Friday, April 18, 2014

Under $350 Ultraight Backpacking Kit

For simple overnight backpacking trips, you can easily put together an Ultralight Backpacking kit that costs around $350 and one that weighs MUCH lighter than the backpacking kit listed recently in Outside magazine
I have been asked several times to put together an Ultralight Backpacking kit that costs XX dollars for so and so.  Here's my attempt at assembling one for around $350, about what any hobby starts at.
First buy or borrow a postal scale that weighs pounds, ounces, and grams so you can know your equipment's actual weight.  Everything but the food listed here is available online.
Lets start first with the Big Three, the pack, tent and sleeping bag.
Pack - Go Lite Jam 35 costs $99.99, weighs 1 lb, 11 oz @ Go Lite.com.  35 liters is the correct size for overnight backpacking trips IF you carry lightweight equipment.  It also comes in blue or green.  Your Go Lite 35 pack is an excellent choice, and it will last and last.  The idea behind the 35 liter size is to just carry less.  You won't need to carry more than that on 1-2 night trips.

Tent - Eureka Solitare 1 person tent costs $68.94, weighs 2 lb, 9 oz @ Amazon.com.  You may find this for even less if you search online.  Use the included poles and stakes.

Bag - Slumberjack Lone Pine 40 degree sleeping bag costs $59.98, weighs 2 lb, 4oz @ Campmor.com. More than warm enough for most summer camping, add a sleeping bag liner for more warmth.

The Second Big Three includes sleeping pad, cook stove & gear, and water filtration.
Pad - Thermarest Trail Scout inflatable pad (full size) costs $39.98, weighs 1 lb, 11 oz @ Campmor.com.  You need protection from the ground's cold and some padding to sleep comfortably.

Cook gear - Esbit stove/cook set costs $22.95, weighs only 7 oz @ Amazon.com.  Any plastic spoon and lightweight cup will do for the rest of your cook kit.

Water filtration - Sawyer Mini Filter costs $24.95, weighs only 2oz @ REI.com.  This is all the water filter you will ever need and your water won't taste like chemicals.  Use chemicals as a backup.

This gets you to $307, more or less and weighs about 8 pounds and includes the same type of items as were listed in the article.  That 8 pounds would also be called your base weight, before food, fuel & water are weighed.
Extra items that not mentioned in the article, but are things you would still need...
Fuel - Esbit Tabs 12 pack is $7.99 ( need 2-3 for overnight trip @ 1oz each)  @ Amazon.com.  Add this to the food, water & fuel weight.

First Aid kit - Adventure Medical Kit .5 is $16.95, weighs 10 oz @ REI.com.  Learn to use everything inside the kit.  And it is waterproof!

Rain -  Outdoor Products Multi-purpose Poncho is $30, weighs 12 oz @ REI.com.  Works fine unless it is windy, and it gives you something to sit on during breaks.

Water bottles - Gatorade 32 oz, empty & rinse 2 of these, and once you drink the Gatorade, they are free. Thanks for keeping them out of the landfill.  I keep a couple of spare lids at home in case I lose a lid.

Those add up to $55 and another 2 pounds for a total of about $359 and a total of 10 pounds base weight.
And I have nothing against Outside magazine, I read them often.  I used to purchase those same heavily built packs and shred my feet with those same hard leather boots, but no more.  Instead of the 40+ pound non-ultralight gear mentioned in their article, you can cut that weight in half for about the same price.  Food, fuel & water will weigh around 6-8 pounds more.  Make sure you bring a lighter, matches, flashlight, trash bags (water-proofing), a sweater and soap.  This brings your base weight to about 10 pounds.
Total weight for the Ultralight pack with food, fuel, water & all your stuff is under 20 lbs.  Again, that is less than HALF the weight the magazine article is suggesting that you carry.  Your new pack will carry easily on your back, your knees won't hurt and your feet will be light on the trail.  You will move quicker and not be as tired at the end of the day.  You will be happier, trust me.
A little more searching online may lead you to even better deals.  If you want to go on a backpacking trip in the shoulder seasons (spring/fall), add a sleeping bag liner, long underwear, and polar fleece outerwear, hat & gloves to keep warm.

