Skip to content

One of the Finest Local Backpacking Trips! Lake Wales Ridge State Forest Wrap Up, January 19-21, 2013

January 24, 2013

What a wonderful trip we had this weekend! What a pleasure to be with a group of people who are kind and team oriented! The weather was soft and hospitable, mild and partly cloudy. A special thanks to Bert, Andres, Robert, Bill, Margo, Alyssa, Dan and Howard. Everyone had a consistently upbeat cooperative attitude. What a reward to among people who come from different backgrounds or generations. Nature is a connective experience, people become naturally close because of the stress free atmosphere and the rigors of outdoor travel.

Our Group at the Lakeside Primitive Camp

Our Group at the Lakeside Primitive Camp

Andy's Hooch....using the screened portion of a backpacking tent with a tarp

Andy’s Hooch….using the screened portion of a backpacking tent with a tarp

Preparing for breakfast Day 1, Alyssa, Dan and Bert

Preparing for breakfast Day 1, Alyssa, Dan and Bert

We met at 1 pm at the Paula Dockery Trailhead, then moved to shuttle cars from the blue blazed trail crossing on School Bus Road near McClean Cabin. We appreciated that Andres, Bert, and Robert drove from South Florida. We found it wonderful that Andres and Bert were a father son team, and that Margo and Alyssa were a mother daughter team. Howard drove from Brandon, and was a big help as an experienced outdoorsman. On Sierra Outings, a huge plus is that experienced folks are willing to assist the less experienced. Dan, Bill and I are friends, and rode together from Lakeland. Bill and I have been wanting to hike together for years and how special is that we did our own backyard in Florida! We had planned on going to the Appalachians, and since leading Sierra outings I have found how beautiful Florida can be. Dan is training to lead and has been consistently cooperative, good-natured and willing to learn. Plus he is a darned good cook and can whittle! We parked the cars at the Lake Arbuckle County Park. The staff there is always warm and receptive and did not charge us for parking. We decided to do this so folks felt more secure about their cars.

Alyssa on a bluff overlooking Livingston Creek

Alyssa on a bluff overlooking Livingston Creek

Margo and Alyssa on Rucks Dairy Road overlooking Livingston Creek

Margo and Alyssa on Rucks Dairy Road overlooking Livingston Creek

Bill holding tea colored water from the creek near Lake Arbuckle

Bill holding tea colored water from the creek near Lake Arbuckle

We hiked down through a pine flatwood to Lake Arbuckle and along the way ran into a warm friendly group. This was a teaching experience where I was able to teach Leave No Trace (LNT )through “Be Considerate of Other Visitors.” At the lake we had our initial trailhead talk, an icebreaker and I taught the group about water purification. The icebreaker was about pairing up and recounting a significant outdoor experience.We were amazed about how much Bert remembered about Bill’s experience. We also began to rehydrate our dinner, Southwest Chili, which comes for the book “Backcountry Gourmet.”

We hiked the Paula Dockery along Lake Arbuckle. My intention on doing a loop through the forest this way was to insure an easy first day, make sure that we were able to see the Paula Dockery TraiL along long Lake Arbuckle on Day 1, and see the trail as it meanders along Livingston Creek on Day 2, and lastly to ensure that we camped at the Lakeside Primitive Camp. Lakeside Camp has to be one of the most scenic campsites in Florida, with its vast view of dominant Lake Arbuckle. Typically hiking along Lake Arbuckle provides significant bird watching, but due to conditions there not many birds. Sierrans for years have used Lakeside Camp. When we arrived at the Lakeside Camp, there was a fire ring and firewood and the site was fairly clean. There was significant room to camp on hard packed sand, as we say in LNT “Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces.”The reason I chose Lake Wales Ridge for a beginners hike was because of the allowance for fires, and for the feeling of a true wilderness. There is very little development along the shores of huge Lake Arbuckle. Fire building under a variety of conditions is an important outdoor skill. I have a friend from England, a Pacific Crest Trail buddy, who recalls his ability to build and sustain fire saved his lifeduring a 36 summer snow storm in the Sierra Nevada. My ability to build fire kept me from dropping into severe hypothermia near the Blue Glacier in the Olympic Mountains Washington. Fires are social magnets, a place where people can gather and share their dreams and life pursuits. Let’s remember that the LNT is “Minimize Campfire Impacts,” not “Don’t make Fires.”

Robert, Howard and Andres crossing the bridge over Reedy Creek

Robert, Howard and Andres crossing the bridge over Reedy Creek

Participants set up their tents and I then taught the LNT principle “Dispose of waste Properly” by demonstrating proper outdoor sanitation, i.e. cathole/latrine. Then we turned to group tasks, or capers as they say in Girl Scouts. Our tasks were fire, cathole, water, cooking and cleanup. Lakeside Camp has a nice little stream that flows down to the lake, that I believe to be spring fed. Participants in this trip were enthusiastic and willing to learn. We enjoyed our Chili with garlic bread, then chocolate and then feasted on smores that Dan surreptitiously had put in his pack. Six of us sat up for some time enjoying each other, the moonlit yet partly cloudy night and the fire. Ever now and then the sky would clear and we would gasp at the starkness of the remote night sky.

Feeling kinda tired on the last two hours of the Day 2 ten mile hike

Feeling kinda tired on the last two hours of the Day 2 ten mile hike

The next day Bill was up early to start the fire and Dan made the breakfast, Huevos Rancheros. We shared Cuban coffee, Tang and assorted teas. We were trail bound at 9am, a pretty good start for an involved breakfast and beginners adjusting to their gear, packs and the rigors of outdoor life.

The beauty of the Paula Dockery Trail as it moves towards and along Livingston Creek is how the trail passes through several ecosystems. This gave me an opportunity to lecture on the significance of the Lake Wales Ridge and the uniqueness of characteristics of flora and fauna to this Ridge. We were also able to discuss conservation issues such as the Florida Land and Water Legacy campaign, land acquisition, and exotic species.

Lake Godwin

Lake Godwin

We then moved cross School Bus Road and dropped all the trash that Bert had generously picked up along Lake Arbuckle. We hiked though pine lands and scrub to cross Reedy Creek. The bridge there is amazing, a very large, steel, wood decked masterpiece. There is also a dedication for Walter Piety. There we also treated Andres for blisters and gave quick lecture on foot care. Along the way we spoke about the uniqueness and habits of the Florida Black Bear.

Bill's back is a non issue near Lake Godwin

Bill’s back is a non issue near Lake Godwin

We made our way across the savannah to Lake Godwin, folks thoroughly enjoyed soaking their feet in the Lake. Then on to McClean Cabin. We decided on McClean cabin because of the beautiful oak hammock, an unreliable water source. Folks were able to spread out their tents, and we enjoyed Asian noodles, with Thai paste, Miso soup and oatmeal cookies.. After dinner, the air cooled and we had another great fire and star-gazing.

Breakfast at the McClean Cabin

Breakfast at the McClean Cabin

Andy in front of McClean Cabin, Wearin' some Colorado garb

Andy in front of McClean Cabin, Wearin’ some Colorado garb

On the last day, another great blaze with oatmeal and bagels. We did our farewells. As our wrap up the group had to decide which animal each person represented. This was a wonderful exercise for folks were able to note the positive qualities in each other. What a pleasure to be with such fine people in wild places that we all love!

Arbuckle Tract,Lake Wales Ridge State Forest Hiking Trails

Arbuckle Tract,Lake Wales Ridge State Forest Hiking Trails

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: