Saturday, November 23rd, 2019
First thing in the morning, we had to get our feet wet. I guess it’s good we stopped hiking when we did.
There were infinite spiders and we passed several weekenders hiking the trail before breaking at the SR-19 trailhead for an early lunch and to dry out our gear.
The next stretch was super mellow, we met a couple who were hiking for the weekend with their two small dogs. The guy had an Appalachian Trail hat on, so Frisbee asked if they thru hiked. They had only hiked a short section, but were out on a practice hike to prepare for an AT or a PCT thru hike. They were still undecided. They picked our brains a little bit about hiking and traveling long term as a couple. They realized what they wanted in life and it wasn’t to work until they were too old to reap the fruit of their labor. They just weren’t exactly sure how to go about it. They’re adventurers in the making!
On the final stretch of Ocala, we passed a scout troop, a group of school children, a man with a rifle walking with his cute daughter holding a walkie talkie, and a barking dog hidden in the brush. We thought the dog was lost, but met a woman sitting on a truck bed with two hounds in cages below her. She was with a hunting club and the dog we heard was hers, and the man with the rifle and the little girl were her family. She gave us water and told us the hounds have GPS trackers on them and the one that we heard barking was a little confused!
We saw a few more hunters before we completed the Ocala section. A man named Bill who was wandering around the trailhead parking lot gave us a ride to Paisley, which was just under a mile away. We got 2 slices of pie at the Dollar General and after using the outlet out front to charge our electronics, we walked next door to Palermo Pizza & Italian Restaurant for some meatball subs to finish filling the void. With full bellies, we returned to the trail by foot as the sun was setting. That’s when shit hit the fan.
Once we crossed the street to walk through the private property that the trail traveled through, there were very few markers and blazes and no clear trail path. The field was also a maze of small trees filled in with nearly waist-high grasses. This stretch would have been tricky in the daytime, but we had the pleasure of trying to navigate it in the dark of night. When we reached the edge of the property, a truck was waiting for us with the headlights on.
“This is when we get murdered,” I told Frisbee.
I was only semi-sarcastic, but too irritated to be fearful. As soon as we crossed the road where the trail continued, the truck sped off. I’m guessing it was the owner of the field making sure we weren’t causing trouble after seeing our headlamps shining all over the place.
Next, we actually got a bit scared when we saw glowing eyes staring back at us. Bear eyes glow red from what I’ve been told, so we knew it wasn’t a bear. I couldn’t tell if it was green or blue, but whatever it was, it was the same height as a mountain lion and it wasn’t moving as we approached. The closer we got, the more I could see it’s silhouette.
“Yeah. That’s definitely a mountain lion.”
Frisbee grabbed the bug spray and I asked him to hand me my trekking pole. It wasn’t strong, but the tip was sharp. We yelled. It didn’t move. We yelled again and it took off. That’s when we realized it was actually a deer.
“I am so done with today!”
It must have been laying down, thinking we couldn’t see it before we scared it off and that made it look like a large cat.
As we tripped over roots concealed by a thick layer of leaves, I kept getting a whiff of an odor that smelled like Watermelon Jolly Ranchers. I still can’t explain that. We also saw several armadillos rummaging around and more glowing eyes, all deer. We walked down a dirt road before the trail merged off back into the woods. I was over it. We were over it. We were originally going to hike 6 miles from town, but decided to cut it short stopping at mile 699.8 under some low hanging tree branches on semi-flat ground.
But wait, there’s more! As we settled in, it began to drizzle. We waited for it to stop, and it did. There was no rain in the forecast. This was short lived. It came back full force so we packed up and hiked in the rain, searching for a place to pitch our tarps. Frisbee had read a comment in the guide about a shelter with a working power outlet. I kept my expectations low. I didn’t think we would find it if it existed at all to begin with.
It took some searching but we found it. The power wasn’t important, but the roof over our heads, although leaky, was great to have. We were drenched and tired. After feeling a bit more revived, we both began to pull up the weeds that had grown under the roof. This was a harder task than expected. Then we set up our bivies, laying our compactor bags on top of us in a weak attempt to block the dripping water from the roof above. My headlamp broke during this process to add insult to injury. The mosquitoes buzzed loudly in my ears all night, and I would only catch a couple hours of light sleep before sunrise.
26.8 miles (43.1 km)
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