Archive for the ‘Trail Reports’ Category

(A note of warning, no, there’s no bicycling in this report.  I had planned to make this trip with the bicycle, and it was a good thing I didn’t bring it.  You’ll see why in the story.  I did find some interesting service roads that would make excellent riding paths.  So this ended up being a scouting trip after all.)

I didn’t know there would be hogs.  Of course, I know they’re out there, I’ve seen plenty of them hiking in other nearby areas.  I just didn’t think that I’d cross paths with any on this trip.

Let me first explain why I was out “there”, and where “there” is.

I recently started finding my way back outdoors.  I took up trail biking (I can’t call it mountain biking, not down here in Florida.) with the intent of doing overnight and longer trips in the woods.  It turns out I wasn’t the only one interested in doing this, it is a growing activity called bikepacking.

My friend Mat invited me to join him on one of his expeditions.  Even after that misadventure, I still was interested in doing this.  Just on my terms from then on.

I then did a scouting trip for a potential area to do our next ride at.  This one went pretty well, but I caught myself jumping at sounds in the night, as well as some the next morning.

I don’t remember myself as being a skittish person while camping alone.  I used to do this quite often, in the mountains of New Hampshire.  I can’t recall staying up all night, listening to the sounds of twigs breaking, or birds making whatever sounds they make.  Yet that’s what I found myself doing, and I was only ten feet from my truck, and in a dedicated campground.

My next trip, I journeyed into the woods by bike, and set up camp far from any designated location.  This one was just as bad.  I didn’t sleep all too well.  I kept my ears perked for any odd sounds.  I listened for any sign that some creatures was more interested in me than I wanted it to be.  Yet I had fun.  I couldn’t wait to get back out in the woods again.  It didn’t make sense.  I discussed this on an internet forum about hammock camping.  It turns out I’m not alone in this.  I proposed that maybe it’s a need to conquer our fears, but in a “safe” environment.  We’re sure, in the bright light of day, that nothing is out to harm us.  Yet, as the sun sets, and the sounds begin, there’s this little voice in the back of our heads starts saying, “what was that?  It sounded like a bear coming to sniff you like you’re a nylon wrapped burrito on a string.”

So, this brings us up to this particular outing.  I wanted to test my theory, in a safe environment.  Somewhere nearby, that I could do a quick hike in, hang my hammock, check my fears, and hike back out the next morning.  The place that best fit that criteria was a section of the Florida Trail that cut through the Lafayette Creek WMA, and along the Nokuse Plantation conservation area.  The trailhead I used can be found at the north end of JW Hollington Rd in Freeport FL.  I was heading for a trail shelter that should have been within easy reach of my hiking abilities.  That’s where my assumptions for this expedition, started to break down.

Everything I need in one bag, except nocturnal courage.

I slid into the shoulder straps of my bag, and I headed for the trail.

The intersection, where I picked up the trail.

It started off well enough, high dry ground, a easy meandering path.  I quickly found a pace I could live with, and get to my destination, maybe with time to spare.

An easy, well marked trail.

The trail descended into a small wet area, that soon lifted back up to a service road, and a bridge that crossed a creek.

The vegetation says it’s getting wetter…

The ground is under water some.

This must be Wolf Creek.

This is better than a couple slimy 4×4’s

A nice little creek, even better when there’s a bridge.

Well, there were signs that there might be trouble ahead, but I failed to take heed.  No, really, there was an actual sign…

Less time photographing, more time reading and some trouble might have been avoided.

I didn’t actually read the sign, I did take a picture of it though.  I was sure it wouldn’t apply to me, we hadn’t received that much rain lately, had we?

The trail crossed into the Water Management Area.  At this time of year it’s a fairly safe area.  But in another couple months, you are running the risk of being shot out here.

Crossing into the WMA

The first section of this trail followed a service road.  This made for easy walking, if a less than purely natural experience.

Service roads are easy trails, but who wants easy? Sometimes I do…

Even though I was walking along a “road” there were still plenty of things to see.  One of which was this beauty berry bush.  The berries are not very tasty right off the branch, but with enough sugar, they make a very nice jelly.

Terrible trailside taste, but an excellent jelly flavor.

This was certainly a longleaf pine area.  This was a very nice looking stand.  A few dead trees are left standing, which make for good habitat for animals such as woodpeckers.

