Friday, September 19, 2014

Autumn Backpacking Along The Florida Trail

Sandra Friend's awesome trail guide
One of Florida's best kept secrets is backpacking in the wintertime.  When cold and snow drives everyone up north indoors, the Florida skies turn clear and blue, and the trails beckon.  Mosquitos and the other bugs also die down.
The section of the Florida Trail I plan to backpack runs through the Ocala National Forest, from Clearwater Lake to Salt Springs.  This 46.5 mile trail covers much of the varied Florida landscapes and provides many good camping and scenic opportunities along the way.
The original blazes along the Florida Trail were first painted at Clearwater Lake in 1966 by FTA Founder Jim Kerns and his hardy friends.  Of the 72 miles of non-stop backpacking within the Ocala National Forest, these southerly 46 miles are well marked, well maintained and well worn.  There are numerous bail-out points if needed along the route.  You will walk through thick palm trees in hydric hammocks, through the desert-like Juniper Prairie Wilderness, through open under story in tall pines and along the winding hills of the Hopkins Prairie.
Temperatures would be mild and cool at nights with little rain forecast.  By travelling ultralight, my pack would weigh around 25 pounds for the trip.
I will use the excellent Florida Trail Official Hiking Guide by Sandra Friend as my bible to plan and follow the route.  I plan to hike through this section (section 16) of forest in 4-5 days.  My expectation is to travel about 15 miles daily and to camp at specific sites along the trail.  I will check with my friends to see if we can create a trip together at that time, and if not I may hike solo.
Wish me luck in planning my trip over the next few weeks.  Some hunting dates may present scheduling problems as I would prefer not to backpack when people are hunting.  I am hoping to schedule my trip sometime during early December.  I'll post Florida hunting dates next week.

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