Start: The 88 Store, Ocala National Forest
Finish: CR 523
Distance: 231.2 miles (372 km)
Time: 7.5 days (December 30, 2011 – January 6, 2012)
Daily Average: 30.8 miles (49.6 km – including a zero day for New Years with friends in Orlando)
Total Distance: 882.3 miles (1419.7 km)
- New Year’s Eve: A big thanks to Tony, Laura and all of the Orlando crew for their wonderful hospitality and rides to and from the trailhead. This was the only zero, or rest day I took throughout the FT, and it was fantastic to be able to spend it with dear friends, catching up on old times and bringing in what will hopefully be a fantastic year for one and all.
- Ocala National Forest – I include Ocala NF in the highlights not so much because it was a particularly stunning place to hike, but more so because of the fact that if provided a good stretch of road-free walking, something which Florida Trail thru-hikers soon learn not to take for granted.
- Big Tree Park: Short side trip was well worth the effort. This tiny park contains “The Sentator”, the largest pond cypress in the United States and reputedly one of the oldest trees in the world (approx. 3500 years old).
- Osceola County Police: During the interminable road walk mentioned below, there was one solitary bright spot. Around 9.30am one morning I was stopped by the roadside removing some layers. With all my gear strewn over the ground, a police car rolled up beside me. I thought to myself, “here we go, I’m about to be mistaken for a hobo”. I couldn’t have been more wrong. A young officer by the name of Clayton had stopped more out of curiosity than anything else. An outdoorsman himself, we spent the next 20 minutes or so chatting about the Florida Trail and the other hikes I am doing over here in the States and Canada. We eventually said our goodbyes and he drove off………………….. fast forward about 8 miles and 2.5 hours later…………………..I was still heading south on CR419 when another police car stopped, lights flashing, and who should emerge but none other than Clayton, this time laden with bottles of gatorade and spring water. In an area where quality water sources were few and far between, I could not have been happier if Saint Nick himself had turned up with a sleigh full of Belgian beer and a box of Lindt chocolate.
- The 30 mile stretch of road walking between Yates Rd. and US 192. Least favourite section of the entire FT.
- No camera (dead batteries) until after Paisley.