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Sleeping on Air; Citrus Tract Trail (Part 2); Weight Matters; Hobbit-Like Woods; A Gorgeous Visitor; Hello Kitty? An Unexpected Scowl

How long had it been since I slept on an air mattress (a new acquisition, to replace a well-used foam pad), especially a comfortable one? At least 30 or 40 years, I surmised, as I lay cozy in my sleeping bag, to this pre-sunrise view above my tent on the Citrus Tract Trail. It appears hazy because of the mosquito screen that makes up the inner roof of the tent. The outer (detachable) roof, called a “fly”, is waterproof. The whole tent only weighs 4 lbs 8 oz, which is pretty light. It won’t keep a grizzly bear out, but (a) I wasn’t in bear country, and (b) if I had been, I would have brought My Lovely Bride to stand watch during the night while I slept. Smack… Guess she wasn’t amused…


Next came morning ablutions (I’ve always liked that word; it comes from the Latin ab: away, and luere: to wash), somewhat abbreviated due to the paucity of fresh water… I carry a small Ziploc bag of baby wipes for the purpose. Regular toothbrush and a tiny tube of toothpaste are also in my pack; serious ultralight backpackers will cut off most of the toothbrush to save weight; I’m not quite that anal. Then I fixed a cup of instant coffee (Starbucks Via, almost indistinguishable from fresh-made from ground beans) and a hearty breakfast of granola with a half cup of water to wet it down. (Don’t laugh – granola is high in carbs, fat and calories, but not so high in protein; protein bars filled in that gap after an hour of hiking). My Esbit stove and pot combo is an ultra-light 7.5 oz, and uses small fuel tabs that boil a cup of water in under 8 mins. (The only down side is that the fuel tabs have the aroma of rotting fish… YUCK! I have to keep them in double Ziplocs.)

Back on the trail for the rest of my hike, another 12 mile day – feet a bit sore, but that’s to be expected. My low-cut Merrell trail boots (the one on the right in the photo) are relatively lightweight at exactly 2 lbs; far lighter than my tougher Asolo mountain boots at 3 Lbs 5 oz, but on this benign and relatively smooth trail, I didn’t need high-top boots with heavy lug soles and a steel last. Lots of foot powder kept blisters away, thankfully.

The terrain continued to provide a variety of visual treats. This stand of small twisted trees was kind of bizarro… but not as spooky as….

… this huge Tolkien-inspired oak grove I later encountered. This area could have given one the creeps on a dark, stormy evening. There were no bird songs to be heard, only a light moaning of the wind in the tops of the trees. You almost expected little hobbits to come running from behind the trees…

… or from caves… like this one. The karst (limestone) geological formations here in the Withlacoochee State Forest produce lots of caves and underground streams. It’s hard to tell from this photo, taken 50 feet away, but the entrance to this cave is about 3 feet high. I briefly entertained a notion of trying out some spelunking and exploring the cave, but since I was traveling solo, I thought better of the idea.

There were many black and blue Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies (Battus philenor) flitting around during my hike. The first photo (blurry) is one I took of a “fast-mover” on the wing. The second provides much better detail, but is from the Internet. I may have to return next Spring with my good camera to get some better images. The Pipevine Swallowtail takes its name from one of its host plants, the Pipevine (Aristolochia). Pipevines confer a poisonous quality to the larvae and the resulting adults, much as the Monarch butterfly obtains protection by feeding on milkweed.

What a beautiful creature… Nature is truly awesome, and this Pipevine Swallowtail appears to be in perfect order!

Just after my last butterfly encounter, a flash of pink at the side of the trail caught my eye, and I found another sign of humanity… this tiny Hello Kitty barrette. It was heartening to see that there are still some parents who take their kids into the woods for a family hike instead of sticking them in front of TVs to be kept out of the way… Keep up the good parenting!

As I was in the last mile or two of my trip, I spotted another backpacker about a quarter mile ahead, going in the same direction. I would probably have caught up with him, but I encountered four day hikers resting on the side of the trail headed in the direction in which I had just come. I stopped to tell them about the cave and the hobbits’ forest ahead. We chatted for almost 15 minutes about hiking and mountain biking. Then they asked whether I knew the backpacker up ahead. I said that I had not yet met him, but hoped to. They said that when they passed, all four had said “Good Morning”, but had only gotten an annoyed scowl in reply. That was unfortunate, because hikers are usually friendly folk. We parted, and I thought no more of the other backpacker until I arrived at the campground and started into the rest room. I almost bumped into that guy in the doorway, both of us with backpacks on, and I gave him a friendly, “Howdy; how are you doing?” He scowled and turned away without a word. In all honesty, I have only encountered that negative a reaction a handful of times in my entire life. I think he may have a lot to learn on this earthly plane…

In reflecting on my solo backpacking experience, I was reminded that I was not really alone. I needed to thank My Good Friend and Guide Prudence who dictated that I remain above ground rather than diving into that cave and getting my butt stuck. She is the only feminine presence other than My Lovely Daughter Elisabeth that Suzanne encourages me to travel with out in the woods… Pru doesn’t keep me warm at night in the tent, but she does keep me out of trouble. Usually.


  • Lynette
    Posted April 1, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    Looks like an amazing place to hike. Since I need a new pair of knees, I am vicariously hiking with you. The Hobbits' forest is amazing, and yet, all I could think about while looking at it is our terrible woodland affliction, deer ticks. Are there ticks in those woods? Or does Miss Prudence protect you from moments of madness (I.e. Diving into holes unaccompanied) and bloodsucking critters?

  • Ty and Suzanne Giesemann
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 1:38 am

    Lynette, You can hike with me (vicariously or otherwise) any time! There were indeed ticks, but I thought the photo pretty gross so decided not to include it in the blog. And yes, Miss Prudence does (usually) keep me from doing particularly insane and mad things. Usually… but not always!


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