Beyond the $350 amount, I suggest you invest in a pair of trail running shoes like the Montrail Mountain Masochist II  at $71.51, 2 lb, at  Amazon.  They work great for me, grip the ground awesomely, and at a pound each are very light weight.  You can also wear them for other things than backpacking.  Boots are such overkill.  They are heavy and they shred your feet.  With such a light load on your back (it weighs like most day packs), boots are no longer required.
For food, plan on keeping it simple: mac & cheese & a very small can of chicken that can be freezer bag cooked, an apple, fig bars, breakfast bars, PB&J, trail mix, coffee/tea, etc.  Or eat before you leave the trail head and don't cook dinner the first night out.  Once you get into this, you can create all kinds of wonderful and tasty meals at home to enjoy on the trail.
And wear no cotton clothing - what you already own that is synthetic material will work great, you don't really need hiking-specific clothing.  I wear a synthetic sports t-shirt, thin socks, compression underwear, with nylon pants, and a long sleeve fishing shirt.  With the pants & shirt both being nylon, they dry quickly and block some wind and sun.  And wear a hat.  In Florida I wear a lightweight hat with a wide brim with vents all around.
A hiking stick is always a good idea, and a lightweight wooden one is fine - you can always get collapsible hiking poles later if you still need them.
The other things you need are some basic outdoor skills and a positive mindset.  Basic map and compass skills, camping skills, knowing your knots and a knowledge of first aid (all those things that you learned in Boy Scouts).  These items and more are covered in the Free Ultralight Backpacking E-Book available at Lite Packer Lifestyle on Facebook.  Or search for Ultralight Backpacking how to books on Amazon.  Remember, knowledge weighs nothing!
In between trips, read lots of ultralight blogs for cool DIY weight-saving ideas.  Shop online sales for shoulder season polar fleece and down clothing.  Convince your friends to go camping with you.  Go backpacking 1-2 weekends a month.  Join the Florida Trail, the Sierra Club or any local backpacking group that actually gets out there.  Challenge yourself at least once a year on a multiple day hiking trail far away from home, a kayak or canoe river camping trip or even on a loaded bicycle tour, all using Ultralight weight camping gear.
Dream of backpacking the AT and the PCT.  Pack light, go far, very far.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Lake Apopka Loop Trail


Lake Apopka Trailhead Kiosk
As I listen to the rain tinkle down today, I am reminded of past bicycle loop rides around Lake Apopka, back before the state got serious about water quality and restoring past mistakes.  Those bike rides started from my home then in Apopka, led me on my various road bicycles south along the eastern shore of the lake to the mostly abandoned Winter Garden downtown, with all the vultures perched on the telephone tower.  I would Tour through open country to turn west past Oakland, rolling up and down through the hills of Monte Verde, climbing the wall of Sugarloaf Mountain to turn right to Astatula in the north, and cycle back easterly through the Zellwood area farmlands and Apopka fern fields to return home again.  It was something around a 70 mile ride, crossed a busy highway twice and it took most of the day.  One day it turned cold and rained, but I still rode, a dedicated voyager back then, but not so much now.  I won't ride in the rain anymore unless caught out in it with no where to go.  I like how things have changed.
Lake Apopka, large and looming along your left as you bicycle west.
Crushed cement and gravel trail surface
Today the state of Florida has embraced rail trails and hiking trails and all things outdoors, and have remodeled buildings and opened businesses as the bicyclists and walkers, runners and skaters came and spent a little money on coffee, pizza and antiques.  Whole towns have become great places to live again, and have grown like the downtown area of Winter Garden along the West Orange Trail.  And I noticed the great lake of Apopka is no longer looking 'electric green' and heavily contaminated with nutrients as it did 25 years ago.  Nearly fifteen years into this reclamation and all the work done and all the money spent is beginning to show for the better.
Anhingas resting on poles and posts along the water
Reeds in close and grasses out far along the shoreline
What better way to celebrate area restoration than to bicycle the Lake Apopka Loop trail, along the northern shore of the Lake.  It was supposed to rain, but didn't.  Overcast and windy, it made for a good day outdoors and a challenging ride back into the wind along the open shore.  Now this is not a smooth paved trail, but it is hardened like a gravel road, perfect for wider tires with lower pressures and slower speeds to enjoy the views.  You do start on black pavement at the Magnolia Park trailhead, but after a quarter mile, that changes to crushed cement and gravel.
Old steel supports, well-marked, but be careful bicycling!
Osprey waiting for lunch
The trail follows the top of a dike built around the northern side of the lake in the 1930's-1940's.  This dike allowed the farmers to pump Lake Apopka water onto the muck lands where they truck-farmed for decades, and pump it back out again as the plants matured, creating the fine white Zellwood corn, carrots, lettuce and other farm vegetables for market.  The system was engineered to use labor to cut the produce, toss it up to workers on a shaded platform truck driving slowly behind them who processed and loaded the vegetables into packing cartons, that were conveyor-belted off the back of these slow moving trucks into other refrigerator trucks backing behind them, which then hauled fresh vegetables straight to the freezer warehouse all within 30 minutes of being picked. From there it was distributed directly to stores around the country.  This was American mechanized truck-farm ingenuity at its best.
The problem was that the pesticides and nutrients added to the muck to nourish and protect the food washed back into Lake Apopka with each man-made flood.  Lake Apopka is the head waters for the Ocklawaha River system which feeds into the St. John river and out to the sea at Jacksonville. Contaminates and high levels of nutrients killed the trophy bass fishing businesses on Lake Apopka and ran downstream through the Lake Harris chain to kill fish, birds and wildlife in the St. John river.  This river is also where a lot of Florida's community drinking water comes from, hence the reason for the farmland restoration.
Presently you come to the historic pump house.  It's 3 kerosene pumps are still in place along with huge rusted pipes.  There is a new picnic shelter there with 2 tables, trail brochures and lots to look at both water-side and trail-side.  A raised path has been built around the lake side of the block pump house, and there is a portable toilet on the west side by the ponds and canals.
Along the windy lake shore
Historic Pump House

