The soothing water therapy yesterday evening made me sleep like a baby. I awoke to an absolutely stunning sunrise with high clouds and mist scattering the sunlight to create a golden world. Some would say that world in Florida is completely flat, but today's early morning trail disproved that. Climbing up through pine and lichen covered ground, we broke out into Lorax country, the young long-leaf pines reminding me of the Truffula Trees in Dr. Seuss's story and quite possibly sharing the same fate. From there it was into a pine savannah (large scattered pine trees, long yellow grasses, and little white starburst flowers) before entering into a pine forest on a path which led to the trail head on State Road 20.
It was another 15-mile hike along the shoulder of this state road, though fortunately cloud cover was keeping the temperature bearable. Five miles in, we swung by the BP petrol station to use the toilets and grab some snacks. To Jon's consternation, they were out of convenience store hot dogs. I bought a small pack of Little Debbie's doughnuts, but the prices at these little out-of-the-way places deterred me from getting anything else. They're pretty exhorbitant compared to a supermarket.
The songs of The Black Eyed Peas and Anything Box kept running through my head and helped take my mind off the dreariness. Four small crosses with smaller candles at their bases reminded me that the road can be a dangerous place. The lifeless bodies of butterflies drifting at my feet a warning to stay alert so as not to add to the tally.
At the end of the paved section, the trail does a 180 degree turn heading in the opposite direction on a dirt side road. It was strange to "pass" Jon when I was already ahead of him. The reason he couldn't just cut across the SR 20 and join me on the dirt road was because there is a strip of marshy ground and briars that separated the two. Further along this dirt road after making a 90 degree turn south, we had to walk past a couple of commercial hives where dozens of bee boxes were positioned. Bees were flying in every direction creating a loud droning buzz. Our only goal was to avoid being stung. I sung a song that Pooh Bear used to sing to increase my chances of a successful passage. "I'm just a little black rain cloud hovering under the honey tree. I'm only a little black rain cloud. Pay no attention to little me."
We enjoyed a very pleasant walk in the area of Pine Log Branch thanks to Luke Owens and his Eagle Scout project. A path had been cut through the jungle-like thickets and puncheons had been laid in the wet areas to keep us above the mud. Looked as if a lot of hard work had been put in by all those involved.
In the late afternoon, we arrived at Sand Pond, a lovely body of water with pond cypress lining the shore. There's an extensive picnic area and campground and we had been planning to overnight there, but we were put off by the $20 fee. Don't think so! We hiked a mile further and are now camped next to our own cypress-lined pond at no cost at all. My only worry at the moment is our resupply tomorrow. Will the little country store be open on a Sunday? If so, will it carry enough hiker essentials to satisfy our needs? We'll see.
Sunrise at Rattlesnake Lake South
Pine Tree Path
Pine Log Branch