Date- February 6, 2019
Location- side of trail
Distance Traveled Today- 16.2 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 427.8 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 80s, no wind
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- none
Days without shower- 1
Days without laundry- 1
CatFox Status- Great
Food Eaten – pancakes, spaghettios, tuna
Hippie Chick and Dorris made us all delicious oatmeal pancakes for breakfast. I’ve never had them before and I was blown away by how filling they were, but also by how much they didn’t taste like oatmeal.
We hit the road with Poet and his dad around 8:30am and were back in Paisley by a little after 9 am. After hugs and farewells, Schweppes and I did a small resupply at the Dollar General and were on trail a little after 10 am.
It was hot, and there wasn’t a breeze to speak of. Luckily we were amongst dense slender pines and tall scrub all day – affording spottily consistent shade. Still, the sweat poured.
Katana did great. She’s become so comfortable on my pack, she does everything up there short of curling into a ball. I let her hike a bit, but the trail was quite narrow for most of the day, and she doesn’t particularly enjoy hiking in high heat anyway.
We pushed hard and consistently for the first ten miles and made it to Alexander Springs – a crystal clear spring and recreation area in the Ocala National Forest. We didn’t have any designs to swim, but I did want to check it out and maybe get a cold drink.
Dogs weren’t allowed, but the kind older lady at the entrance booth offered to watch Katana for me while we checked out the springs for half an hour. When we finished up, I don’t think she wanted to give her back, as Katana was curled up under her desk. Too bad, kind lady – Katana’s moving on!
We learned there was a large Rainbow Gathering of Rainbow People in the area, and even spotted a few of them. If you’re unfamiliar with the Rainbow People (no official affiliation with the LGBTQ community), then boy are you in for a treat. There’s really too much to write about on my phone, so I’m providing a link.
They’re supposed to be a very peaceful “hippie-like” bunch of individuals who get together for peace and love, but I’ve heard from many sources that their gatherings attract more than a few shady characters, and that hikers have been robbed and stolen from in the past. To give you an idea, “Jack,” from the infamous “Jack and Jill” couple who picked us up in Lickdale, PA on the AT (you’ll know the reference if you’ve read my AT book) – was raised by Rainbow People up until the age of 12. When we met him in 2014, he’d just finished serving 7 years in prison. #Peace&LoveOnEarth
But seriously, aside from a few quirks and personality disorders, Jack was a nice guy. I don’t know what his charges were, so I can’t be too judgemental.
While walking along a short stretch of road, an old 80s Ford pickup full of Rainbow People going in the opposite direction pulled over. “Where are you going?” One of the men asked out the window. I pointed in front of me with my staff… “That way,” I said. “Oh, ok,” replied the man, sounding slightly offended and confused. I felt bad and expanded my answer – “We’re just headed to a trailhead to hike.” “Ooooh,” he said, and they pulled off.
I’m not sure I’m ready for my first Rainbow Gathering while hiking with a blind dog. If I happen upon it, fine, but I’m not going out of my way just yet…
All in all it was a hot and mostly uneventful day. The trail was dry, if not a little close and scratchy from overgrown scrub, but overall it was good trail.
We hiked a bit into the dark and made camp in a small opening on the trail. None of the scrub oaks are big enough to hang from, so I’m on the ground again tonight.
I learned something interesting today. There are over 300 rhesus macaques living in this part of central Florida. It used to be over 1,000, but they culled them way down several years ago. They’ve been thriving here since they escaped an eco-attraction back in the 1930s.
The state is still trying to figure out what to do with them, as these ones carry a strain of herpes that is deadly to humans.
If I could see a wild monkey on this hike, my life would almost be complete. The skunk ape legends now have a little more clout behind them…
I’m looking forward to hitting Juniper Springs tomorrow. Second time’s a charm. I doubt we’ll try to canoe, but if it’s hot I may just take a dip…