Big pipes!
Farming culture kiosk
Looking east past the new picnic shelter
Today the farms are all silently gone, the land bought by the St. John Water Management group, but the canals, pumps, roads, bridges and dikes, and a lot of rusted steel remain. The first 4 miles of the trail are open to the lake, providing awesome views across the empty water.  The Monte Verde hills loom above the lake's western shore, water towers and radio towers mark Winter Garden to the south.  Fallow fields to the right seem to flatly go on forever, with a network of dirt roads and old bridges over canals.
About 3 miles further west, you turn inland along a canal, then turn left twice quickly to return back to the shoreline, inside of a line of trees.  Another mile brings you to a picnic table at 8.7 miles, which was my lunch stop and turn around for today.  I believe this is my first-ever stop in a 'new' picnic shelter along a trail that had no trash, no grafitti spray painted anywhere, and had nothing broken.  Even the picnic tables have no carvings in them.  Please, let's keep it this way!
It overlooks a couple of canals and miles and miles of flat land.  Ducks paddled about, hawks and buzzards lofted above, and it was very peaceful.  A Bald Eagle perched on an old power line pole along the way back, then took to the sky with a mate.  I saw a Red-tailed Hawk swooping low along the old fields.  A Blue Heron repeatedly flew a few yards in front of me, then flew again to another branch.  Great Egrets flew in the winds above with an occasional Swallow-tailed Kite.
Nice, new covered picnic area, my bicycle, and more canals
Low and flat farmlands, marsh and more canals
A sign at the picnic shelter & others posted along the trail each half mile
And birds are everywhere.  Anhinga's and Comorants dry their wings on trees and perch on sticks along the shore, Turkey Vultures circle on thermals overhead, Great Blue Heron's take to wing as you approach, Red-winged Blackbirds and Ospreys share tree branches together.  That loud and continuous birdsong that sounds like the Everglade's rookeries was heard along the first section of trail.  I counted 12 of the 18 birds listed in the Orange County Loop Trail handout, and those were just the ones I could identify.  There were many small warblers and yellow colored small birds, cardinals and jays that not on the list.  This is truly a bird-watcher's heaven.  Bring your binoculars!
Well signed trail
Note there are 2 Ospreys and one Red-winged Blackbird sharing a tree
Continuing along the trail you pass wildlife, mostly in the forms of alligators.  Signs are posted everywhere to not feed alligators, so please do not dangle your bicycling partner in front of the 80 tooth monsters as they will bite.  I have read online to stay 15 feet or more away from these beasts, as that is their comfort range (IF they are not hungry or mating March through June).  I usually give them 30 feet or more. Unfortunately this trail passes less than that away from many of these wild animals along the route.  This day, 2 ten-foot-plus ones were sunning themselves just 8 feet off the trail.  Also, don't provoke them to move off the trail if they are blocking it, it may be the last we hear of you.
Do Not Feed Alligator signs are everywhere
Alligator eyeing ducks
Look closely, alligator swimming
Beside the trail, keep 15 feet or more away!
There were also hair-infused animal droppings along the trail, suspected the be from Barn Owls, which I did not see.  There is no one to pick up waste after them.
There is not much, if any at all, shade along this trail, so wear sunscreen and drink lots of water.  Fill up your water bottles at home or at Lake Magnolia Park, there is no drinking water available once you are on the trail.  I drank 2 water bottles on a 3 hour trip in cool, cloudy, windy weather, bring more when it is sunny.
A Bald Eagle waiting for it's mate on an old power pole.
Nearing Magnolia Park on the return ride, and trees are a welcome relief from the wind
Of the entire 14.6 trail miles, I will return to ride the remaining west shore miles along the Apopka-Beauclair canal to the picnic shelter where I lunched on this trip.  Then on another trip I will follow the trails and climb the 4 wildlife viewing towers along the Clay Island loop trails.  The map shows a proposed trail to highway 455 out of Monte Verde, which when finished will make a nice walk (not sure if these trails are to be bicycled or not).  I also want to explore this area and learn more about it before the heat and mosquitoes of summer make it difficult to enjoy being outdoors.
There was really only silence to replace the sounds of farming that once rang out here daily.  I like how things have changed.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Ultralight Deodorant?

