With our new camper safely at home, and big smiles on our faces, filled with anticipation about our future trips in it, we returned to hiking this morning.
Another part of my missing Central Florida miles included a recent re-route of the Florida Trail. So Sandy wanted to join me on the 9.3 mile segment – from one end of Little Big Econ State Forest to the other – to see what was new. With day packs, lunch, and the GPS we left one vehicle at Brumley Rd and drove the other to where I’d left off in Oviedo at Lockwood Blvd. We timed our hike to meet the thru-hiker group along the way.
As we entered the woods and came to the kiosk, we noticed a unopened case of water. Reading the note attached to it, it had been left by a local trail angel for the thru-hikers. It feels so good knowing that there are people out there who do these little bits of trail magic. And knowing firsthand how much it is appreciated, I must say thank you to trail angels everywhere!
We were planning a bit of trail magic ourselves, packing in apples and brownies. A mile up the trail we came across Johnny Thunder and Hop-a-Long, a newcomer to our little group. After introductions and trail magic, we continued on our ways. Soon after, we met Princess Doah, sharing more trail magic. As we reached where the trail starts to follow the river bluffs, we came across Rainbow, Geoff, and Sissy and Mabel. More apples, more brownies, and more smiles.
Geoff and I had spent many hours walking together through the swamps down in Big Cypress. Neither one of us had much good to say about it. I kept telling him “wait until you get to Central Florida, where there are large oak trees with Spanish moss hanging from their branches.” Now I could ask him how he liked the “Florida” that I had grown up playing in as a child. And he loved it. We headed off in opposite directions, knowing we would meet later in the day.
As Sandy and I hiked along the bluffs of the Econlockhatchee River, I learned firsthand how difficult hiking through the floodplain of a swift-moving river can be. When the water rises up and rushes over the banks, it forms floodplain channels, creating deep washes and gullies. The results are serious elevation changes in the surrounding landscape. Up a few feet, then down a few feet. Up and down, over and over. Sandy and I grew weary. The good news about all these elevation changes are the views the trail provides over the river. Our lunch and several other breaks were on benches put in place to enjoy these views.
When we hit nine miles on the GPS, we started to question the length of this 9.3 mile trail! Looking for and finding pitcher plants in the bogs made us forget the miles. Seeing many orchids and pitcher plants during the end of the hike made the extra 0.7 miles go by a bit less painfully. That’s ten more miles toward my trek across Seminole County. Only three more miles and I’m through.
We headed to Winter Springs to reconvene with the group. One by one, our little band of hikers arrived just off the trail at Tuskawilla Road, where a side trail off the Florida Trail led them to the McDonalds. Rainbow and Sissy and Mabel were off to spend the night in Oviedo with friends, while everyone else headed to our place. After we had a parade of hikers through our showers, we ate a nice meal and split up again.
Sandy and I took our crew to the nearby Gander Mountain store. Following them as they made their way inside, I felt like a parent heading toward a toy store with young children. Two of them started skipping toward the front door. Something was said that this might not be the best way to be seen entering a store that sold guns and ammo. After an hour trying on clothes and asking salespeople about gear, four out of the five of us came out of the store with little bags for our purchases.
We headed back to our little place, where everyone did a load of laundry, a check on e-mails, and called it a night. Princess D got the futon in the office, while Geoff and Johnny almost had to draw straws to see who got the back porch. Johnny won and enjoyed a nice cool sleep in the outdoors, under a roof and inside the screen. Geoff got the living room sofa.
The end of another day on the Florida Trail. Tomorrow it’s back on the bike path for the gang to finish up the urban part of hiking around Orlando.