Exploring the Ocala National Forest, or Avoiding the Estrogen Outdoors Seminars.

So a few years ago, the wife attended a “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” weekend long class. She loved it, but they stopped offering it “nearby” so she wasn’t able to attend anymore for a while.

Then she saw they had a class opening in the Ocala area. A mere 6 hour drive. Well, the wife hates driving, and really hates driving at night, so she took an extra day off from work to be able to go down a day early. I offered to drive, with the knowledge I could get a few days of exploration in, and look like I was trying to selflessly help her at the same time. It was a win win.

The day arrived for us to make the trip south. The birds were well stocked with food and water, and the dog was shipped off to “grandma’s” for a weekend of being yelled at by my brother. (He loves to scold the dog, who seems to enjoy the uncustomary discipline.) From the dog drop point, we headed east on Interstate 10.

Excitement was in the air. It was just a few days over two years ago, that we took almost this same route, on our way to get married.

Yes, it’s a toilet. I don’t know if I had never visited this rest area on I-10 before, or if I somehow forgot about it. But seeing this toilet and it’s very utilitarian appearance, just struck me as something that needed to be recorded. What isn’t shown here, is the fact you need a step ladder to climb onto the thing, and that your feet have no contact with the ground while you’re utilizing it.

The next item that warranted my documentation with the cell phone camera was a segment of the Suwannee River Bridge.

The road into the camp…

We finally made it to the camp where she would be spending the weekend. With a little difficulty, we were able to get her hammock set up. But first I decided to check out the lake that the camp was situated on.

Then things got interesting. I had been invited to sit by a campfire surrounded by both women students, and instructors. My wife is proud of her go girl, a rubber funnel device that allows her to “make water” while standing up. The topic came up, and it seemed one of the women was unable to grasp the concept as it was being described. I offered to show them a picture on my phone. I made quick work of the google feature, and approached the confused woman with the product image.

You’d think she was a vampire, and I Van Helsing with a flask full of holy water in one hand, and a crucifix in the other. She loudly declared “I don’t want to see no penis!” Penis? Who said anything about penis? I was flustered. I don’t know what kind of men she usually deals with, but I’m not the type of guy to show strange women pictures of penises. I quickly tried to explain, “no this isn’t that, it’s just a picture of the go girl.” She jumped from her seat and yelled, “get away, I don’t want to see a picture of your penis!”

This was going badly. “I’m not, it’s not… it’s… I am just showing, the thing, product, go-girl…” to no avail. Obviously this woman had a penis phobia. Or a man phobia, or something.

The offensive image.

I went to bed, obviously after that, I dared not incur the wrath of any other phalic-phobic women.

I woke early, and made my way back to the lake after packing my things to leave. It was still before full sunrise, but there was enough light to capture the early morning fog rising from the water.

I went to say goodbye to the Weazel, and wish her luck with this group.

One of the highlights of the trip, was seeing wildlife we don’t get up in the panhandle, much, if at all. The first thing we saw, was the Sandhill Cranes.

The wife and I saw a pair in someone’s front yard. I didn’t take any pictures of those, but I did get these that were on the side of the road the next day.

Then I saw a few in a field a little later…

That would not be the last, I was able to walk with a small flock of them the last day of the trip.

I drove around a bit. Visiting various locales, and even a National Forest info center. They were out of maps, but I found another that had one in stock. This was enough information to get me all over the forest, but too much info for me to pick out a place to settled down and go hiking as I had planned. I ended up back near the camp the wife was staying at. I loaded up my backpack, and hit a close by trail, with the intentions of hiking until I found a suitable place to camp, then return to the car in the morning.

Looking behind the trail head sign, I disturbed someone trying to have lunch.

So, I decide to take a section of the Florida Trail.

But the first thing it does, is run into a rather large, murky pool. I was NOT about to go wading through this, so I turned and took an alternate route.

Soon I ended up on a clay road, trudging through a section of Florida Scrub.

Then I got off the clay road, and onto an old service road that would link in with the trails.

Some of the vegetation was less inviting than others…

But other sections were quite pleasant.

This route took me to two points of interest. One was the Eaton Lake Trail, the second was a circuit that lead to a boardwalk that descends into a large sinkhole.

Angry possum.

Off to the sinkhole.

This hike didn’t go as planned. I did not find a place that would be appropriate for setting up the hammock. So I returned to the car, defeated, and went to a “real” camp site.

South of Eaton Pond is a very nice little forestry campground. The volunteer there was helpful, and soon I was set up and ready to get to sleep.

The next day proved interesting.

Bat houses byt he lake. They were very full of activity that early in the morning.

I packed up and left fairly early. I ended up driving the southern border of the national forest. I got to see some nice stretches of longleaf stands. The highlight of the day was a visit to the campground at Big Scrub. I got to see my first scrub jay. I took some pictures with the cell phone, but they were too far away to see clearly. They were flying in to drink from a bowl under a water spigot. I tried using the binoculars to get a closer shot. It turned out fairly well, I thought.

I made camp at a primitive site within the forest. There were no clearly defined sites, but instead there were posts indicating you should camp within 25 feet of the post.

Happy camp…

Dinner over the fire.

Adventure car!

The next morning I returned to pick up the wife. It seemed she had an enjoyable time.

Foil wrapped weazel


It was an all women’s group… so I don’t want to know what kind of entertainment this might have been.

The Weazel makes fire.

We made a few stops on the way home.

A visit to Paynes Prarie.

We also stopped at a park I had driven by in the past, and had always wanted to return to investigate more.

Treed Weazel.

Lots of interesting trees at the park. As well as some recreations of old log buildings.

All in all it was a very enjoyable trip. Maybe next time the weazel and I will do the exploring together.