From 7 in the morning until noon the Florida National Scenic Trail turned into the Florida National Sometimes Scenic Roadwalk. Dirt road to paved country road to state highway back to dirt road and then to plowed fence line. Not quite what I'd call getting away from it all. The two things worth seeing were the beautiful horses in the paddocks near the River Ranch Resort and the Kissimmee River no longer confined behind the walls of the levees, spreading out to form a wonderful wetland for all types of migratory birds. The thing I could definitely have done without was the hundreds of cars and semi-trucks barreling past me as I walked along the grassy incline of SR 60. On the bright side, it made the dirt road beyond it seem like bliss because at least the traffic was gone. Another bright note was the fact that in the powdery dust near the road's edge I came across what I believe could only have been panther tracks. I know my chances of seeing one of these elusive creatures is slim to none, so seeing evidence of one was a delight.
In the afternoon, I was back on trail walking through seas of grass and palmetto, jumping from hammock to hammock. My favorite hammock is the one formed of dense stands of sable palm, (a tall thin palm, which is Florida's state tree) interspersed with giant oaks. I think I prefer the palm hammock because it reminds me somewhat of a jungle with deep pockets of shade. I feel like I'm in the tropics. It was in one of these hammocks that I stumbled upon a wild grapefruit tree, the fruit of which provided a juicy snack at break time especially since my water supply was running low.
For anyone doing this section of trail, the blue-blaze to Lake Jackson Observation Tower is a must. An amazing view, lots of birdlife---coots, white ibis, great herons, a variety of ducks---and a nice cooling breeze at the top of the tower to take away the heat. I remained there for some time taking it all in. I even considered stopping for the day and setting up camp, it really was that nice. At the base of the tower was a flat spot for pitching a tent and a picnic table was handy, but unfortunately, you have to be in a designated area to stay the night. Playing by the rules, I pushed on to Parker Hammocks.
The canal connecting Lake Manon to Lake Jackson, a short distance from camp, is the only source of water and not a particularly good one. Well, beggars can't be choosers. Besides, I was terribly thirsty, my Under Armour T-shirt soaked with sweat. As a general rule, the thirstier you are, the tastier the water is. It surely was in this case.
Earlier in the day I had seen an armadillo scurrying through the undergrowth. As I slowly drifted off to sleep I could hear another one snuffling around in the woods near my tent. At least I hoped it was an armadillo making that noise. :-)
Horse near River Ranch Resort
Broad Swath of the Kissimmee
Grassland and Sunny Skies
Path through Palm Hammock
Boardwalk near Bull Creek