"And why would you want to use deodorant when Ultralight Backpacking" you may ask?  To smell better, I answer with a smile.
The problem is that I have an extremely sensitive nose and I really don't enjoy smelling myself or anyone else after a good day's hike, much less on an extended journey.  I'd rather smell the rich wonders of nature all around me.
Now when backpacking, I can't help how someone else smells.  However, I am around myself all of the time and I can change how I smell.  I already use handy wipes to clean my body nightly, before sleeping.  Now I can add a swipe of deodorant under my arms, and no one will smell me coming all day.  (I use unscented deodorant, you should too when backpacking!  Think bears.)
Here's how I do it and keep it ultralight weight.
Pocket-size 3-Pack.
When I purchased the 3 pocket-sized push-up containers of Body Glide Anti-chafe, I found I only needed one of them in my pack at a time.  These pocket-size units only weigh 6 grams/0.2 ounces when full.  I took one of the Body Glide containers I had already used the contents from, removed the label and melted small chunks of deodorant into it, just like I do when salvaging the remaining Body Glide from the bottom of the applicators.
Now, I have an ultralight stick of deodorant for backpacking.
Finished product, pushed up to use.  Of course, I keep the cap on when packed.
Call me whatever, but I have learned to never throw anything out that is still useful that I have space to keep.  For an example, I melted enough Body Glide from the bottom of 5 used containers to last me almost a month of applications, and I use it daily.  That saved me from buying a new Body Glide stick that month.
Peeling off the label.
Here's the steps:
1.  Empty the pocket-sized container, push the base down against the bottom to allow for filling to the top with deodorant.
Cut & chopped deodorant.  Empty & pushed down to the bottom container.
2.  Cut leftover, new or unused deodorant into small chunks with a knife, using either a new stick, or scrape and pick the remains from the bottom piece of an old stick.  I use a paper towel to keep the mess under control as this stuff is waxy and sticky.
3.  Place the empty Body Glide container into a small plastic bowl in the microwave oven.  Paper bowls do burn.
Added chunks, ready to heat.
4.  Add in those small chunks of deodorant, but do not over fill.
Stay with this, it just takes 6-8 bursts to melt the deodorant.
5.  Heat in small bursts of 10-15 seconds, on full power, until the solution is liquid.  Add more chunks slowly and continue to heat in bursts, until the push-up container is full to the top.  Earn extra points if it is smooth.  You must stay with this and watch it work.  Absolutely do NOT turn on high for a few minutes and walk away!
Molten deodorant, note the scorched paper plate.
6.  Allow the mixture to cool inside the microwave.  Removing the still-molten deodorant is a recipe for a messy spill.  I have experience with this.
7.  Remove when solid and cool in the refrigerator for half an hour.
8.  Pack with your personal items, push-up to use and apply nightly when backpacking. Keep lidded otherwise.  Label if it helps you.  When it gets low, make another batch.  For through-hikes, I would just buy a regular small container of deodorant and suffer the slight weight penalty.
Not too difficult?
My total weight for this Ultralight stick of deodorant is a mere 8 grams or 0.3 ounces.
While I didn't write this blog expecting to get everyone to use deodorant when backpacking outdoors, I think the people who are already carrying a heavier deodorant stick may appreciate a DIY option on making a lighter weight deodorant stick for those quick, overnight trips.  It only cost me some time plus the things I that already use.  I got to 'experiment in the lab' while making this, and it makes me feel better and smell good, in an unscented way. 
The good news is, you won't smell me coming down the trail!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Rescue Disk

Mini-Disk
Many outdoor rescue professionals advise us that we should carry a rescue mirror or an old CD to use as an emergency reflector for signalling for help when stranded in the backcountry.
I can do that one step lighter, and cheaper using a free business card mini-disk.
The mini disk CD's became popular in the late 1990's and early 2000's.  They were about half the width of a normal CD, had a spindle hole in the center and would usually carry a PDF file business card, a brochure, a short video or a product announcement on them.
When cleaning out my old office supplies, I found one last week, complete with a plastic sleeve for carrying without scratching it.  You may also have one, or know where to locate one.  That company is now a few years out of business and the CD still looks new.  I put it in the spares kit in my backpack to have for that special signalling use, if I ever need it.
In a pouch with the rest of my emergency, spares & backup camping gear

The weight of the mini disk is 8 grams, including the plastic sleeve.  It is very thin and extremely lightweight. When I pick up the pack, I cannot tell that I have it with me at all.  This is how it should be, rescue equipment lightweight enough not to notice you are carrying it.

To use a reflector in an emergency, you need sunshine.  Sight through the hole to find where the sunlight is reflected by the disk, usually a small bead of light.  Slowly swing the disk up and down paying attention to where the small bead of light lands.  To attract attention, sweep the bead of light from side to side across the horizon.  If you see a car, a plane above or someone moving along the ground, sweep the bead of light across them a few times.
Use the International Distress signal, 3 quick flashes of light, a pause, then repeat. You flash the light by quickly moving it up and down, or by quickly covering and uncovering it with your hand.  Do this until you can tell someone is on the way to help you.  Be careful of temporarily blinding people if they are close.
Many people have been rescued this way, even by airplanes far above them.  It may take some time, but continue until sunset, or until you are found.
You can use Morse Code if you need to communicate with rescuers.   I haven't used Morse Code since I was a Boy Scout, and I don't trust my memory to remember each letter.  I printed this chart for me (fits into the plastic pouch with the mini disk) and have included it below for you.
Morse Code.  A space between letters = silence for the duration of 1 dot.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Yearling Trail

The Yearling Trailhead sign, across SR 19 from Silver Glen Springs.
Last week I traveled to the Ocala National Forest to hike the Yearling Trail.  If you didn't know, the Yearling Trail is named for a fictional story written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in the late 1930's about a family subsistence living in the Florida scrub, who's son adopts a wild fawn.  I read the story while mending my broken hip in 2012.  The story is written conversationally, in the way the people spoke then, and it covers the antics and adventures of adolescence and the hardscrapple life they lived.  Most amazing to me is also what was most amazing to Rawlings, that these people lived with absolutely nothing, yet were happy.
They made a film about The Yearling, shot on location at Pat's Island about 10 years after the book was published. You can read more about the story here.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings visited the Long family living on Pat's Island and wrote from the stories they told, fictionalizing the people's names while covering their everyday lives.  The story about the fawn happened at least 50 years before that time.  She was a great listener, capturing the details and phrases of a time long past.  Her book Cross Creek is also a very good read about old Florida.
The Ocala National Forest created the hiking trails in the Juniper Springs Wilderness area that illustrate the Pulitzer Prize winning story.  Markers along the trails are set where homesteads used to be and where cemeteries, dip tanks and sinkholes still are.  You can find a map here.
Pat's Island is a hill above the Florida scrub that is covered with pine trees and is cooler and wetter than the scrub around it.  Much like an Island surrounded by water, Pat's Island is surrounded by the poorer and dryer scrub lands around it.
Hot & dry Florida scrub with lots of wildlife
Trail kiosk
From the Trailhead on highway 19, you hike west through one half mile of hot Florida scrub.  The white sand is quite dry and the trail offers almost no shade.  The scrub has a few towering pine trees but is mostly low shrubbery, bushes and palmetto.  It still supports a lot of wildlife like the beautiful and endangered blue scrub jays and the bright red cardinals that I watch flit from branch to branch. Wear a hat, bring lots of water and use sunscreen.  Kiosks along the trail explain the story and the trail markers.  There is also what looks like a blank white sign.  This sign used to explain the land contains archaeological materials that are not to be dug up or removed, but the paint is worn and faded away.  Practice Leave No Trace and leave the archaeology for other hikers to discover.
Blank archaeology sign, the far trees in the background are Pat's Island
You will see Pat's Island ahead as a line of trees as you climb towards it.  Once you reach the trees, look back at the rolling scrub lands and you can see that you have, in fact, climbed a hill.  In the shade it was much cooler and the wind in the trees was peaceful.  At the first marker, I took the Jody's Trace trail to the right to follow counter-clockwise around Pat's Island.  This portion of the trail was not cleared yet and I walked off it repeatedly.  By carefully watching the yellow blazes on the trees I could follow it, but I had to pay close attention as the shrubbery and wiregrass had grown to cover the trail in many places.  There were some careful balancing moments with multiple fallen tree crossings, but with patience and a walking stick you will be fine.  The volunteers must clear these trails annually to prevent trail loss, and I expect they will get to this section before summer heats up.
Jody's Trace trail sign, turn right

Disappearing trail, must watch the yellow blazes closely
I did stop from time to time for a photo and to listen to the wind.  Once when stopped I heard the knock-knocking of a red headed woodpecker and was able to get a photo of that elusive bird.
The trail passed through shade and sun, going through several burn areas, some with tall widow makers all around you.  Once dead, these sentinels stand strong for a decade or so, then are silently toppled by wind.  Do watch and be careful.  I did feel the sense of stillness around me a few times, surrounded by stark sentinels on all sides, dead oak trees and dead pine trees where the fires once burned too hot.  But then I moved along into shade with birdsong and the wind sounds through pine needles keeping my thoughts company.
Widow-maker propped over trail by a very thin sapling

Look closely between the trees to see a red headed woodpecker knock-knocking
Coming down a slight incline the trail passes adjacent to a dip tank, where cattle were driven through a chemical (crude oil?) filled trough in the ground to kill ticks.  Though it is nearly 100 years old, do NOT drink the water!  Here is a video about how this works.  Further along a marker showed there used to be Calvin Long's field to the right, but the trees have reclaimed it all.
Dip Tank
Once a field
 The next marker was at a trail junction, where you could either travel south to a cemetery and the return trail, or hike north then west to the Florida Trail.  It is also the site of the sinkhole.  About 100 feet across and at least 60 feet deep, this sinkhole used to trickle drinking water to the 12 families who used to live here.  The southeast side has been shored up to prevent the sinkhole from filling in.  There are dogwoods and hickories here.  From the rim I couldn't see any water in the catchments or dripping from the now dry moss along the side.  I think the water table has changed.  With the recent rains, there should be some surface water lingering, but I didn't see any.
Trail sign, left to cemetery, turn right to Florida Trail

This sinkhole used to supply drinking water to about a dozen people who lived here, now it is dry
There used to be Patrick Smith's homestead here, right next to the sinkhole, but there was no sign of it on the ground besides the marker post.  Maybe on another trip with more time I can look closer for foundation or fireplace stones in the underbrush.
Trail sign at the Florida Trail, turn left

