The morning rose clear and cloudless, but after bidding farewell to "Hammer" and enjoying the soft light of the early hour as I strode through a forest of palms, the sky turned gray and it began to rain. The first downpour happened while I was exiting the north gate of Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area. I took shelter under the branches of a young oak and waited for the heavy drops of rain to lessen. The second downpour occurred while I was hiking under the leafy canopy. Not being hit directly by the rain, I was nevertheless slowly getting soaked by the steady dripping from leaf, twig and branch. All hope of staying half-way dry were given up as the heavens opened at Orlando Wetlands Park and for the most part it continued to rain for the remainder of the day.
At Orlando Wetlands, instead of following the orange blaze along the fence line, it is best to walk up on the dike so you can view the marsh. The path atop the dike and the Florida Trail end up at the same place as you leave the park. Unfortunately, with it raining cats and dogs, on this day there wasn't much to see. A few coots and a blue heron amongst the lily pads and reeds were the only birdlife I spied. The animal that truly seemed to enjoy such inclement weather was the wild pig. I had my first sighting near a creek where two wild pigs were on the bank, heads lowered, drinking. When they saw me on the opposite side, they gave out a loud squeal and dashed off. The second sighting was another wild pig wallowing in the mud in a depression near the fence line. Pretty much the same reaction when it caught wind of me. No time to get the camera out before it was gone.
Coming out of Orlando Wetlands Park there is an exceptionally nice rest spot at the game check station on Wheeler Road. A small shelter houses two picnic tables and the door and windows are completely enclosed with mesh so the mosquitoes won't bother you. You can get potable water from the faucet and sink at the game dressing table just a few yards from the enclosure. I took the opportunity to get a brief respite from the elements, while eating a late lunch and filling up on water.
For me, the walk along Christmas Road was like the Bataan Death March. Ten miles on wet tootsies, my feet aching excruciatingly. The last few miles it felt like I was hobbling on nubs that were throbbing twice as fast as my heart. At one point a guy stopped to offer me a ride, but I declined. Am I insane?! As soon as I reached Mills Creek Camp, I set up my tent in a bit of a drizzle, crawled inside, took of my shoes and socks and lay down. Soooooo happy to be off my feet. Simply exhausted.
Oak Branch among Palms
Orlando Wetlands Park