Dead pines are good pines, for woodpeckers.

Woodpeckers weren’t the only wildlife I was seeing signs of.  This was not some local domestic puppy dog’s track…

My my Grandmother, what big feet you have…

In my treks of the area, I’ve found a few of these erosion pools.  This is not the most dramatic one I’ve ever seen, but it was interesting enough to catch my attention for this shot.

Not quite deep enough for swimming, but the sand will surprise you with it’s depth.

As I hiked along, I started to notice a certain smell.  It was a rather earthy fragrance, but it had a hint of something.  A sort of farm feel to it.  I soon realized what I was smelling.  It was pig poop.  The visual evidence of hog activity was soon impossible to ignore.

The hoof tracks as well as a snout indent are plainly visible here.

Even with this new addition to the trail, it made for a pretty path to follow.

Cutting through the young longleaf pines.

The only downside to this trail so far was all of the spiders.  I kept encountering large golden orb spiders.  And when I say encounter, I mean, walk along until at the last second see a few lines of something in front of your eyes, then realize too late, flailing your hands in front of you while the sticky transparent sewing thread lines wrap around your head and you end up with a face full of web.  To make matters worse, it seems the spiders like to position themselves right at face level but just off to one side, on the web.  So that as you walk headlong into their trap, the webbing forms around your head and shoulders, and the spider, dropping to avoid whatever destructive forces just ruined his dinner catcher, lands somewhere on your chest or shoulders.  This guy was on me for a while, before I flung it off, onto this palmetto bush.

I like them better, when they’re not all “in my face.” Or on it.

A spider in the bush is worth none on my face.

The webs these guys produce are very strong.  You’ve often gone two or three feet past where you  made contact, before the lines will break.  On some bike rides I think I add about five pounds of web, from start to finish.

I had started coming up on cleared areas.  I’m not sure if they were doing logging, or trying to restore the habitat to what it would have been like before people settled the area.  Naturally, fire would keep the pines spread further apart, but humans have been keeping forest fires out of these forests for a while now.

Thinned forest, it’s looking Squatchy in here.

The ground got wet, and kept getting wetter.  I soon found myself past the logging area, and into the creek bed.  The trail followed this for quite some time.  Sometimes the trail would hide from me…

hiding trail

Sometimes there were things that I wished stayed hidden… as long as they didn’t hide under where I was stepping.  Once I had seen this guy, I slowed down and started paying more attention to where I was placing my feet…

Water moccasin, or Cotton Mouth. A venomous snake, and not something I was happy to encounter as it was getting dark.

Just try picking which one of these tangled roots are safe to step on, or which are actually snakes NOT to be stepped on.  Quick, the water is getting deeper, and the sun is sinking lower.

Root snakes.

I wonder who thought it would be a great idea to blaze a trail through a swamp.  I was also wondering what was on that sign, and if it had described a detour I should have taken.  It’s ok, any time now I’ll break from the swamp, and I’ll find the shelter where I can spend the night.

Swampy trail.

I don’t trust these types of bridges anymore.  Some of them are slicker than snot.  Walking along out there with nothing to think about but not stepping on snakes, and trying to find the next painted blaze, one gets to thinking.  This IS a bridge, bridges have trolls, maybe this troll has an allergy problem, and is nasal excretions is what I’m slipping on as I try to walk across these things…

Snot Logs

Finally, the trail began to climb back up out of the swamp.  The shelter must surely be close now.  A quick check of the GPS, and, no, not quite to the camp site yet.  I’m only halfway there.  Well, now that I’m in the open again, and not so worried about stepping on a cottonmouth, I can make up some lost time.

High and almost dry.

Being out of the oppressive swamp, I was able to see sky again, and what a sky it was.  I was out just in time for sunset!

A nice sunset.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t supposed to cross the creek here, since the bridge seemed to be taking a dip…

Upturned Bridge

I couldn’t help but think of the Ding-A-Ling song when I saw this sign.

Both hands clinging to my ding-a-ling.

At about this point in the trail, it was getting too dark to take pictures.  The flash was reflecting off the moisture in the air, and was leaving a very blurry and grainy image.  Also, not too much longer after I took this picture, I got lost.  The trail, winding through the swamp, was obliterated by the high water.  There were piles of debris piled here and there from where the creek had risen above it’s banks.  I tried using the flashlight feature on my phone to find the orange blazes on the trees that would tell me I was on the right path, but there were none to be found.  I turned around and fumbled my way through the inky darkness.  Only knowing I was on the trail, because I knew it followed the bank of the river, and that was the only ground that was mostly above water at that point.  I finally found my way back to an intersection I had decided would be my alternate route if something like this had happened.  I broke free from the swamp to see a large, and I mean LARGE cage trap next to the trail.  It was big enough, I considered shutting myself in it, and hanging my hammock inside.  Although I thought that if I didn’t wake up before whoever owned it came to check on it’s contents, I might have a hard time explaining why I was in there.  I walked on.

I finally picked a path along one of the service roads that led to a high spot covered in a longleaf pine stand.  I thought it would make a great place for camp, because it had a fairly clear understory, with trees spaced right for hanging my hammock.  But most importantly, it had a thick enough understory, that if anything tried to approach my sleeping area, it would make enough noise to alert me.  I walked a short distance from my campsite and made a quick meal of a roast beef sandwich I picked up at Publix on my way to the trail head.  I buried the wrapper, and made my way back to the hammock.  I crawled in, and tried for sleep.  The frogs and bugs were singing their song, but it was one I knew well, and it could have aided me in my quest for sleep, except that little voice in me started speaking up.  I had checked the radar, and I knew that there was little chance of rain, so I left one corner of my tarp free of it’s stake, and I flipped it over the ridge line.  This gave me a sliver view of the night sky, between the fabric of the hammock and the tarp.

It was a very peaceful and relaxing view.  The tall pines were silhouetted against a somewhat starry sky.  Highlighted occasionally by flashes of lightning from a storm off to the south.

Then I heard a whisper.  Heard isn’t the right word, but the whisper was there.  That little voice  was back, and it kept suggesting that any time now I would see the head of Sasquatch peer in, blocking out that section of sky.  I started to dislike that little voice.

Soon it gave up on trying to scare me with mythical monsters, and it reminded me of all the hogs that were obviously in the area.  “Didn’t you see all those tracks?”  “Hogs can be very mean when they feel like it, and your butt is at perfect ramming height in this hammock.”

I wanted the voice to shut up, but it wouldn’t let me sleep.  “You know you can hear that squeal, that’s one of them hogs, just down the slope from here.”   Yeah yeah, but they’re busy rooting, they don’t care about me, I thought.  “I bet that grunt was a territorial male, and he just caught your scent in his area, and he’s not happy.”

I was really starting to hate that little voice at this point.  “It isn’t too late to pack all this stuff and follow the service road back to your truck, it shouldn’t take too long to get there.”  This actually sounded like a good idea.  I was wondering why I was doing this to myself.  I could be home in bed, comfortable and safe.  But, where’s the fun in that, right?

I decided the best way to silence my little voice, was to get some reading in.  This always helps me sleep when my mind gets racing on things it shouldn’t.  I was about halfway through a book on my Kindle called “From the Back Acres, A Humorous Guide to Organic Gardening.”  If that couldn’t help me get to sleep, nothing would.  Oddly enough, it worked, for a little while.

At about two am, the howls started.  I know they’re just coyotes, but they sounded like wolves.  The howls were bad enough, but then they started in with this yipping sound.  I’m guessing this is the young from the pack, joining in they best they can.  Great, I saw the movie “The Grey”, I’m within the pack’s den territory, my little voice was telling me that any time now the howls would get closer, and I’d soon be taking a trip, through a coyote’s digestive tract.

Out with the kindle again, and I was back to sleep.

Until about three am.  The pack I heard earlier had either gone around me, and was now to the south east of my site, or their calls were being challenged by another collection of coyotes.  More howls and yips got my little voice stirring again.  I could almost see the sadistic smile on it’s face, a face that looked like mine, but meaner, and with sharper teeth…

I had almost gotten back to sleep from this episode, when something large decided to make a path between my hammock and where I had stored my gear in between two trees on a rope.  I got out of the hammock, flashlight in hand, trying to see what this intruder was.  By the time I got clear of my hammock, the bug net, and the tarp, it had gone beyond the range of my light.  Some folks have suggested it might have been an armadillo.  If so, it had a bad case of asthma, because before I decided to get up, I could hear it breathing from several feet away.

