I passed through so many different Land Management areas today that I have no idea how many they’re actually were. There was some water and mud to deal with but not a terrible amount.

Not a Good Sign

During the evening, it was obvious that my inflatable mattress had an official leak in it. As I was packing up my gear, I found a small 3 inch segment of a blackberry vine with a few thorns on it. It was right underneath my air mattress. Mystery solved.

So now I know I officially do have a leak and I know the general vicinity where the leak will be. This at least will let me pinpoint where I need to look for the leak. These things are nearly impossible to find when they are small.

This little piece of thorny brush must have come from the bottom of my backpack. It hitchhiked in as I was setting up camp. I use my backpack as a base underneath my pillow for extra loft. But it also butts up right against my air mattress. I will have to be more vigilant when setting up camp next time especially after dark.

But other than that it was an uneventful morning. I got roasting about 5:30 and was up and moving well before 7:00.

The Orlando Wetlands Park

I took the high water alternate last night so that it would put me near the Orlando Wetlands Park. It sounds like the perfect place to walk through during the morning hours.

The regular path went right along the St Johns River flood plain. After dealing with enough water and mud yesterday I decided I will still keep doing the high water routes when they are available.

But this particular alternate route I am also altering myself. The trail officially skirts around the east side boundary outside the park. I am going to walk right through the center of the park and then rejoin the alternate on the north side.

As expected, when I get there the views are amazing. There are millions of birds everywhere and they’re at the peak of their feeding time.

I see a few other photographers out there and stopped to chat with two of them. They let me know that there is a SpaceX launch about to happen in 5 minutes. Bonus time two SpaceX launches this will be cool.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 entering a polar orbit.

I go ahead and pull up the YouTube SpaceX channel and turn the volume down very low. My timing is perfect because the countdown is at 3 minutes.

When the countdown reaches about 30 seconds, I can already see the rocket has been launched. I guess there is a significant delay on the YouTube live streams.

This is the launch of a GPS satellite and it looks like it’s on a polar orbit because it turns sharply north instead of going out east over the ocean.

There is not a cloud in the sky except for a few near the horizon. The view is incredible because of the sunrise behind it. The polar orbit also means the boosters will be landing in the ocean and not back on the pad. Because of this I don’t ever see the re-entry Burns I only saw the launch.

That was the best 5-minute delay of the trip. I can hear a very large gator bellowing behind me so I think I shall end the delay and keep moving before he gets me.

Small Preserve Lands

The rest of the day is going to be crossing many small management units. There is the Chuluota Wildlife Management Area, Charles Bronson State Forest, and many others that I can’t even remember.

Exiting the Chuluota Wilderness area to begin a 2 mile road walk to another small section.

The trails on most of them are quite pleasant. They are either through moist cabbage palm areas that might have mud and some watery areas. But most of these areas have boardwalks to avoid the water.

Not all of them have boardwalks, so there is some mud. It was not so bad that I had to take my shoes off but, my shoes did get wet several times.

If the terrain wasn’t moist, then it was high and dry. Palmetto pine or scrub Oak was the rest of the vegetation in these areas. In both cases the hiking is good.

One small area near a neighborhood had recently undergone a controlled burn. The black ground lasted for nearly a mile of trail. Palmetto’s in pines where the bulk of the vegetation they had just burned.

A recent burn smells like fresh fire.

The Econ River

The last management area is along the Econ River. That is a shortened version of the actual name of the river. I cannot spell the actual name. Just add a random number of O’s and E’s and that’s the actual name. (Econlockhatchee)

This is another section of the Florida Trail that I have hiked many years ago. It is one of the reasons that I took the east route around Orlando instead of the west route closer to home.

It is a white sandy trail with scrub and oaks. The river itself is slightly tannic and meanders back and forth like a snake. The trail is a good 20 ft above the level of the River high atop Sandy bluffs. It is very scenic.

On the bluffs looking down on the Econ River.

I like this section because it reminds me of a miniature version of the Suwannee River. The river is not nearly as wide or deep or dark. And the bluffs are not quite as high. But it has a very similar vibe.

The challenge for today is that one of the bridges are out. The app says that the trail is closed and that there is a rerouted trail that goes a little further away from the river. But when I get there, there are no trail closed signs posted.

I stick with regular trail and I’m glad that I did. When I get to the site of the bridge that is out it is definitely a location that needs a bridge. It is a bridge not really over water but more of a bridge over a ravine. The ravine is about 15 ft deep.

The bridge itself is completely gone. But the debris from the bridge has been stacked lower in the ravine about 8 or 10 ft above the bottom. That is the route I chose to cross the ravine.

The bridge is out.

