Apalachiocola National Forest: Wright Lake Trail
After an easy day wandering around the mounds, I was anxious to hike a bit so I headed to the Apalachiocola National Forest to do the Wright Lake Trail. It was a gorgeous, clear morning, the air was crisp, the sun bright, and the forest was perfectly still when I arrived. I was excited and decided I would camp that night on the lake by the trailhead. Well, this day of promise turned into a day with multiple uh, challenges of the variety I referred to in my post the other day. I eagerly set off and was walking along through dense bushes when at about a half mile I saw VERY fresh bear scat on the trail. I froze, listening to the forest noises, and removed my bear spray from its holster. Not sensing any bears – and it being a loop trail, which meant I would not be returning this way – I continued on, bear spray at the ready. And then the trail went through a VERY large, unavoidable patch, or rather, field of poison ivy. I went off-trail hoping to avoid the worst and hopefully outflank it, but was bounded by swamp and thick berry bushes. Most hikers would shrug and just clean their gear. I happen to be very allergic – like eyes swell shut and throat close type allergic – to poison ivy. Furthermore, it isn’t easy to segregate your gear to avoid transferring the oils when you have your life packed into a Honda Civic. So I try to avoid it if I can. Except I couldn’t. Ok, well I continued on.
I moved from swamp to pine communities and relaxed as the sun penetrated the open spaces and the ferns showed their green vibrance under the light. And then I came across more scat. And then again. Okay, I get it, bears live here. Apparently a fair number. Point taken. I soon reached another transition zone back to basin swamp and came upon a neat log bridge.
After crossing I moved once again into pine, then open field as I approached a dirt Forest Service Road. And then I couldn’t find where the trail picked back up. I looked up and down the side I was coming from, I looked up and down the road on the other side. No orange painted marker. Okay, so those of you have hiked with me may know that I’m not the best at finding trail markers (of any variety) so I double-checked. Then triple-checked, walking a quarter mile up and down the road both ways. Somewhere during this time I heard distant trucks and a minute later three high-clearance pickups, complete with gun racks blew past, pulling off ahead of me. Yep, still hunting season in Florida. So, this is totally my bad because I didn’t check but I’m in the middle of the loop trail wearing black fleece. Again. Well, it was fifteen more minutes before I found my next marker and only about thirty more minutes before I came upon more bear scat. And then more, less than a quarter mile from the trailhead. Still, gorgeous scenery, and wonderfully peaceful minus the hunters.
Conclusion to this adventure: I did not get poison ivy by some sort of miracle (or due to the extreme cleaning which I subjected my gear to), nor I did not have any bear encounters, nor did I get shot. And the hike was lovely. I did however find a tick crawling around on my pack which was on the seat next to me later that night. But, as far as I know, I wasn’t bitten. So this experience was a bit challenging at times, but still a pretty good day. But I declined to camp less than a quarter mile from fresh bear scat.