Trip Report Pt2: Florida National Scenic Trail

Roads and Rivers

The hiking trail doesn't last very long as we are put back onto roads. Passing over a bridge I spot a massive alligator roughly 15ft(4.5m) long. Calling Goose over and trying to get my camera, it gets skittish and dives into the water. Goose gets a glance of it but neither of us were fast enough to snap a shot of it. The road walk continues and we pass multiple water caches throughout the day. We do enter a very short section of swampy trail that is quite fun and not well marked before being spit out again on the road.

We arrive at the Micco landing trailhead, Goose insists that we backtrack and get some food at a local shop. Walking back a mile or so along the road we arrive at this place called Cracker Trail Country Store. Essentially a gas station but they have a hot food section in the back. Here we find Pine Needle and Farmboy again with another hiker named Rainbow. I buy a cheeseburger, spaghetti and meat sauce, a banana and then a little bit of junk food for resupply. Rainbow had bought jalapeƱo poppers and couldn't finish them so Goose and I split the remaining bunch.

Fish mailbox

After being throughly fed I managed to convince Goose that we should just end the day early since there was a campsite just at Micco landing. He capitulated so we backtracked to the trail to the camp. There was a camper already there with his dog and he was fine with us camping out. Rainbow caught up to us at camp and Boots was there too! Talking with Boots, I hadn't seen her since the second day of hiking. She was apparently having a really bad time due to feet issues and she was getting off trail for a week or so to recover. The man who was camped there offered Goose and I some cooked hamburger meat, which we graciously accepted.

Once again setting up my new bug net early before the swarms came in worked perfectly and I had another peaceful night.

Today was filled with a lot more trail than we've seen previously and that was great. Early in the morning we caught up to Rainbow who was stopped along the trail and warns us that there is a boar up ahead. We try to shoo it but it doesn't seem to care. Eventually we go closer to inspect what is going on and it turns out to be already hogtied up and left alone. Hopefully the hunter will come back to release or put it out of its misery.

While walking on a connector gravel road to the next section of trail a truck pulls over. They offer Goose and I us two fruit cups each and let us return the trash! Upon reaching the trailhead we see Pine Needle. He is flustered and tell us he's getting off the trail. Rambler had apparently tested positive for COVID, was still on trail and Pine Needle has a sore throat thinking he had been infected by a close encounter with Rambler. Yikes.

Prairie Prairie

We finished the day by hiking to the edge of the Kissimmee park boundary and camping alongside Rainbow. There is rain scheduled for the following day.

Goose and I decide to start early to hopefully reach some shelter before the rain dumps on us. We make good progress and enter the beautiful fields of the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. Despite our wishes it begins to spittle for half an hour before pouring rain from the heavens. We manage to do 12mi(19.2km) before 1000h and arrive at the Kissimmee campground. We hide inside a bathroom for a few minutes as we try to figure out what to do. Eventually we go over to the main office and we see hiker packs leaned up against the wall. Going in we find that Shortcut is here! The staff in the office are super kind, letting us stay inside the building to wait out the rain and allowing us to leave gear outside to dry.

In the meantime as it continues to rain Goose and I are able to launder our clothes and take showers using the facilities. Rainbow and Farmboy eventually catch up and all five of us sit indoors relating stories to pass time. Unfortunately for us it was a weekend so the office was closing earlier. The head ranger warned us that due to the rain we could expect chest-high water for the section of trail we would take to leave the preserve... At 1400h we were kindly forced back outside but with good luck the sun began to peek out, the rain stopped and the conditions were perfect.

Rainbow and Farmboy decided to stay behind and split a campsite, so Goose, Shortcut and I left together to reach a camp near the northern boundary of the park. Though the trail was flooded at points we came no where near chest-high water... The campsite was under some live oaks and had a pitcher pump that we could draw sulphureous tasting water from. I set up my shelter well before dusk but Goose insisted that he'd be able to cowboy camp. Sure enough at 1800h the skeeters were out and Goose had to get up to quickly deploy his bug net.