But there are two other routes. There is a fallen tree across the ravine that is quite wide at about 20 inches. It would be very easy to cross on. The problem is it’s a full 15 ft above the ravine and would not be a fun experience if you are afraid of heights.

The last option is to go upstream and cross where the ravine is much shallower. I didn’t want to do that because it would just harm the ravine to scramble down it and up the other side.

As I am getting near the exit of the park, I finally meet more hikers. The first one I meet is Max, the hiker I met back at Kissimmee Preserve State Park. I recognize his tent and call out to ask if it is him. He is going to the REI tomorrow so he will likely pass me again and maybe we will cross paths again in a week or so.

The other hikers are camped just near the end of the park before it turns into suburbs. It is a couple who are trying to figure out the logistics of getting across Orlando. The hotels here are very expensive and on the weekends they are doubly expensive. This is where points from an established chain like Marriott comes in handy.

I chat with them for about 15 minutes and then head on my way because it is almost 6:00 and I have about thirty minutes of daylight left. My intent is to finish the hike to downtown Oviedo and Uber to a hotel near the UCF campus. This will leave me 17 miles for tomorrow to get to Lake Mary by mid-afternoon

Hitting the Suburbs at Last

I finally hop out to the roads and begin walking the sidewalks. I am probably only two or three miles from Oviedo. So half of my walk will be in light and the other half will be in darkness.

Since I will be on sidewalks or rail trails from now on, the darkness does not bother me. I should have street lights every once in awhile to help light my way.

This looks like Florida to me.

Within a quarter of a mile I come to a convenience store. I am not terribly hungry or thirsty, but I would like an ice cream cone. So I stopped in and get a Nutty Buddy. It is the perfect snack to munch on while I hike on the sidewalk.

The rest of the hike into town is uneventful. The sidewalks are easy to navigate and the air is cooling a bit.

When I finally get to the park where I was planning to stop, I see that it is not easy to figure out what is the official parking area. But there is a pizza shop on the corner of the intersection so I make that my new destination.

The restaurants near the hotel are going to be closing in a little over an hour. This pizza shop is open for another 2 hours. I think I will just stop here and order a pizza to eat and then Uber into the campus area.

I order a Margarita pizza which is normally just olive oil, garlic, basil, sliced tomatoes, and mozzarella. But they offer the option of a red sauce. I am so intrigued by the idea that I go ahead and order it that way.

If you are a fan of real Margarita pizza, never order it with red sauce. The highlight of the Margarita is the garlic and the basil. When you add red sauce, you totally mask those two incredible flavors. I basically had a basil and tomato pizza.

The Uber ride to the hotel was also uneventful. Since I have already eaten, showering is the first chore. As soon as I am clean, fixing the inflatable pad is the next chore.

I begin filling the bathtub with warm water. I then inflate the pad to the full amount per the repair kit instructions. Submerging an inflatable pad that is 3 inches thick underneath water is a very difficult task to do. And then looking for bubbles to appear that aren’t just air trapped on the surface is doubly hard.

I am concentrating on the area where I found the twig and where I think the leak should be. But I am not finding any bubbles. After ten minutes of wrestling with this thing in the tub, I do end up finding the leak at the very top of the pad. This is the location where it touches my backpack.

I mark the location, but keep looking over the rest of the pad to check for any other leaks. I think it took nearly 30 minutes to check both sides of the pad thoroughly. But luckily I only found the one leak.

This looks like Florida, too.

Following the instructions for the repair process was actually more difficult than I was expecting. You are supposed to adhere a glue dot, press it down firmly, then remove the backing and put another patch on top of that.

But following their directions, the side of the glue dot that I removed the backing from is not even sticking to the pad. Maybe I understood it backwards and I’m supposed to be sticking the other side to the pad.

The other side is indeed more sticky, but I think I’ve already ruined this glue dot. Luckily, there are two in the kit so I use the other one. This one sticks quite well. In fact, it sticks so well it’s hard to stick to the pad without sticking to everything else.

After a few minutes, I think I have a secure patch. As long as this is the only hole in the mattress it should be good for the rest of the trip. But now I have used both repair dots, so I cannot afford to get any more holes unless I can get another repair kit. REI does not sell them, but Amazon does. So now I get to play the logistics fun of figuring out where to ship a new repair kit.

Emotion of the Day

This may not be exactly an emotion, but today feels like a comfortable old shoe.

Even though the Econ River is the only section of today that I have hiked previously, the rest of the trails seems like the trails I normally hike in Florida. Lots of pine, lots of scrub, a little bit of mud, and a few boardwalks.

But the Econ River itself was exactly how I remembered it. It is a really nice section of trail.

Today was the first day I actually felt like I was hiking the Florida Trail that I know.