Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 4

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

Per usual, everything was wet with dew in the AM, but I slept fairly well for a change! Even while the creatures of the night stomped around us the entire time. We walked across Hoffman’s Crossing which had to be the longest footbridge I’ve ever crossed over, then it were back to dirt roads.

As soon as we started the road walk, we met a hunter named Jay Hess, who hopped out of his truck to chat. He was excited to ask us about our hike and was waiting for the other members of the hunting club he belonged to to show up. They would be releasing the hounds to hunt for deer. We wished him luck and warned him about Viper, the hiker right behind us. I don’t recall Viper wearing any blaze orange and wanted them to be aware just in case.

When we reached FL-20, we took a snack break then ditched our wind pants. There was a flooded ravine that awaited us on the other side.

With wet feet we traveled along an old railroad bed, then tripped over hidden cypress knees that were pushing up through the soil while walking besides a canal overtaken by green, duck weed. Then we got turned around before trudging through tall grasses and spotting a Bald Eagle in flight before walking on pavement.

There was a road across FL-19 that ended with Buckman Lock with one residential driveway branching off of it. Being such an untraveled road, we didn’t see much issue with laying some of our soaked gear on one side on the pavement once we passed the residence’s driveway. Our gear dries faster on hot, dry pavement versus dewy grass.

As we ate and waited for our stuff to dry, one forest service truck passed, we waved, and the driver chuckled. We waved again when he drove back to the highway. We had been there a while, so our stuff was nearly dry when another forest service truck came down the road. We waved and he stopped to scold us, and suggested we use the sharp fence behind us as a clothesline. I guess you could say we were partially in the wrong, but we weren’t blocking the road, and we really didn’t want to spend the entire day drying out gear when pavement cuts the time in half. Besides, no one else was passing through here. Frisbee semi-sarcastically wished him a good day and we continued to dry our stuff, packing away the items that were done.

We kinda understood the forest service guy’s irritation once we entered the lock. There was a huge field with picnic tables that we were completely unaware of. Oh well.

We had to call to get the code to the lock, but before anyone picked up, one of the employees saw us and waved us to the other side of the fence. His name was Arthur and he unlocked the gates for us while venting his frustrations over it.

“If they were the ones who had to unlock the gates everyday, they probably would just leave them that way.”

It looked like a tricky lock, not the standard combination style that you would use on school lockers. He led us over the barge, and we walked for a while next to the canal on top of the levee. The barge was a controversial project, the 1960’s Cross Florida Barge Canal project, opposed by locals and naturalists, and supported by politicians who thought it would boost the economy. The project was deauthorize in the early 90’s after being only 1/3 of the way complete, and it’s been “a waste of tax dollars” ever since.

We saw a Gopher tortoise during this stretch, then we were back on a single track trail. We found a frog in the mailbox where the trail register was located and then saw a hawk bob and weave down the trail in front of us carrying a snake in his talons.

We were briefly back on pavement as we approached the dam by the Rodman Recreation Area. We ate while watching everyone fish, then filled our water bottles in the bathrooms before we continued walking down the road to the very scenic Rodman Trail. I was starting to see why people say the Ocala stretch of the Florida Trail is the most beautiful.

We enjoyed the rest of our hike walking through pine forests before settling down. We could’ve walked further, it was still early, but we were feeling a little unmotivated.

We set up and heard gunshots from the hunters in the distance. At dusk, we saw a bear with his nose to the ground walk nearby us. Frisbee clapped his hands and yelled, but the bear didn’t care one bit. He smelled something interesting, but it wasn’t us! He was on a mission. I’d feel a bit more settled if we didn’t look like trash bags laying in the middle of the woods as we slept in our bivies.

He’d pass back through around midnight, but took off when he saw the light from our headlamps. The only other disturbance would be the howling and yipping of coyotes in the distance, which is less of a disturbance and more of a nighttime song that settles me to sleep most nights.


20.4 miles (32.8 km)


Jump Ahead to Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 5

Jump Back to Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 3

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