Walking Through Hell

Well it may not have been the literal hell, but it was hot and I do mean hot hot hot.

Maggie and I hiked the Sunnyhill Restoration Area located out County Road 42 near the Ocklawaha River here in Marion County. This is a 4,405-acre patch of land located in the Ocklawaha River floodplain.

We choose the Levee Trail. This follows a levee, as the trail name would indicate, along the river. The levee was put there by the Army Corps of Engineers to control flooding.

The Levee Trail is treeless for most of the way and seems to go on forever. Actually it goes from the Conservation Area to Moss Bluff. The total length is approximately 9 miles one way. We did not walk the entire distance. The heat got to both of us and after about a half hour of hiking we returned to the trail head.

The trail gives you a great view of the river and the fields and marshes that make up the flood plain. There are a number of birds that can easily be seen along the river. This area is known for the white ibis, various herons, snowy egrets and a number of cranes are supposed to winter in the Ocklawaha River Basin.

I am sure there are fish in the river. However, none could be seen. Although otter are knows to be in the area we saw no other wildlife during our hike. They were probably smart enough to stay out of the heat.

The trail was flat and grassy, easy walking except for the brutal heat. There was no shade along the trail. No way to get a break from the oppressive heat.

Even though our total walk was just over an hour, I was careful to keep both Maggie and I well hydrated. We stopped and took in water a couple of times going and coming back. This is the first time that I used all of the water that I was carrying. We did have more back in the car and used it as well on our return.

There are both hiking and horse trails. We did meet a group of horses and riders on our way back to the parking lot.

I felt the trail head were not easy to find. However, now that I have done some research on the web, I find there are actually 5 different trails that are available to hike or walk.

This trail is easy to navigate and at different times of the year offers the opportunity to observe different varieties of wildlife. I would only hike this area in the fall or winter, during the cooler months.

As always – may you hike in peace.

Directions – From Belleview take US 441 south. Drive south for 4 miles to SR 42. Turn left at the light. Continue for 9.7 miles through Weirsdale on SR 42 to cross over the Ocklawaha River Bridge. Watch for the low sign on the left for the entrance to Sunnyhill, across from Nelson’s Fish Camp. Turn left on the first road to the parking area at the Blue House.


A Sky So Blue It Hurts Your Eyes

In Florida we get days that the sky is so blue it hurts your eyes.  Not a cloud in the sky and the sun just seems to bring out the blueness or the sky.

These days are best when they occur in the fall or winter.  By the spring or summer, days without clouds can be very hot.  The Florida heat can be unbearable and the brief moments of respite offered by a cloud passing in front of the sun is always welcome.

On a cool winter morning like today, the blue sky was beautiful – blue – a deep dark blue – so blue it made me squint even with my sunglasses on.

I was hiking the Baseline Trail portion of the Florida Trail.  Not my favorite part of the Trail.  A good portion of the trail in that area is paved.  Hiking on a paved trail feels more like walking than hiking.  (I will address the difference between hiking and walking a different blog.  Your comments on that topic are welcomed.)

The advantage to hiking Baseline is that there is no shade.  On a winter morning that can feel good.  The sun beats down and warms you, especially if the temperatures are in the 30’s or 40’s.  On the other hand, in the summer Baseline can be brutal, hot, hot, hot.

This morning it was perfect.  Temperatures were leaving the 30’s and heading for the 40’s.  A long sleeved flannel shirt was more than enough to keep off the chill and the bright unobstructed sun warmed both body and soul.

These are some of the best hiking mornings in Florida, crisp and clear.  We get many mornings like this, but of course we do not always take advantage of them.  A word of advice, take advantage of the beautiful hiking mornings and afternoons while you can.  As many of them as we get, there are never really enough.

But this morning was special.  The temperature was just right.  The trail was quiet; there were not too many fellow hikers.  And of course, the sky was wonderful.

Enjoy the Florida sunshine, especially when it is not too hot.  Hike on those days when the air is crisp and cool.

And of course – May you hike in peace.


Hiking with a Dog – Trail Etiquette

Maggie And I

Since September of 2012 I have been hiking with my service dog.  She is my constant companion both on and off the trail.  Maggie is a 3 year old black lab and works as a medical alert dog.  As many of you know, I suffered a stroke in March of 2012.  Maggie will alert me to stress, hypertension and high blood pressure in an attempt to avoid another stroke.

From a practical stand point, Maggie is a companion and her presence has a very calming effect on me.  I also enjoy her company when we hike.

On the trail I have encountered other people hiking with their pets.  Some trail etiquette should be observed when hiking with a pet or service animal.  Most of them are just common sense.

Maggie does not want to do her business on the trail.  Like a good pet owner I always have doggie scooper bags with me to clean up after her.  However, when we are out on the trail and away from traffic (both human and automobile) I allow her to be off -leash.

I believe that common courtesy would dictate that if you dog goes in the middle of the trail, you should clean it up.  Beside the doggie bags I also typically carry a small trowel that attaches in a case to a belt.

If your dog goes on or even near the trail it would make sense to bury and cover the dog pooh.  I do not think that most hikers want to step in it or even have to smell it as they pass by.

Maggie has the habit of going 10 to 15 feet off trail and doing her business.  I hope that this is far enough from the trail so that it should not offend anyone.  I am, however, prepared if she should go on the trail.

Leashing your pet when approaching or passing other hikers also makes good sense.  Not every one is dog friendly.  Not all dogs are people friendly.  I believe that when approaching or passing another hiker you should put your animal back on leash, at least until you have passed them.

As I have said, Maggie is typically off leash when we hike.  She is never out of eye sight and returns when called.  I have been on the trail when a dog will appear with no owner in sight.  The animal has gotten so far ahead of their owner that the owner has no control what so ever.  This is not good trail etiquette.

On the trail your dog should be within sight and under control at all times.  Coming upon a strange dog in the woods with no owner around does not give most people a good safe feeling.

Put your pet back on leash when approaching other hikers.  Keep your dog in sight and under control at all times.  That is just good common sense.

I love hiking with Maggie.  I know that others enjoy hiking with their pets as well.  Dogs really seem to enjoy the trail.  Good doggie trail etiquette is essential.

Keep on hiking and may you hike in peace.


Back Hiking and It Feels Great

Sorry it has been so long since my last hiking post.  As most of you know I suffered a stroke in March of 2012.  I have recovered most of my mobility and am back taking short hikes.  However, until recently I was still unable to put my words down on paper – I was unable to write.

Although the words do not flow as easily or as quickly as they have done in the past, I am able to put down my thoughts.

The weather the last few weeks of 2012 was off and on cold.  Not always the best for early morning hikes.  I love to do my hiking at 7 or 7:30 am.  Today, however, was a great morning for a hike.

Back on the Vortex Trailhead with my service dog Maggie.  She will be my constant companion on my hikes for years to come (or at least that is the plan).

This morning was perfect for a hike, clear, cool but not cold and almost no wind.   The trail was lonely just the way I like it.  I passed one jogger on my way back to the trailhead.  The silence is just beautiful.

This time of year the trail is covered with pine needles on this part of the Florida Trail.  That makes it easy to walk.  The birds were out as were the squirrels.

I should tell you a bit about Maggie.  She is a 3 year old black Labrador.  A great disposition, as all service dogs have.  She is a medical alert dog and will or should alert me to high stress or hypertension situations.  Her job is to help prevent a second stroke.

Maggie loves to be out on the trail.  I can let her off leash and she roams the trail and off trail at times.  She does not usually stray more than 10 to 15 feet from me.

This morning was just the first of many hikes for 2013.  I will try to keep you updated and posted on trail conditions in and around the Ocala/Marion County area as I hike.

Your comments, as always, are welcome and appreciated.

May you hike in peace.


Saturday Morning Magazine

Lucy Tobias new edition of Saturday Morning Magazine.



Hike On The Santos Trail

Take a short hike with me on the Santos Portion of the Florida Trail in Ocala – Marion County Florida.


New Issue of Saturday Morning Magazine

Here is the new issue of our friend Lucy Tobias Saturday Morning Magazine.  Enjoy.


A Murder Of Crows On The Florida Trail

I hiked one of my least favorite parts of the Florida Trail this morning, the Baseline Trail head.  Having said that, it was still a wonderful hike.

The Baseline Trail Head is one of the few paved sections of the Florida Trail.  It is a great recreation area, offering hiking, walking, roller skating, skate boarding, biking and more.  However, paved trails are not real hiking trails.

This morning the temperature was a crisp 64 degrees when I started my hike.  The walking trails are well used and even at 7 am there were already people out and about.  This is a marked change from the normal Florida Trail.  In the early hours of the morning, I almost always have the trail to myself.

The trail already had walkers and joggers, three or four groups on bicycle and a family roller blading together.  More traffic than I see in a week on the Santos or Vortex trails.

The hike was made interesting when I came upon a large group of crows.  There were over a hundred.  It looked like a scene from Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.  They covered a sycamore and numerous pines.

I guess the proper term is a murder of crows.  However, there were so many it would have been a serial killer of crows.  Lots and lots and they were very noisy.  They did not seem to appreciate the traffic on the trail that morning.

The hike was fun and of course the exercise is always needed.  The crows added a new dimension and the crowds were an added novelty.

In the mean time keep hiking and May Your Hike In Peace.



Frost On The Florida Trail

Frost On The Florida Trail

I have been hiking the Florida Trail for almost a year new.  This morning was a first for me; frost on the trail.

I have had chilly morning hikes.  I have had cool morning hikes.  I have had warm and hot morning hikes.  This morning was the first time I saw frost.  It was on the car and then on some of the weeds growing on the sides of the trail.

What a wonderful morning for a hike.  Despite the cold; the air was crisp and cold.  The morning was clear.  The sun just coming up was beautiful.

It was a perfect time to hike the Greenway part of the Florida Trail

Frost On The Florida Trail

between Santos and Baseline.  This area has little or no shade.  Normally, this is a hot portion of the trail.  This morning it was just right.  The sun coming up was just the right amount of warmth.

The sun made the frost on the weeds glisten.  This is probably the first time the weeds along the edge of the trail looked beautiful.

Florida does not have the extreme seasonal changes that are experienced up north or in other states.  However, there is enough change to make hiking interesting.  No two hikes are ever the same and changes in temperature help to make hiking more interesting.

Keep hiking.

May You Hike In Peace.



Hiking The Florida Trial With Grandchildren

Vine Swing

With the weather being so nice, I went hiking with two of my grandchildren.  They had a great time.  We hiked the Santos Trailhead south toward the Vortex.

My grandsons are 8 and 15.  They both enjoy being outdoors and they like to hike.  The younger one likes to explore new things when we are on the trail.

He especially enjoyed the section of the Florida Trail where there are a number of vines.  The vines are great for swinging, especially when your 8.

The morning was cool and clear.  Under the cover of the trees you needed to keep a long sleeved shirt


or light jacket on.

The trail had been recently cleaned and cleared.  Storms had left three large trees down and blocking the path.  They had been cut up and the path was once again clear.  The Trail Elves had done their work.

Fall is here, the weather is great.  We have hundreds, no make that thousands or miles of trails in Central Florida, Ocala and Marion County.  Get out and hike.

Of course May You Hike In Peace.

Work of the Trial Eleves