Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Naked In the Great Outdoors

I lounged around under my tarp for the better part of the morning, hoping the on and off drizzle of rain would turn off for good. To kill time, I wrote adventures and an e-mail to wassamatta_u about a possible solution to an Atlas Quest bug that had come to me in a dream. (Well, okay, I wasn't asleep at the time, but daydreaming counts, right? And in case you're wondering, the idea didn't pan out. *shrug*)

When the rain appeared to stop for good, I broke down camp and hit the trail.

About a half hour into the hike, I came across two older gentlemen hiking south. The one in front, when he saw me, threw his arms open like he expected a hug, and both of them had smiles like they'd never been so happy to see anyone before.

"You guys seem happy to see me," I said.

"Oh, you have no idea! We're lost!"

Things started clicking together in my head. The evening before, I passed two hikers heading south who mentioned a couple of older gentlemen ahead of them, but I hadn't seen two older hikers and assumed they must have gotten off at a spur trail somewhere before our paths intersected.

The second reason I didn't see them didn't occur to me--they got lost. I'm not sure how they could get lost. The Florida Trail is pretty easy to navigate through the Ocala National Forest, and I could have found my way through in the dark if need be.

They did know that they were on the Florida Trail, but wanted to know if they were going the correct direction to Farles campground.

I told them I camped near the trail junction to the campground, about a mile or two more, and they seemed so incredibly relieved.

"There's a sign?"

"Well, no," I answered. "It's off on a blue blazed trail, though, and the blazes are pretty obvious. I didn't follow it to the campsite myself, but my guidebooks said that the campsite was at the end of the blue blazes."

We chatted a few more minutes. I found out that they were from Georgia, near Atlanta, and they thought it was wonderful that I was hiking to Springer Mountain.

They also said they ran out of water the night before and filtered some surface water three times through a handerchief before drinking it. "Think that's enough?" one of them asked.

"I hope so," I answered. =)

It wouldn't have gotten the small nasty organisms out of the water like giardia, but most water is usually safe to drink anyhow. Worrying about it now won't do any good. If they get sick in a week, they'll be able to get to a doctor anyhow.

We said goodbye, and I continued north, still puzzled how they got lost on such an obvious trail. I can only imagine they started hiking in the wrong direction yesterday and it took them hours before they realized it. *shrug*

At the Juniper Springs Recreation Area, I stopped at the little entrance station to ask the attendent about the canoe runs. Ryan, the fellow I met the day before, raved about how wonderful it was, and my guidebook also had unusually nice things to say about it.

"The last runs leave at 12:00," she told me, and I looked up at the clock on the wall and saw that it was 12:30. Just as well, I thought, Amanda would probably be pretty miffed if I went on an incredible canoe run without her knowing she'd be flying in in a few days.

Which is when I thought, "Hey, Valentines Day is coming up.... I'm going to take Amanda on a canoe run!" =)

So I got all the dirt about running the canoes, the phone number to reserve one in advance, rules of river, and the lady explained that the river is often rated one of the best ten in the country and is not for beginners. (No problem, I thought, I've canoed before. Amanda, I'm not so sure.)

Apparently, the river is fed by a crystal clear spring--unusal in itself for this part of the country. Clear water? And from a spring?

And trees have fallen in the river, s at times you have to lean back limbo style to get past them. It usually takes four or five hours, and the last pick-up is at 4:30. Sounds like fun to me! All for the low, low price of $31.50.

Sign me (and Amanda, although she doesn't know it yet) up! =)

After learning about all of the canoeing details, I headed north on the trail again about five miles before stopping to rest and eat at Hidden Pond, considered the best primitive camping place in Ocala National Forest according to my guidebook.

It's a beautiful location, but the main thing going for it--a small lake with clear water. I looked around. There was nobody around. Based on the cobwebs I'd been breaking, nobody had been here all day. As late in the afternoon as it was, I doubted that anyone else would come.

I decided to, yes, skinny dip! Woo-who! I hoped I wouldn't get a sunburn where the sun rarely shines, and went in. The water was cool and took some getting used to, but it's Florida. It's not like it's a glacier fed lake!

Then I decided that clothes weren't so bad after all--I could rinse them in the water. They were made from fast-drying materials, and I figured they'd be dry or nearly so before I hit the trail again, so then you could find me naked trying to rub out the dirt from my pants and shirt.

Not sure how clean the clothes were--I didn't want to use soap in a natural lake such as this--but I figured the rinsing couldn't hurt.

All the while hoping none of those carnivorous animals Florida is famous for decided that was the time to take a bite out of me.

After my little swim and clothes rinse, I cooked a late lunch/early dinner (a lausagna version of Hamberger Helper, for those keeping track).

Then I packed up and continued north, always north.

I stopped for the night about three miles up the trail from Hidden Pond, at the top of a hill.

The weather forecast I last saw had Thursday night taking the worst of the rain (60% chance), so I definitely set up my tarp good and proper. The sky looked clear by this time, but I wasn't taking any chances. I saw the weather forecast.

One unfortunate aspect of my choice of locations were painful, annoying little thorns all over the ground. I spent a half hour rubbing my hands lightly across my ground sheet feeling for tiny but painful little pricks and removing the sticky thorns.

While going to sleep, I smelled the distant smell of a campfire. Strange, I thought, since I didn't know of any campers within five miles of my location. It would have to be an awfully big campfire for me to smell it.

Late into the night, the rain did start to come down, and once again, I stayed dry and warm.


Stacy Christian said...

Sorry, Ryan, but the mental image of a naked man beating his clothes out on a rock is worse than the toe jelly!

Anonymous said...

Don't think of the naked man, think of the shell-less Tortuga.

Who's going to do the LTC or stamp for THIS entry?! ;]

Can't wait to hear about the canoeing adventure!

Anonymous said...

Considering Amanda does read the blog, she knows now. Ryan spoiled the surprise :-)

Anonymous said...


not much for the imagination.....

Anonymous said...

Woo hoo! Let's hope the rain stops for yours and Amanda's canoe trip.
It really does sound like you are having fun! Hope those guys made it to the campground alright.

Funhog said...

I can testify that Amanda knows how to paddle a canoe. At least we succeeded in paddling to and from a letterbox when we were in Florida together a couple of years back. Can't say it was terribly elegant. Here's hoping you laugh at least half as much as we did.

Anonymous said...

The canoeing trip was still a surprise because I only found out about it when I arrived in Florida to see Ryan yesterday. The blog is posted a few days behind, so we went on the canoe trip today. It was definitely a challenging run. It was an exciting trip, filled with adventure and you can read all about it when Ryan posts about it in a few days!

-Amanda from Seattle

Anonymous said...

More awesome images every time I read about things for Ryan's surprise.... Amanda, Please join us!!!!!!!

Sweet N Sour

Anonymous said...

Ryan, there are many more beautiful crystal-clear springs to come in Florida. Just you wait!

midlandtrailblazer said...

ah, i've always wanted to skinny dip, but never been in a good enough place to be brave enough to actually do it. though, i evidently planted a box in a location that is popular with skinny dippers....

Anonymous said...

Come to Athens, Ohio and I'll show you our world famous location for skinny dipping!

Come-on now...who's got the link to that Naked Man Beating His Clothes stamp?

Inquiring minds want to KNOW!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I bet it felt exhilerating to swim in that lake naked after all those miles covered in grime.

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers