Ocala National Forest

Ocala National Forest

THE OCALA NATIONAL FOREST WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1908 AND IS THE OLDEST NATIONAL FOREST EAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER.  THERE ARE MORE THAN 600 LAKES AND PONDS IN THE FOREST SO THERE IS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. THE FOREST ENCOMPASSES 383,000 ACRES WITH OVER 100 MILES OF EQUESTRIAN TRAILS. WE CAMPED AT A PRIVATE CAMPGROUND ON THE SOUTHERN BOUNDARY OF THE FOREST WITH EASY ACCESS TO THE TRAILS.

EARLY THE NEXT MORNING WE SADDLED UP OUR HORSES AND HEADED OUT ON THE SANDY TRAILS. WE WERE RIDING WITH A LADY WHO KNEW THE TRAILS. GOOD THING FOR US AS THE TRAILS WERE NOT WELL MARKED. OUR GPS WAS ALSO HANDY TO HAVE WITH US. AT TIMES THE FOOTING WAS IN DEEP SAND CALLED SUGAR SAND. A THICK UNDERBRUSH OF SCRUB OAK AND LIVE OAK SAPLINGS LINED THE TRAIL. AS WE MADE A TURN; THERE WAS A LONG STRAIGHT TRAIL AHEAD. OUR GUIDE MENTIONED THAT BEARS WERE OFTEN SIGHTED DOWN THIS PART OF THE TRAIL. BLACK BEARS WERE ABUNDANT IN THE OCALA FOREST. BUT LUCK WAS WITH US AND NO BEARS WERE SPOTTED.

THE SECOND DAY WE TOOK ANOTHER TRAIL WITH A DIFFERENT LANDSCAPE. THE TRAIL LED US THROUGH A TALL PINE FOREST. THE FOREST FLOOR WAS COVERED WITH LOW GROWING PALMETTO PLANTS AS THE TRAIL LED US DOWN TO ONE OF THE MANY LAKES IN THE FOREST.  A CLEAR BLUE SKY CREATED THE PERFECT BACKDROP FOR THE FISHING BOATS SPRINKLED OUT ACROSS THE LAKE.  A BEAUTIFUL VIEW!  RIDING ON DOWN THE TRAIL BIRDS GREETED US WITH THEIR CHATTER.  WE HEARD THE KNOCKING OF A WOODPECKER AS HE WAS SEARCHING FOR INSECTS IN THE BARK OF A TREE.

WE AWOKE THE NEXT MORNING TO ANOTHER GREAT DAY FOR RIDING.  WE WERE ON THE TRAIL EARLY SINCE DAYTIME TEMPERATURES WERE CREEPING HIGHER.  OUR TRAIL LED US THIS TIME INTO SOME OF THE WETLANDS IN THE FOREST.  WE RODE AROUND THE EDGE OF A WIDE OPEN PRAIRIE WITH ITS BROWN GRASSES BLOWING IN THE BREEZE.  A SMALL POND BESIDE THE TRAIL WAS HOME TO A RATHER LARGE FAMILY OF NOISY FROGS. THEIR CROAKING FILLED THE AIR.  MASSIVE LIVE OAKS, TALL PINES AND OTHER HARDWOODS LINED THE TRAIL AS WE RODE ALONG THE EDGE OF THE PRAIRIE.   TALL AND ELEGANT SABAL PALM TREES STOOD MAJESTICALLY AMONG THE OTHER TREES.  THIS WAS A BEAUTIFUL TRAIL AND SOOOO  RELAXING.  AS WE APPROACHED OUR CAMP, SANDHILL CRANES WERE GRACEFULLY WADING IN THE SHALLOW WATER OF A SMALL LAKE SEARCHING FOR FOOD.  THESE CRANES WERE ABUNDANT IN FLORIDA.

WE RODE FOR A WEEK IN THIS BEAUTIFUL FOREST BUT ALL GOOD THINGS COME TO AN END.  IT WAS TIME TO MOVE ONTO THE NEXT TRAILHEAD.

UNTIL NEXT TIME WE WISH YOU MANY “HAPPY AND SAFE TRAIL.”

BOBBIE AND LARRY

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