I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to fall asleep again.  I woke up the next time, at about four thirty in the morning.  A terrible grunting, choking, gurgling type sound roused me from my sleep.  This time it wasn’t anything to be afraid of though.  It was just me waking myself up with my own snoring.  I laid awake for a while, considering my night, the experiences I had, and how my imagination interpreted them and I thought about the morning ahead of me.  I only had about an hour or so before it was light enough to call it officially morning, so I got up and set to making myself some breakfast.  I had a new toy to play with.  I had made myself a wood gasifier stove out of a paint can and a soup can.  Tests at home showed it worked well enough, but I was excited to try it in the field.  My alcohol fueled stoves were great, but they didn’t work if I ran out of liquid fuel.  This stove would work with twigs, or slivers of wood shaved from dead branches.  This meant I didn’t have to carry any fuel to cook with it.

DIY Wood Gas Stove

With real flames!

The wood burns from the top down and produces a gas, which is sucked into the double wall chamber of the two cans.  It then vents back out at the top and is ignited.  You can see the gas flames in the image above.

I boiled up some water in no time, with just a few broken twigs from a dead branch.  I made a cup of coffee and some very plain oatmeal. By the time I was done eating, it was light enough to take some shots of camp before I put it all away.

The color of the tarp lets it blend well with this environment.

I love this tarp, it provides plenty of protection against wind, rain, and Sasquatches.

The hammock, without it’s protective outer barrier, and just the anti bug defense system in place.

Cinch bag on the line.

I love this little bag that is mounted on the hammock line.  I just disconnect the clip from my tree strap, and I start stuffing the hammock into the bag.  When I get to the other end, I unclip from that tree strap, and I cinch the bag down, and it’s ready to be put away.  When it’s time to deploy the hammock, I just clip it from the open bag end, and walk to the other tree.  The hammock (if done correctly) never touches the ground, and that way it doesn’t get wet, dirty, muddy, or covered in bugs.

Leave no trace.

I like it when you can’t even tell that I was camped there.  A few crushed grasses is all that’s left to tell on me.

Evidence of my nocturnal visitor, these aren’t armadillo tracks!

I packed all my gear back into my bag, just as a WMA truck drove down one of the service roads that bordered the stand of forest I was in.  I don’t think he saw me.  Stealth camping at it’s best!   I would have liked to talk to him though.  I’d liked to have shared my night’s “survey” with him.  I’m sure they’re working on reducing both the numbers of coyotes and the hogs.

Well, it was time to hit the trail again.  My phone’s battery was dying fast, and I wanted to get it charged back up enough that I could call my wife and give her the bad news that nothing had eaten me in the night.

I was not taking the swamp trail back to the truck!

Nokuse Plantation to the left of me, the WMA to the right.

Soon I was back at the trailhead and my truck.  I made that phone call, and I headed home.  I needed to find my bed, so I could finally get some sleep!

The trailhead

Map of this adventure.

I had so much fun on my driving tour of Blackwater River State Forest last week, that I had to get back there to do a little riding.  Mat, my friend from the trip report to Saint Marks NWR is leaving it up to me to plan the next bikepacking trek, so this was an opportunity to do some more scouting.

I made plans to head back to the forest on my next days off.  So when the day came, I loaded my gear into the truck and headed north.  Yet once again, stormy weather intruded into my plans.

Rain would make the ride much less pleasant than I had planned for.  Fortunately blue skies broke through.  Things were looking up.

I did do a good amount of truck touring around the state forest.  I arrived early, and intended to do an evening ride to where I would camp, then return to the truck the next morning.  As usual, I found an old building to take a picture of.

As I had promised myself, I went back to Krul Lake Recreation Area.  This time under better weather conditions.  The nicer weather was also more inviting to the folks who wanted to go swimming.

Just behind where I was standing to take the picture of the swimming area, is the start of the trail that leads to the Grist Mill and the suspension bridge.  At the entrance to the trail, there’s a sign prohibiting people from bringing bicycles onto the boardwalk.

It was worth leaving the bike behind though.  The walk was easy and surprisingly short.  It turned out I had taken the longer route, but it was an enjoyable stroll through the woods.

The first of the two attractions you come to is the Grist Mill.  They built it in such a way that you can see through the walls into the workings of the mill.  Inside is a simple gearing set up that transfers the water power to the grinding stone.

