No Underquilt Hang, Hidden Pond in Ocala Forest

You KNOW it’s too hot for a hang, right? With the summer heat and more-than-occasional thunderstorms, plus the legendary mosquito issue in Florida, why would anyone in their right mind go hang in the woods??? In Florida. In July.

Well, cuz we’re just that way, I guess…

Duffy and I drove out to Ocala Forest soon as he got off work Saturday. It was spitting rain when we parked in the little lot, and about +87F or so. I was grateful for the lack of sunshine in the Sunshine State. We headed down the trail around 2:20. For the first little while, the hike was pretty easy – cloud cover and a tiny breeze. The butterfly garden was amazing, my very favorite part of the trail. I don’t know what the plants were (I wished Samsara was there to name the butterflies and flowers), but the fluttering insects were there in number – I didn’t see Monarchs, most seemed to be swallowtails. It was lovely. The picture I tried to take of the butterflies didn’t turn out at all, but I got one of a flower.

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There were several ‘ponds’ along the way – perfectly round sinkholes, that is – and what looked like dry lakebed. I was MOST uncomfortable in the narrow corridor between the junipers, where there was no breeze, but it was manageable. There was a fire here a couple years ago, so top cover was gone. The burn marks on the trees made patterns that looked painted on.

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After some time, we heard thunder and a nice breeze sprang up…and we noticed that there was a storm on two sides of us. Oh. Joy. Strangely enough, the worst of the storms passed us, but it did start to rain enough to warrant getting our brollys out of the packs. I had a small hissy fit, trying to find mine, then wondering if I’d forgotten it altogether…thankfully, Duffy had his out in moments, and could keep us under cover while I ransacked my pack…and finally found the durn thing in the outside pocket – where it would be quick to get to when it rained, of course!

We hiked on for a little longer, happy to have umbrellas, because it was hot and rain gear just makes me hotter. It quit raining just before we came into view of Hidden Pond.

When we got to camp, there was FloridaHanger, LifeScout, and C+1. ZukiGuy and LilRicky came in shortly, hauling firewood trees. Duffy found us a very nice campsite, with a beautiful view. There were a few sprinkles, but it didn’t rain, even though we heard thunder. Everything seemed to be moving around us, which is a good thing. After we got the hammocks up, we took the opportunity to join the others in the pond. OH! So refreshing!

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Supper was homemade spaghetti, my very first attempt at dehydrating our meal. It was super! The new food/coffee cups worked so well! We sat around the fire eating, and discussed food, hikes both past and future, hammocks, and and all sorts of things, waiting on FLRider to arrive, which he did around 9:30pm. Spoke often about Olddog and Mike777 – they would have enjoyed it, I think. Shortly after that, I headed to our site to get some sleep.

I got chilly during the night, with no underquilt and only a coubled cotton bedsheet for cover, and ended up wrapping the sheet around me, then pulling my pillow-stuffing (a down vest) out to use as cover. It was great! Toward dawn my feet got cold, but other than that, I slept pretty well.

Duffy fixed us a delicious breakfast of instant oatmeal and coffee. Some tent campers came by and got a lesson in hammock-camping from the guys. Just before we left, FLRider brought out his surprise – freeze-pops! They weren’t frozen, but they were still ice cold and delicious!

FloridaHanger, FLRIder, Duffy

FloridaHanger, FLRIder, Duffy

The hike back to the trail-head was uneventful but the last 45 minutes were hot, with scattered Florida sun beating down. Bleh. I got a picture of one of the guardians of the parking lot (aka giant, hand-sized spiders circling the perimeter), and we washed up, changed clothes, and had a cold Coke before getting on the road.

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Most of the trip was SO pleasant, with lower-than-usual temperatures thanks to the cloud cover and the dip in the pond, plus no rain to speak of once we got to camp and none on the way out. However, there were about two hours – one going in, one coming out – that reminded me why I don’t like to hike in Florida in the summer! I’d do it again…but not more than once a year.

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