Live oaks

Waking up early again, Goose and I began to race towards our next stop which was River Ranch Resort. Along the way we crossed over a lock and chatted for a few minutes with the lock master who was living out there alone. Continuing on at fast pace we passed through fields of roaming cows and prairie landscapes. Eventually reaching River Ranch we were met with a very upscale resort with everyone driving around in golf carts to get around the huge complex.

Our first priority was to pick up the resupply boxes that we had shipped to ourselves here prior. Getting mine was no issue but Goose's was still in back room storage and it would be a few hours before it could be processed. To kill time we went over to the general store and each bought a large pizza. I ended up eating all of mine while Goose packed out 4+ slices. Eventually Shortcut caught up to us and we spent a few hours in a library so that we could charge our electronics. Goose and I played a game of chess which he won due to a blunder of mine. Reversing and playing from the blunder I was able to gain a false win to mend my ego a little.

A friend of Goose's, Noel, that lived in Florida drove to meet us, bringing us a bunch of fruit to eat which was very nice. As the day wound down, Noel offered to drive us back to the trail. We were followed out by security because I suppose a bunch of homeless looking hikers was not the usual clientele. Making it to trail, we hopped over a fence and just set up camp under some oaks. This time Goose set up his bug net from the get go and we had an excellent night with the full moon shinning bright.

Another big road walk ahead of us and the campsite ~31mi(49.6km) away, the day passed fairly slowly. The temperature was fairly cool all day which was a change from the sweltering heat we had been having every day since. We entered and camped within the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area. My stomach wasn't feeling so good and we went to bed for the night. Shortcut catches up a few hours later.

Today was warmer as we headed out. We passed an exotic animal enclosure and caught a glimpse of a male lion. While walking through the tall grass we came across a cotton mouth and a pygmy rattlesnake, both too close for comfort. Today we did ~27.5mi(44km) and by 1700h we reached Three Lakes Campground which already had a few hikers set up. Stink Pickles, Frisbee and Weelo were all hanging out. This time Shortcut catches up just before everyone passes out for the night.

This first truly massive road walk sits before us today. Something like 30mi(48km) along country roads and a major highway. It's monotonous and very hot. We catch up to Stink Pickles along the way who is peering over barbed wire fences into farm fields looking for psychedelic mushrooms that may be growing out of cow patties. Goose and I take a number of long breaks under the occasional tree on the side of the road. We are making great time but the cost is felt in our feet. I spot several boar and bobcats petrified and rotting along side of the major highway section.

Just as the sun sets we complete the road walk section and are in a flooded grass plain. I begin to speed up even more worried that if I set up in the dark I will be eaten alive by mosquitoes. The trail becomes extremely narrow and claustrophobic, winding through palmettos. At this point it's pitch black and I am almost unable to find the designated campsite. I have no idea where Goose is but I set up and wait for him to arrive. I wait a few hours and he never shows up.

I wake up early, still concerned that I lost Goose. The next stop, Christmas, is just some 10mi(16km) away so I race towards it. After trying to contact him incessantly via text he finally responds and says that he's at the small grocer in town. I arrive and we both order biscuits and gravy from the kitchen. Not only was this my first time ever eating biscuits and gravy but they were absolutely amazing, and would be the best I'd have all trail.

We drag our feet to leave the grocer since the weather forecast is predicting a few days of rain. After some back and forth we both agree to take another zero day and hide out in a motel. We grab an Uber to get to an eastern Orlando suburb and find a room. We go to the nearby Publix, each grab a whole roast chicken, a parfait and a bag of salad and pig out for the afternoon while watching Rush Hour 1, 2 and 3.

Our second zero day on trail. We eat a bunch of McDonald's for breakfast and Goose discovers his love for McGriddles. For dinner we go back to Publix, this time buying a frozen dinner of fried rice and again grabbing a bag of salad and a parfait. Tonight's movie on TV is the Gladiator.

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