A view of the waterwheel that powers the mill.  There is a channel built from the dammed lake to the top of the waterwheel.

The mill is powered by a water wheel.  The wheel turns, and it’s axle enters the mill, and that is connected to a large truck tire, which acts as a gear over which a belt would be placed.  This belt is turned and at the other end is the system that turns the stone that grinds the corn.

Soon, I made my way from there to the second destination, the suspension bridge.  The pictures online did not do this structure justice.  I was very impressed with it’s construction.  It’s a very appealing piece of architecture.

The suspension bridge was well worth the short walk.  As I returned towards my truck, I got another view of the grist mill from that direction.

I love moss, rocks and ferns.  All three are found at the spillway next to the Grist Mill.

The recreation area was fun, but I was there to give my bike gear a test ride.  So I found a place where the trail was intersected by a forestry road that I could leave my truck at.

Here’s the opening of the trail.  I saddled up and rode onto a section of the Juniper Creek Trail.

I will say this.  This trail is not one I would take the bike on again.  It’s a beautiful trail, but there are lots of obstacles that are not bike friendly.  Then there were the bridges.  These things were deadly.  Either the side by side 4×4’s or the more substantial looking plank bridge.  The wood had a layer of slime on them that made them like walking on ice.

The side by side bridges were difficult because it was too narrow to easily balance the bike and walk on the slippery surface at the same time.

The trail did have some great downhill sections.  They were fun to ride down.  Except where the trees were too close together.  Or where at the bottom there’s roots or trees across that want nothing more, than to lock up your front wheel and toss you into the ground.

Then there were the uphill sections These were a little crazy in some spots.

The trail was narrow, and there were lots of things that liked to snag on flesh, like these Holly leaves.

The moss and ferns were everywhere.  I haven’t seen woods like this since leaving my old home in New England.  While I won’t be returning to ride on this trail on my bike, I’d love to do this again on foot.

Bring your ice skates…

I had been aiming for the “bluffs” that were supposed to be along the river.  Images and video online showed them as towering red cliffs that overlooked the river.  When I “found” them, I was less than impressed.  I prepared to set up my camp.  I made a few phone calls to let my wife know where I was planning to spend the night.  Something made me want to ride the “short” distance from where I was, to the road.  I jumped back on the bike and continued pedaling north.  Not far up the trail I passed the FT shelter.  I fully intending to check it out when I came back, but that didn’t happen.

I found a side trail that lead to a small beach on the river.  It was a beautiful spot, but I pushed on towards the road.

The trail climbed up out of the lower wet areas.  The terrain began to look more like the trails I ride on the coast.

The short ride to the road was turning out to be a lot longer than I had suspected.  Not so long that I needed to rest at this bench, no matter how nice of a location it was placed at.

While I was heading to the road, from the bluffs that I had planned to camp at, I noticed a rather dramatic change in the terrain, then an interesting view appeared.

And the true bluffs showed themselves .  My idea of riding out to the road was no longer important to me.

These bluffs were every bit as impressive as I had expected them to be.  I originally considered setting up camp in the forest that overlooked the river and bluffs, but then I decided to try to find my way into the hollow, where I would less likely to have someone stumble upon my camp.  I noticed the holes in the clay cliffs as I was looking around, but thought they were the results of local visitors like the “graffiti” that was carved into the walls.  My wife said they look like either Kingfisher holes or nests made by bank swallows.  Considering that I saw a kingfisher flying around, I suspected her first guess might be right.

A shot with my bike to show the scale of the bluffs. I set up my hammock just behind where I was standing when I took this image.

A view to the right from the last shot.

I really enjoyed exploring the crevices that erosion created from what must be impressive flows of water during rain storms.

Finally it was time to set up camp.  I started a fire, then began to remove my gear from the bike.  I really liked how easy it was to remove all of the bags from the bike.  I did find that the velcro system I had to hold the frame bag in was not sufficient.  I have an idea or two on how to repair that.  I was able to find some trees that would support my weight.  I only ended up needing to use one stake for my tarp, the other three lines were able to be tied off to the trees.

The hammock in the little cove of trees at the base of the bluffs.

I’m really impressed with how light it is.  I was also very happy with it’s color.  It’s a very neutral color that sets well with the vegetation around here.  This might prove helpful when I try my hand at some stealth camping.

