Thursday, January 28, 2016

A personal landmark achieved

Lowry Lake in Camp Blanding National Guard Base.  Morning fog was hiding the far shore of this two mile wide lake.  This scene is not visible from the Florida Trail.  I had to bushwhack down to the lake to get the shot.

"Key West or Bust" - Day 100

Today marks a turning point in my hike.  I passed through Camp Blanding in the morning, Gold Head Branch State Park through the middle of the day, and then started a road walk to Etoniah State Forest in the afternoon.  The turning point was along that road walk when I passed the home I bought last September. 

Hiking home - my Personal quest to connect every place I've ever lived, is the whole reason I'm hiking the Florida Trail.  From here on down to Key West I will not have that driving motivation.  What is keeping me on the trail now is the chance to hike in January but enjoy warm weather, the chance to see some of the best parts of the Florida Trail, and the opportunity to connect my PCF to the southernmost point in the US that a continuous footpath can reach.

Road walking past a house doesn't cut it in the scenery department, though.  The best of that (shown above) came earlier in the day.  The lakes in Camp Blanding were making their own weather on this chilly calm morning.  The warm water was creating a blanket of fog.  After leaving Lowry Lake I came to Magnolia Lake and watched the fog break up as I circled around its western shoreline.

Then I passed around Lost Lake - a little slice of heaven, seeming untouched by human hands and just as serene as the name would imply.

In Gold Head Branch State Park there are two features that most people come to see, and the Florida Trail passes neither of them.  It passes Big Johnson Lake, which is strewn with grasses and weeds from shore to shore.

But it doesn't pass Little Johnson Lake.  Everybody knows that Little Johnson is more fun than Big Johnson.  It has a majestic old CCC pavilion, a sandy beach, and a canoe launch.  If you want real fun, you seek out Little Johnson.  It's a well-known fact.

The other feature is the Gold Head itself -- a deep steephead ravine out of which Gold Head Branch emerges with water so clear it seems almost blue above its soft white sandy bed.

The steephead itself is a wild, tropical fern grotto that reminds me of the secluded valleys in the windward side of Big Island Hawaii, but minus the lava and the waterfalls.  Here's one of the springs passing through a bed of ferns.

The Florida Trail skips the steephead and stays in high dry sand-hill country.  I bypassed this section today because I had hiked it last August.  For that, and for more views of the magical Fern Grotto in summer, see this report.

As I finished up with Gold Head I ran into SoBo thru-hiker 'Bush Whacker'.  We had a nice conversation and I warned him that we would probably be running into each other in days ahead as we both continue southbound.

So Keystone Heights and my new home are now behind me, and Key West lies ahead, if the hiking gods will it.  Let the adventure continue.

Here's a map of today's hike, with links to many more photos.

Camp Blanding and Gold Head State Park at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Florida

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