From Black Water Swamps to White Sandy Beaches

From Black Water Swamps to White Sandy Beaches

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Gibson Park to Mill Creek Campsite---March 20th

The morning was shrouded in fog which made the early road walk a bit dangerous, doubly so for the camp dog that was following us. Sometimes wandering in the middle of the rural byway, we'd have to grab it and pull it to the side before a car passed. We shouted "Shoo" and told it to go home, but it just hung around behind us through forest and along many a dirt road before giving up. I sure hope the poor mongrel was able to successfully retrace its steps.
The road walk/trail eventually led us back to the Suwanee and the "Big Oak". It was sizably impressive, but we'd/I'd seen a few of equal girth along the Suwanee and in the Hammocks of Avon Park.
After reaching the confluence of the Suwannee and the Withlacoochee Rivers, we followed the latter for awhile. The forest along the trail was particulary lovely with several sink holes dotting the land. At one point on a forest road I heard Jon exclaim in an animated voice "Woah!" When I looked back to see what was wrong, I glimpsed a thick torso bearing a diamond pattern lying on the ground. Rattlesnake! I must have jumped three feet in the air. No need for concern really because it was already dead, having been run over by a car. When Jon had voiced his concern, he thought I was stepping directly over a living viper. I didn't notice it until I turned around, but there was no wonder that I hadn't heard a rattle.
As we approached the I-10, the data book said we still had two miles to go before the crossing. This just didn't seem possible until we reached the barbed-wire fence and the path that paralleled it. Three times we could have gone under highway bridges, but the barbed-wire remained and the path stayed straight until River Road, where we were finally able to cross over the Interstate. It was disheartening to know that each car that sped by had taken two minutes to cover the same amount of ground that had taken us three-quarters of an hour.
The next bit of trail had clear cut on both sides. Lucky for us the day was cooling off and the sun was hidden behind the clouds. The last mile and a half of today's trek led back to the woods and bluffs along the Suwannee. I came into camp and ran across an unattended vehicle whose engine was running. The driver and his son were down by the water. Judging by the son's reaction when he had finished climbing the bank, he was certainly surprised to see me standing next to the swamp buggy. Before driving off, the dad admitted he hadn't expected to see anyone out here.
Jon arrived a bit later. This marked the longest mileage day he's ever completed, but tomorrow will be longer---a real doozy. I've warned him about it and explained the reason why I feel such high miles are necessary. I thought back in Lake Butler that this may be the time that Jon and I parted ways on the trail, but like a trooper he said he'd give it a try, even hiking well after dark if that's what it took to complete it. I just know it's going to be tough
I'm quite pleased with the camp: two picnic tables, a rubbish bin and a good water source. Sad to think it was our last full day on the Suwannee. It's definitely one of the highlights of the Florida Trail. Anyway, time for shuteye. We've got a big day tomorrow.

The Big Oak
Withlacoochee River
Green Tree Snake

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