My new Warbonnet Superfly tarp blends in with the environment quite nicely.

A view from above, my hammock and tarp merge nicely with the background.

One of the reasons I wanted to avoid encountering any people while I was camping, was because I wet my shorts.  Well, all of me was wet.  The rain had drenched the vegetation along the trail, the very very narrow trail.  Much of that water was transferred to me and my clothing.  While I had brought a spare shirt, underwear and socks, dry shorts were not in any of my bags.  In the morning I thought of setting my shorts next to the fire.  It worked well, in the picture below you can see the part of the shorts that were dried and the wet section that I had turned towards the fire.

Red Bluffs Laundry Service.

Part of the reason for this trip was to give my gear a more thorough field test.  The most recent version of my kitchen worked great.

My kitchen kit. The soda can stove, a pot support, the Fosters can pot, with lid, and a bottle of fuel.

I bought a silicone collapsable bowl and cup set from Walmart.  I was very pleased with how they worked out.

Morning revealed what an excellent site I had found to spend the night at.  I slept fairly well.  The only problems I encountered was that I was camped in a low spot, next to the river, which cooled off overnight.  Sometime around 3 am, I found myself a little colder than my blanket was able to overcome.  I had a second, mostly dry shirt that I was able to put on, and it helped quite a bit.  While no “alligators” climbed out of the water to hiss at me, there were several other noises in the night that caught my attention.  A bird that had a cry that sounded like a horse whinnying, which my wife told me was likely a screech owl was rather vocal all night.  A coyote or two howled a few times.  The river had strange sounding burbles that may or may not have been the creature from the black lagoon checking on my intrusion in his domain.  There’s something a little special about hearing a sound that you “grew up with” but never expected to be accosted by at five in the morning when you’re just waking up…. 

When the sun came up enough to actually see around, this was the scene I had next to my hammock.

I took my time getting ready to leave this campsite.  I poked around, and picked up all of the litter I could find.  I piled it up behind a log.  Maybe someone else would be able to bag it and remove it from the area.  I picked up some of the larger stones that were laying around, and used them to improve/rebuilt the fire ring.

When I finally packed up and made my way back up into the longleaf pine forest, this is the view that greeted me.

I had decided to skip trying to ride back along the trail.  Much to what I believe would be Mat’s disapproval, I took the paved “path” back to my truck.

A shameless self portrait taken while pedaling. A few wobbles, but I survived it unscathed.

A few miles of pretty and leisurely back road riding, I found the forestry road that would lead me back to my truck.

Another trip completed.  I packed up, and headed back home.

I had been lazy. A week without a single trail ride, and I felt the need to get out there. This last week found me with a schedule of 12:30 PM to 9:00 PM, and I found my mornings a little too filled to be able to get out and enjoy them. So, I had a trail system I wanted to check out and last night I decided that I would wake up early and do just that. I set the alarm in the phone for 4:40 AM and went to sleep. 4:40 came and went, with a momentary awakening to slide the snooze button on. I think I actually got up around 5:30 AM, and was on the trail by 7:00, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I looked over the map of the trails I intended to try out.

I wanted to get a feel for a few different levels of trail. This system has the blue as beginner, green as intermediate, and red as expert. I was interested in going in from the Ranger Trailhead side, so it looked like Speed Demon, Pine Dog and Carbo were going to be the ones I’d try. I jumped in the truck, and headed off. I made a few pit stops. One for fuel, another I picked up a McGriddle meal from McDonalds (something I would regret later) and at the last stop, a few bottled beverages for hydration purposes. I made it to the trail head, and just as I got there, the storm I had noticed brewing while buying my drinks, had caught up with me. Now I’m not afraid of getting wet, but there was two things keeping me from getting out into this storm. One, the rain drops were huge. They felt like wet fists. Not just wet but cold, giant cold wet fists hitting me. Even more justifiable, was that bolt of lightning I had seen a few miles in FRONT of the storm, and continuing rumbles that were persisting while I waited for the storm to pass. Finally things cleared up, and as I said, by about 7:00 AM I was getting my tires dirty.

I had decided I’d warm up on one of the blue trails, which in this case would be Speed Demon. I started pedaling, and noticed a problem right away. While the first sign post was good, the second of the markers that should have been holding a sign, or the color coded reflector was bare. I soldiered on anyhow, figuring worst case scenario, I ended up on a equally good, but different trail.

There’s actually a pretty good amount of elevation change at the northern end of Speed Demon.

There’s a creek bed off to the left as you ride north on the wester half of this loop.

Evidently they’ve closed off at least one of the old trails.

I had made my way along, but noticed that I had seen none of the color coded reflectors that served to show which level trail you were on, as well as tell which direction you were supposed to be riding. So I turned around, and headed back the way I came.

There was some interesting red lichen on one of the trees along the way back…

I found where the trail split, and I decided to try to find my way along the red expert level trail. Here is where I started to regret my McGriddle purchase, and was wondering if my gut was about to try to return the order…

I had found the Carbo trail. This trail kicked my butt. I am far from a good rider, nor am I in particularly good shape, and I had been warned. I took my time riding this, and I still felt like I was getting whooped. Every “right” turn was an uphill climb, and every left was a combination of braking, desperate steering, and refreshing coasting.

I stopped and checked out some future “items of cultural historical interest”

This image almost gives you an idea how winding this trail is. But it still doesn’t do it justice.

Here’s one of the reflectors. Since it’s on the side of the tree that we can see, it means we’re heading the right direction.

Here is the intersection where the Carbo trail technically ends. The sign offers an extension. To the left is the Speed Demon trail, and to the right is the Pine Dogs trail.

This is the first intersection I came across while riding the extension. I think I ended up on the trail named “Quitters” but I wasn’t ready to quit yet. I took the left, and made my way back to Speed Demon trail.

I recognized the trail right away, and I decided to follow it beyond where I turned around. I completed the northern loop, and rode along the twists and turns that roughly paralleled the power lines that made the north border of the permuted bike area. I came to another intersection, and it put me on the Pine Dog trail.

This section can be a real heart breaker. You go along what seems at least a quarter mile, and then you notice there’s a trail ten feet from you, and that it is some of your back trail. This section has long serpentine loops that almost touch themselves in the middle of the segments. Sections can be a little monotonous, being what I’d guess to be a pine scrub environment, filled with sand pines. Not one of my favorite trees. But every once in a while you come across something that looks a little more interesting.

This is a sand pine corridor, leading to the end of this particular stretch of trail.

A couple of the signs that indicate the trails you were just on, or might be about to take.

I was trying to be cool, and “jump” one of the downed trees across the trail. I managed to slip my foot from the pedal, and it swung up and bit my shin.

As I left, I decided to photograph the Timberlake Trail Head signs. I’ve heard people say they’ve had a hard time finding this road, and I thought these might help.

I will certainly find myself out on these trails again. My next write up should be from the western half of the trails. I’d like to see the lake from which the trail system got it’s name. As well as checking out the campground where I’d like to stay sometime in the future.

I was very excited to get out and do some more exploring on the bike today, but then there was this…

The trouble was, it only got worse as the morning progressed. Finally it cleared up enough, that I thought it safe to go ride the rolling lightning rod…

I decided to come at a trail I found yesterday, from the other side, and this is what it looked like…

But once again, you sometimes have to stop and appreciate the little things…

When I went through this trail before, it was dry.

Climbing a mountain of sand…

Yet another natural community inside this one block of state forest…

A raised access road along a drainage ditch.

The afore mentioned ditch…

More stopping to admire the little things…

The rain really raised some of the local water levels…

This is a service road, turned river. Look at the flow of water at the top of the image…

It got deep in a few places. Sure, they’re forestry service roads, but I’m glad I don’t have to take the wildland fire truck through this…

I knew I would find some higher ground eventually, since for the half mile or more of walking/pushing the bike, that I did, the water was always flowing towards me. Well, higher ground was found!

I could put wet trails behind me, for the time being.

This was a pretty sight. It looks like some long leaf pine restoration in the works…

I found my way back to the single track. I forgot how much fun this is to ride. I might give muddy exploration a break, until things dry up some, and get back to trying to improve my riding skills.

One mile to county road 83!

