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Scouting Outings are Fun! Lake Wales Ridge State Forest, December 17, 2012

December 17, 2012

Fellow Sierra Club Outings Leader Dan Clark and I thoroughly enjoyed our scouting hike in the Lake Wales Ridge State Forest. Our concerns were finding a suitable loop for our Lake Wales Ridge Backpack in January, with scenic sites and potable water. We had a great time enjoying the vast sky-reaching pine flatwoods, and trails like portals through the scrub. We hiked over ten miles, walking away feeling that we can have a great outing for our beginners trip.

Spider Web across the trail

Spider Web across the trail

We left Andy’s house at 530 AM, anticipating an early start and seeing wildlife. After the obligatory Dunkin Donuts stop, we made it to the State Forest at 645, then drove to the south end of the Arbuckle Tract. I had hiked the entire length of the trail, but it had been years past and I couldn’t recall what the camping was near the Lake Arbuckle. I was determined to find an attractive site near the Lake. We found that the Hidden Hammock site was far too close to School bus road and County Road 64. We hiked about 4.5 miles to massive, undeveloped Lake Arbuckle to find suitable camping. On the hike we had some minor slogging through wet grass, and a creek swamp that we crossed on minor food bridges. I sighted a young buck and there were many spider webs crisscrossing trails.

Andy in front of McClean Cabin

Andy in front of McClean Cabin

We then made our way easily to School Bus road, and hiked the 4 miles back our car. We drove over to look at Arbuckle Creek, amazed by the water level in this mid December. We then drove to McClean Cabin in the SF, where we spoke to Dwight from the Fish and Wildlife Commission at length about hunting in the SF, bear and panther sightings. It will excite our hikers to know that there is knowledge of several bear in the SF, and reliable evidence of panther.

Dan Clark near a trail marker

Dan Clark near a trail marker

We were excited that we had found a good water source at McClean Cabin and even an alternative place to camp. We also decided, for the beginners backpack, to cut off the south part of the Florida Trail Loop in the Arbuckle Tract by using a blue blazed Trail that went from Lake Godwin to Lake Arbuckle. So Dan and I decided to scout the blue blazed trail from School bus Road to Lake Godwin.

Blue Blazed Trail, School Bus Road to Lake Godwin

Blue Blazed Trail, School Bus Road to Lake Godwin

The trail meandered through scrub and pine flat woods, and was well worn and soft. We enjoyed the warming Florida winter sun. On the way out, Dan witnessed three bald eagles, and on the way back I scattered a handful of scrub jays. We made it back to our car, feeling satisfied and full from a day in the forest.

Towering Pines in the Bush

Towering Pines in the Bush

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