Backpacking Through a Hog-Infested Swamp

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.

A Monkey, a Weazel, Two Bikes and A Pair of Beachside Communities.

I was able to get the wife to take a leisurely ride with me today. We loaded the bikes onto the rack on her car, and we drove to the local neighboring communities of Watercolor and Seaside.

Seaside is well known in these parts for it’s role in the movie “The Truman Show” It is also known in certain circles for a more historic reason. In my job I am on occasion placed in the role of tourist information guide. I had made the mistake of telling a visiting group about Seaside’s role in the aforementioned movie. I was then given a long lecture as to the architectural importance of this community. It turns out that this town was one of the first planned neighborhood, designed to be a walking community.

One feature of this neighborhood is the many beach accesses. The town of Seaside lives up to it’s name by stretching along a few miles of the sugar white beaches of the Florida Gulf coast. It’s quiet, narrow, brick paved roads make for a very relaxing environment.

There are several gravel covered multi use paths through these little towns.

Some make use of wooden boardwalks over the wet grounds surrounding the lake.

The walking and bike paths make use of several bridges. Some criss cross back and forth across one of the thirteen coastal dune lakes of the area. Western Lake is a centerpiece of the community of Watercolor.

Some of the trails are accented by various water features. Some are tile lined concrete streams with built in waterfalls, and others are more sculpture like in nature.

We stopped for lunch by the “Boat House” where visitors and residents can rent various water craft, such as canoes, kayaks and stand up paddle boards.

We enjoyed a shady spot within a well flowered butterfly garden. We even had a visit from a hummingbird. (For some reason I didn’t take any pictures of the garden, but I did get a pleasant one of the wife…)

It made for a great day. We went home and avoided the heat, and holiday weaken crowds by hiding and watching movies. Another trip out is planned for the cool of tomorrow morning. Time will tell if it will include the bikes. A return trip to the home of these shaded brick roads and cool man made streams is in our future.

A Weazel Between Two Trees

Hammock camping is a great way to spend the night somewhere in the wilderness.  Even if that wilderness comes equipped with an asphalt parking space, water and an electric hookup, all for twenty bucks a night.  Gone is the problem of finding level ground.  No more will you search for a space without roots, rocks or other debris that will poke you in the back while you’re trying to sleep.  Waking up to laying in a puddle, is a thing of the past, once you take up hammock camping.  All you need are two trees, the right distance apart, and you’ve got a high and dry, comfortable place to slumber the nighttime hours away.

Even with all of these virtues, I was still surprised when the Weazel declared she wanted to ditch the tent, and try sleeping in her very own hammock on a camping trip with me.

I had already been on several outings during which I was able to utilize the hammock system for camping.  I made not one, but two of my very own hammocks.  The first was made from some blaze orange ripstop nylon that I had originally purchased for a parachute project to safely drop a camera from an RC airplane.  It turned out I had enough of that laying around that when I decided I wanted to try to make my own hammock that I had what I needed on hand.

It made a pretty impressive parachute as a hammock as well.

That orange hammock was my trial version.  It worked well enough, but I wanted something a little less conspicuous, in case I decided to have a little more privacy in the woods than a blaze orange flag between two trees would allow.

So, when my wife declared she wanted to camp in a hammock, I had just the hammock for her to camp in.  Next we needed a tarp.  I use a wonderful, waterproof, and lightweight cover from Warbonnet Outdoors, appropriately named the Superfly.  This was a gift from the wife.  With this in mind, I felt it would be rude to offer it to her, suggesting I didn’t want to use it myself.  Instead, she got the large blue tarp that I had bought as a backup, while waiting for my Superfly to arrive in the mail.

Finally we needed a place to camp.  I had been visiting Blackwater River State Forest quite a bit in the last few weeks.  It’s a beautiful expanse of woodlands and rivers located just north east of the town of Milton FL.  Or, about an hour and a half from where we live.

We packed a few assorted items, made sure the dog would be attended to, and we made our way north west.  The Weazel was very excited about going on an adventure.  We hadn’t been camping together since we got married about a year and a half ago.  Yeah, we went camping on our wedding.

Weazel in the car, at least she’s not sticking her head out the window.

Following Highway 85 north, we went around the town of Crestview, by way of the PJ Adams Parkway and ended up just west of Crestview, on Highway 90.  We turned west, and after crossing the Yellow River, we turned north onto County Highway 4 through Baker where we left 4, for County Highway 189.  The first stop on our list was the south campground at Karick Lake.

Karick Lake and Hurricane Lake maps

This is where we encountered a couple different fence lizards, while checking to see where we might spend the night.

Baby fence lizard?

Eastern Fence Lizard

As impressive as these guys were at climbing fences, the Weazel tried to prove she would not be outdone.

Weazels climb fences too.

I dunno Weazel, that fence lizard seems a bit more impressive, and even intimidating…

Close up of lizard on fence.

Yikes Weazel, you win, you’re much scarier!

Weazels climb fences better than lizards.

The Weazel and I did a quick tour of the campground.  Checking for sites that had trees the right distance apart for us to hang our hammocks from.  Once we had a couple picked out, it was time to go.

Leaving there, we continued north to Red Barrow Road, then west to Kennedy Bridge Road.  We stopped here at a little parking area, and checked out an upper section of Blackwater River.  It had a real nice white sand beach, but we did find it somewhat ironic and a little sad that right under the sign stating alcohol was prohibited, sat two empty glass beer bottles.

North to Alabama.

Weazel disapproves of my entering into the water.

There were lots of trees in the river.

Look, another lizard.

As enjoyable as that spot was, we had lots to do and only a short amount of time to do it.  On to Hurricane Lake!

We first visited the south campground where I had spent the night documented in the report in which I wrote that I was sure an alligator had hissed at me.   We found a couple potential spots to spend the night at, if Karick Lake didn’t work out for us.  I wanted ones away from the water, the weazel chose a few sites that were almost in the water.

We agreed to disagree, the magic that is the glue in our relationship, and we went on towards the northern campground on Hurricane Lake.  We traveled around on a dirt service road that bordered the eastern side of the lake.

The fishing dock at the northern campground on Hurricane Lake.

One of the campsites at the northern campground at Hurricane Lake.

We continued out along the service road, onto Beaver Creek Road, and turned south.  We followed this all the way down to County Highway 4.  We turned west, and then north into the access for Bear Lake.  This is another area that has several camp sites as well as a fishing dock.  Bear Lake also has a six mile long mountain bike trail, which I’ll have to explore in a future visit.

Bear Lake has a 6 mile unpaved bicycle trail.

There wasn’t anything interesting enough to get us out of the car this time, so we turned around, and made our way back to 4.  We traveled a little west, to the access for Krul Recreation area.  On Google Maps you’ll find this listed as the Munson Recreation area.

I had forgotten my annual pass for the State Forests, but they were kind enough to take my word on having a pass, and let us in without charging the day use fee.

I had been here previously as well.  This is the site that has both a working grist mill, with an active water wheel, as well as a suspension bridge.  I had failed to take pictures of the inner workings of the mill, so I did that during this visit.

Axle in from the waterwheel.

Water power is traded for grinding power.

We walked the short trek along the boardwalk to the suspension bridge.

A Weazel on the boardwalk.

The suspension bridge

By now it was after noon, and we were both hungry for something other than what was to be found in the cooler.  I directed us south into the town of Holt, and stopped at Brown’s Grocery.  They have a little hot food deli in there, where we picked us up some lunch.

We decided to look for a park we had visited before, but couldn’t recall it’s name, or where it was.  It turned out to be the Bone Creek Recreation Area.  We picked a table under the pavilion, and sat down to partake of our lunch in the shade, and as luck would have were able to enjoy a breeze as well.

A nice spot for lunch, but we wanted more shade.

Plenty of shade here!

Lunch is served!

It was not only time to get some food, but a chance to do some planning about where to go from there.

Bringer of the map.

As we left that park, we took note of the boardwalk trail that was there.  We’ll come back to do that when the weather is a little cooler.

A future trip.

We meandered our way back to the campground of the Weazel’s choosing.  She really liked the looks of Karick Lake, so that’s where we went.  It was up to me to set up camp, and the Weazel supervised…

The supervisor watches the lake.

I was assigned the task to get both hammocks set up, prepare the fire pit for use, collect firewood, and set up dinner.  The Weazel assigned herself the difficult task of making sure the wind didn’t blow her chair away.

Argh! On the tree where I was hanging Weazel’s hammock.

I had just gotten the Weazel’s hammock hung, when I hear a whooshing sound, and some rustling like the sound of a nylon hammock being entered and…

Plop!

Camp is established.

Peace and tranquility, how will the Weazel ruin it?

Uh oh, she must have heard me.

Two can play the lazy game!

Well, the Weazel saw I was comfortable, and had to fix that.  “Let’s go for a hike!” she declared.  Off we went…

A walk across the dam at Karick Lake

A view of the southern campground, from the northern one.

Walking back not he mowed grass path, as the sun sinks behind the trees.

On the walk back from the northern campground, Weazel spotted a bald eagle flying overhead.  Back in our camp, I tried to take a picture of it with my cell phone, through the binoculars.

Bald eagle, center frame, just above the middle of the picture.

“Can I take a break now?  No?   Because it’s time for fire and dinner.  Oh, ok dear, I’ll get right to it…”  So much for getting into the hammock.

Monkey makes fire!

Foil bags make a great way to cook over coals.

“Hobo” meals.

I cooked up some potatoes, an onion, and some stew beef.  A couple ears of corn were also wrapped in some foil and tossed into the fire.  We recycled the dinner box from lunch, to serve as our plates.

Recycled lunch tray as our plates.

How does it taste?  That good huh?

Cut that out, you know it’s delicious.

Eventually it was time to kick back, and relax.  A nice fire, and an evening next to the lake was just the way to do this.

Fire in the dark.

It was a very peaceful night.  The Weazel was slightly concerned that the noise that the cicadas were making would keep her awake, but they settled down after dark.  Morning brought some disastrous results when I attempted to make breakfast.  I do not think this was documented on any sort of image media.  This is a good thing.

We did have one final destination for this trip, and that was the bluffs along Juniper Creek, off from Red Rock Road.  I packed all the gear, and we drove off to the west.  Once at the parking area, the Weazel jumped out of the vehicle, and proceeded to climb a tree…

An arboreal Weazel.

We grabbed a couple waters, and followed a trail that was on the eastern side of the creek.  A short hike later, about a quarter of a mile according to my GPS tracker in my phone, we were at the bluffs.

Way down there is a Weazel.

It was interesting to return to my little camp site from my solo bikepacking trip.  I saw the fire ring I had worked on, had been either destroyed by other visitors, or from a hard rain.

Clay cliff “graffiti”.

Up on the bluff, looking down on the river.

Looking down from the top, at the erosion created “canyons”.

That was it.  We finished exploring the bluffs, and followed that section of the Florida Trail back out to Red Rock Road.

As we got closer to the car we saw some folks unloading their kayaks for a trip down the creek, as well as a group of horseback riders, taking a break in the shade by the river.  It was a good end to the trip, to see other people just starting their own little adventures as the wife and I were getting ready to conclude ours.  We’ll be back before long.  Blackwater River State Forest has too much to offer us, to let it go unexplored.