Florida Trail clean campsite
I took the trail to the north around the sinkhole, then west following the Major Churchill road.  This trail was immediately wider and better maintained than the trail I had been walking and I was able to pick up my pace.  I soon came to the intersection with the Florida Trail and turned left (south) at about 2.5 miles.  It was familiar to be following the orange blazes again.  A campsite came up on the left very quickly, the fire pit was cold but the land here was clean of the usual National Forest trash.  Good job campers and trail volunteers!
I pushed on another half hour along the Florida Trail going up and down the rolling terrain to the next trail marker and turned left (east).  This was a high point, with the land falling off Pat's Island down to the scrub below.  An old cistern was sunk in the ground here and it is surrounded by a low fence.  The map shows this was the site of Reuben and Sara Long's home.  If that is correct, what a view they had!
Return trail sign, turn left

Fence surrounds sunken cistern at the Long's home site

The view goes on forever and this photo just cannot show it the way I saw it
The view to the south held me in awe, a spiritual word meaning I was witnessing something like the grace of god in nature.  I was certainly feeling joy!  The land was rolling up and rolling down, sparse trees were poking through the scrub, small islands of trees dotted to the left and the right, and the hills were rolling into valleys just about as far as you can see at one time in Florida.  I could see the Florida Trail punch through the scrub here and there.  It was like while I was hiking on the trail, I hadn't seen the forest for the trees, but now I was seeing the forest and seeing the trees and so very much more.  I paused in the shade a while to take in and enjoy the beauty.
On the trail again, vultures circled far above on the air currents, looking for food.  About halfway back to the first trail junction, there is the Long Family cemetery to the right of the trail. There are several headstones, most of them are marked and the fenced plot was kept clean.  Reuben & Sara Long are buried here, along with many of their children.  Someone takes care of this site and that did my heart good.  The short trail to the north connects with the sinkhole.
Along the trail

A sign at the cemetery gate

Reuben Long, a Confederate soldier passed in 1915

Sara Long, Reuben's wife passed in 1909



Many family members are buried here and the cemetery was kept very clean, return to the trail and turn right to return to your car
Continuing along the main trail for a ways you pass a marker for where Calvin Long's homestead used to be. This was the homestead where the Yearling movie was filmed and is the place where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings visited the family and learned of their stories.  Again, I could see no sign there ever was someone's home, farm, barn or that a family once lived here.  This trail is wide, and this used to be the Grahamville road, a wagon trail through the woods.
I passed another post marking the Cora Long home that used to be there.  Again, there was nothing to betray the fact to the casual hiker.
I came to a post with the numeral 11 on it, but only had 10 posts marked on my map.  At the trailhead kiosk, marker 11 shows an old cedar tree, which was not at the post with the 11 on it.  Maybe it was burned in a fire or I just missed it.  Cedar trees growing naturally in Florida usually mark where an outcropping of limestone is 30 feet or less below the ground. 
More of Pat's Island forest

Cactus in the scrub along the trail back to the car
I finished the loop around Pat's Island when I returned to the first trail marker, a 4.5 mile hike.  The half mile approach trail makes this a full 5.5 mile hike.  I understand the Florida Trail trailhead walk is a shorter walk from the north side and I will try that on another trip.  I left the cooler temperatures and shade of Pat's Island and walked back along the entrance trail through the scrub to my car.
If you are driving, from Orlando, go east on I-4 to Deland and exit on state road 44 and follow that west to town.  Go right (north) on highway 17, and stay left on 17 when 92 splits off to the right to Daytona Beach. Follow 17 north through the country to Pearson, where you turn left (west) onto State Road 40.  Cross the St. John river at Astor and follow to highway 19.  Turn right at the light (north) and follow about 7 miles to the Yearling Trail sign on the left.  Park here at the trailhead for a fine walk.  Silver Glen Springs is directly across the road.
Cellular service in the Ocala National Forest is sparse at best.  Do carry your 10 essentials, wear a hat and carry a couple quarts/liters of water and make sure you leave written instructions of where you are behind with a friend or a loved one.