“Rise and shine, it’s a new day!” I had to tell myself (out loud) after hitting the snooze button for the second time this morning. My right knee had woken me up a few times wanting a placemant adjustment, but other than that, I slept pretty well after yesterdays long day. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve had a few ‘critter free’ nights in a row, which has really helped me enjoy the days better. Fingers crossed it stays that way.
Although I hit the snooze button a few times, it was still dark as I held my flashlight in my mouth to get breakfast ready and to tear down camp. I was feeling pretty good, but I set my mileage goal under 20 for the day to give myself a break. I didn’t have a camp spot picked out, but planned on stealth camping along the trail before I reached the town of Hampton. So with food in my belly and my bag packed, I set out at 7:15am to see what was in store for today.
The first 5 miles were through the rest of Gold Head Branch State Forest. It is mostly a long leafed pine forest and with the heavy dew over a recently controlled burn forest floor, the air was filled with a smoky pine scent and I pleasant hiking conditions. I read on an informational placard that the long leaf pine was used for the masts of old ships, so I began to notice sunkin ships everywhere with their masts sticking out of the ground :). I was also able to pick up some cell service atop the tallest hill, so I took an early break to answer messages and post yesterday’s blog. I figured since it was a short miles day and the weather was looking to hold off again, what was the rush?
Right after I left Gold Head Branch, I entered into ‘Camp Blanding’ a National Guard Military reservation. It is open to hikers, and you just have to fill out a registry as you enter and apon leaving. This relatively new section of the Florida Trail is worth the 5.7 miles hiked. It kind of reminded me the Ocala National Forest with all the hills, but what it has that I’ve not seen yet is big, deep, crystal clear lakes. Even the rivers were over chest deep but as clear as if they were empty. I stood on one of the bridges and watched the fish swim by and the long green water grass sway in the flowing current. When I finally got to my lunch spot which was a covered picnic table on the shores of Magnolia lake, I saw on my map app that this was the site used for the movie G.I. Jane and some of the set was still there (collapsing from time). I tried to remember the scenes from the movie, but it has been a long time and nothing looked too familiar.
After leaving the military reservation, it was time for the dreaded road walk to the next section of wooded trail. It was five miles of me trying to keep my feet on level surfaces and avoid the traffic. This road march came with a surprise though, a Sunoco gas station! It was at the end of the road march and I couldn’t help myself from stopping in to get some extra calories. By some, I mean a pint of ice cream (600 cal), a can of raviolis (500 cal), a jumbo hunny bun (550 cal) a bottle of Gatorade (250 cal) and an apple (for my healthy 100 cal). I also used their outlets to give my phone and charger a 45 minute bump and filled my water bottles from the hose spigot. It was a great place to stop, and the workers were so hiker friendly that they made sure I found the outlets right away and never once mentioned how bad I smell :).
After leaving Tony’s Sunoco, I got on a little trail that runs between private property to the next town. I only hiked a few miles before I found two sutible trees out of sight from land owners and also out of the surrounding swamp (by a few feet:)). There is rain on the way for tonight, and swamps up ahead for tomorrows travels, so it should make for a fun day 🙂
Magnolia lake. The trail goes all the way around and I ate lunch on the opposite side from where I took this picture
a deep, clear river flowing to an unknown location
my swamp side camp. The mosquitoes are happy I stopped here 🙂
a couple of cool shade trees on the shore of magnolia lake