the midst and mist of God, and i=
was beautiful. I didn't bother to take a picture.  I didn't want something
tangible and inferior to replace what I had seen.  It eventually warmed, an=
the steam vanished, but not the beauty, and certainly not my awe.

I drove almost to Salt Springs on Highway 19, and pulled into a lot that di=
t have much but a lot and a tiny strip mall.  I couldn=E2=80=99t tell you w=
hat was in
any of the shops in the strip mall, as none had names.  I asked a lady in t=
parking lot where I could get a hot breakfast.  She looked at me like I was
stupid or something, and pointed to a place that had a neon sign that said,
OPEN.  Ok, so it=E2=80=99s called Open.  I reckon it don=E2=80=99t have a n=
ame when it=E2=80=99s
closed.  And if it=E2=80=99s closed, what=E2=80=99s the point of having a n=
ame? It=E2=80=99s a moot
point. Logistics of the forest.  I walked in to Open and everyone stared.
They didn=E2=80=99t know me. Everyone in there knew everybody else.  Oh wel=
l, give=E2=80=99
er a chair and a menu with no name on it, and hot coffee and eggs and count=
potatoes and biscuits and gravy.  I listened as the other diners talked
amongst themselves, sometimes to each other from across the diner, waitress
included.  It was entertaining.  I did learn something, however.  Some
country rednecks were talking about the ways of city rednecks.  It went
something like this:  "Ye-ah, tha-at Wilyum (William), he=E2=80=99s a city =
nick, I gotta git on=E2=80=99im all day, we cuntry ra-ed nicks gotta tetch =
these city
ra-ed nicks a thang or two. So I reckon I=E2=80=99m a city redneck.  I neve=
r knew
they was a name for me. Anyway, the eggs and bacon and homemade biscuits an=
gravy and hashbrowns were good and cheap.  After I finished my country
breakfast, I headed south on Highway 19 again, looking for Forest Road 10. =
found Forest Road 76, which was nowhere near forest road 75 or 77, but one
road from 10.  OK!  I headed down forest road 76 just to check it out, foun=
the Florida Trail, and after checking my map, found that I could hike in a
few miles to Hidden Pond, my original destination. I parked the car, hiked
the hike, and it was beautiful.  It was just gorgeous. The forest was
beautiful the weather was amazing, the prairies in Florida cannot be
described.  The sky was the most awesome shade of sapphire you have ever se=
and I got to see the pond of my past that I remember so fondly from my last
hike there.  Soft sand will kill you, and I got shinspints!  You walk on th=
beach for three hours!

After I got back, I got in my truck to head back to town to eat at the
Cracker Barrel, I tried to back out of my wilderness parking spot. No no no
no no no!  I was going NOWHERE. My truck was stuck in the sand.  I was stuc=
miles from nothing, with no hope in site, 10 miles from the nearest paved
road.  I contemplated my situation and cussed.   A lot. I waited and
contemplated and screamed and cussed, but I didn=E2=80=99t cry or kick the =
car, but I
did throw the piece of junk with no signal cellphone a few times.   Then, o=
of the forest came an angel.  My angel was a divorced Grandpa named Robert,
out hiking and camping with his dog, Buddy.  I walked down the road to meet
him, and he says, "I reckon you=E2=80=99re stuck"  Yup.  "Well, from  here,=
 it don=E2=80=99t
look like you=E2=80=99re THAT stuck.  I=E2=80=99m VERY stuck. "Well, lets t=
ake a look=E2=80=A6.. YUP
you=E2=80=99re stuck as stuck."  I told Robert that I didn=E2=80=99t know w=
hich way to walk
for help, and could he help me in this department.  He told me his camp was=
couple of miles north, and he=E2=80=99d go get his car and try and pull me =
out.  I
told him I=E2=80=99d walk with him, otherwise I might kick my new truck and=
 do more
damage.  We walked and talked and he was a nice guy with a nice dog.  We
rounded the corner of a place called Hopkins Prairie, and my GOD!  It took =
breath away!  Miles and miles of beautiful blue ponds, with a background of
Palms and tall, breezy grasses.  Birds galore and a sky the color of cobalt=
This is definitely the place where I shall pitch my tent next time around.

When we got to his campsite all I could think was "Lord above!"  What was
parked in front of his campsite?  A beautiful Blue Jaguar.  Unbelievable.  =
hopped in the Jag, stopped at the camp hosts spot and borrowed a chain and
went to rescue my truck. When we arrived back at my truck, we talked about
which way was the best way to tackle the situation.  In no time at all,  a
man and his young boys drove by in a Jeep.  Perfect!  In less than a minute=
I was out.  I thanked them both profusely, and offered all my left over foo=
and anything else I had that they might need.  I had intended to stay anoth=
night, but I=E2=80=99m sorry folks, it was just too damn cold.  They wouldn=
=E2=80=99t take
anything, even money.  Anyway, Robert, Buddy, boys in the jeep, if you=E2=
=80=99re out
there, I thank you kindly.

Well, I hopped in the truck to drive to another area of the forest to do
another anticipated hike.  I drove down the dirt road where my car was stuc=
and as soon as I hit pavement, and went over 50 mph, my car started shimmyi=
and shaking like there was no tomorrow.  I was almost 400 miles from home,
alone, and just plain tired.  Tired of EVERYTHING.  Mostly tired of things
not working out.  I had an awesome attitude up until that point, and now, t=
hell WITHITALL! I wanted to throw the TRUCK, not just the stupid, worthless=
no signal cellphone in the nearest gator infested swamp. (Word to the wise,
when hiking, a cellphone is useless, might as well bring a 2 pound brick.)
On top of it all, it was Sunday, and no way in the world was a service
station in small town USA open.  I was wrong.  Again, I was rewarded with a
bit=E2=80=99o good luck.

Tiny, of Tiny=E2=80=99s Service, in Alton, Florida, listened to my woes.  H=
e hopped
in my truck, me in the passenger side, and Tiny-not-so-Tiny, drove my car t=
the 50 mph mark, nearly knocking me out of the car with his elbows while he
drove. He knew immediately what was wrong.  I felt like an idiot.  After
driving 60 miles at 40 mph in a 50 mph zone to get to Tiny,  all the while =
car is shimmying  like fringe on a stripper, Tiny told me "you got sand in
yur tar."  Yep, folks, sand in my tar.  He pulled about a cup of sand out t=
inside rim of my tire, and my truck was fine.

I drove 100 mph down I-95, and made it home in record time to my VERY
syphathetic and VERY warm boyfriend.

What did I learn?  My adventures in the forest are never what I expect.
Armadillos are cute.  Country stores carry "wud" and imported beer take Ame=
 Toasty Toes work. There are places with no names or simply =E2=80=98Open" =
that are
awesome.  I=E2=80=99m a city redneck.  I don=E2=80=99t like the outdoors wh=
en it=E2=80=99s cold.
Sand in your "tar" will turn your truck into a paint mixer.  People are nic=
 And last, and most importantly, I love the wilderness still.

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