I made it to the main road, and took a detour to the beach. I was able to wash the grit out of the gears using the public foot wash…

I got back onto the same single track trail, and then saw an off shoot that I had never checked out before. It had the end obstructed with a couple of dead branches, but that didn’t stop me… I almost wish it did, because it was nice at first, then it turned to this…

I followed that until it turned back into a little firmer packed boundary service road. This opened up to a little development. I followed brick pavers for a while, until I met up with this guy…

Run away little guy, run away!

He ended up getting himself a little stuck at the edge of the road where there was a drainage basin. I picked him up, and set him at the hill side that was a straight shot to the pond he was aiming for. He slid down that hill so fast, he actually ricocheted off from a tree on the way down!

I made my way through that little community, and popped out on 30-A and took advantage of the paved bike path there. I got this shot looking out from a covered bridge on said path…

Enjoying the shade and breeze under the covered bridge…

I was soon within sight of the beach again…

I ate a sandwich on the bench that they built into this little bike path bridge.

From there it was just a couple miles of easy paved trail back home. Another nearly sixteen miles of bike riding (and pushing) behind me. I certainly worked some different muscles this time, but it feels good to be getting out and about. I’m getting to see sights that are within just a few miles of my house that I never saw before. That most people around here don’t even know exist.

It feels good to be one of the few privileged ones.

So last night, I was checking out my area using the Google Maps in satellite image format. I was noticing some old trails on some state land nearby. So I decided to try to find those paths.

I started off with a quick view of the bay…

These guys seem to be everywhere…

I rode around on pavement for a while. I was disappointed because the access to the trail was at the end of a development that was a closed gate community. Fortunately there was a neighboring property for sale that had an access road to the back of the property that met up with the trail.

The area has a very nice longleaf pine stand, with a well established wire grass understory.

I saw an owl drop down from a tree about here, and swoop across the forest out of sight.

I found some interesting scrap metal deposits out there.

As well as an old building that once was screened in, next to a little pond. I’m guessing it’s a local teen drinking spot now. I found several glass bottles in the area and inside.

It’s been a while since this was used…

I saw a couple owls, and several deer. Including this one…

When I got home, I wanted to give the bike a good cleaning. Some of the mud from the other day was still caked on, and I couldn’t stand that.

So I took the wheels off to get it good and clean again. Things were going well until the wife saw I was using one of her towels…

Mud, Mud, and More Mud

Posted: May 12, 2012 in Trail Reports, Updates

I know, it’s bad for my drive train.

But it’s so much FUN!

I made my way out to look for another way to the trails I found the other day, it didn’t start off well…

I took a moment to stop and smell the flowers…

But then, there was something else that didn’t smell as well…

Then on to more open and clear trails…

This guy seemed to like all the downed trees though…

Then things began to improve. I found this nice trail through a cypress strand. Although, I might have accidentally been trespassing on private property.

It took a while, a few places where I had to push through sand, and didn’t feel like photographing my shame, but then I found some mud!

Where there’s mud around here, there’s pitcher plants…

Found some “easier to navigate” roads.

A little off the trail scenery.

Back to the trails…

With thick mud.

There were some spots without as much mud…

I wasn’t the only one playing in the mud…

Back to the mud!

I made it back “home” with only a few splatterings above my knees..

It was another great ride. I am really enjoying this bike, even if I’m abusing it a little… 😀

I bought a new bike…

A local forum member was telling me about an excellent set of local trails that I had been driving by for years, but never bothered to explore. So with previously mentioned new bike, I set off to investigate his claims.

I arrived in my trusty bicycle hauler…

As I was getting ready to pull the bike from the truck, I discovered that I had failed to bring my camelpack that I had loaded with ice earlier that morning.

I had nothing to drink, and I tend to get thirsty. So a trip to the corner store was in order.

Now, properly equipped, I could return to the trail head and remove my bike, to prepare for my ride…

I checked with the map kiosk, and picked my route. The blue trail, a little over five miles. That should be a good start.

The trail takes you through the four main natural communities of the forest, which include sandhills, flatwoods, cypress ponds and titi swamps.

At one point the camera, while mounted slipped free, and flipped upside down. On it’s way, it did manage to capture a shot of me…

With the ride completed, I decided to check out the area around the trail head parking.

I took a “beauty shot” of the bike, after the ride…

I made my return to the parking area, by way of the trail head kiosk…

I finished the trip with a side route through Panama City, and stopped for a bite to eat…

A little “nature geek” info on the property…

Pine Log State Forest Unit Management Plan