A Weekend on the Florida Trail

This past weekend was one for the memories. My buddy Bryan and I had a great time backpacking the Northeast Section of the FloridaTrail from Clearwater Lake to Juniper Springs. We made some good decisions, some bad decisions, and came across some things along the way.

 Friday

Bryan boiling water to cook his mountain house meal

We got dropped off at the Clearwater Lake Trailhead around 7:30pm Friday night. We hiked through an amazing pine forest with palmettos and cacti. To my surprise, the trail was marked very well, went right past residential land, and was pretty wide. After hiking for a couple hours we set up camp, ate dinner, bear bagged our food, and hunkered down for the rainy night.

Saturday

The next morning we awoke to a semi-bright sky and got our first good glimpse of the amazing wilderness we were in and hiked through the night before. We packed up and hit the trail just before 7:30am. We continued through the pine forest and eventually came across a section of sandy pine scrub and then what looked to be like a jungle, walking across boardwalks that seemed like they would never end.

At about 10:30am we started running low on water and came across the blue blazes leading us to Alexander Springs. We received a warm welcome from the staff and began refilling our Nalgene’s, ate our lunch, and checked ourselves for ticks and new forming blisters. After about 45 minutes we were back on the trail.

We kept hiking and never got bored with our ever changing surroundings. We’d be in a wet jungle type area and then it’d switch to pine forest which would switch to the woods and would then become sandy pine scrub and would repeat itself in no particular order. The trail would at times be just wide enough for one person and sometimes wide enough for 3-4 people walking side-by-side.

It started getting really hot…go figure…evidently I wasn’t drinking enough water and started to zone out…I was the point person. All of a sudden I heard my buddy Bryan yell at me from behind. He asked me if I saw what I just stepped over; I looked down and saw a baby Pygmy Rattlesnake about 7 feet behind me. Needless to say, I became a lot more aware.

By 2:00pm our feet were killing us from the lack of support Chaco’s gave compared to typical hiking shoes/boots. We were also starting to run low on water, so we were keeping our eyes peeled for water sources. We took a break around 3:30pm and finished off the water we had, thinking it’d be easy to find a water source…water sources were clearly marked on the map and guidebook.

Our plan was to re-fill our Nalgene’s along the trail, but weren’t able to find any water sources. We were also planning on only hiking about 15 miles on Saturday and setting up camp along the trail in Farles Prairie about 10 miles from Juniper Springs, pick-up point on Sunday. By the time we got to Farles Prairie it was about 4:00pm, had limited shade, was dry as a bone, and we were out of water. We decided to dig deep, push hard, and grind out the remaining 10 miles to Juniper Springs.Bryan Hare hiking on the Florida Trail

By the time 6:00pm rolled around we were dehydrated, tired, and still about 5 miles from Juniper Springs. I took the point position again and almost stepped on another baby Pygmy Rattlesnake. We took a break for a couple minutes and it slithered on its way into the woods. We kept hiking and finally broke out of the woods onto S.R. 44 around 7:00pm. We had another 2 miles to go, which we could hike in the woods at a slower pace, with less and less light, or hike west along S.R. 44 to Juniper Springs Campground. We chose to stay along S.R. 44 and it took us about 30 minutes.

Once we got there, we had another warm welcome by the staff who invited us into the office to get some water and rest for a bit. We paid to stay the night…well worth it…and waddled our way over to our campsite, refilled our water, set up camp, and passed out.

Sunday

We woke up the next morning around 6:30am and could barely walk. Our legs were shot and we each had some pulled tendons in our feet. When we went to get more water some other campers asked why were waddling…it was that bad. My calves were screaming and Bryan had some cuts on his feet. Our ride picked us up just after 8:00am and we were on our way home.

It was an adventure to say the least. I’d definitely do that section again, but I’d change a couple things. I wouldn’t have gone so fast (we hiked 25 miles in one day), I’d wear hiking shoes, and bring a lot more water (we each carried about 1.5 liters when filled) due to the dryness. Overall we still had fun, are still friends, and are already talking about our next backpacking trip.

Learn from us and if you’re interested in doing that section and have questions, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Happy Hiking!

What to Bring on the Florida Trail

My buddy and I section hiked the Northeast section of the Florida Trail, from Clearwater Lake to Juniper Springs, in the Ocala National Forest this past weekend. Since the Florida Trail is a trail like no other, I thought I’d share with you the things we took and some things we learned along the way.

National Scenic Trail: Florida Trail Trailhead Marker

Backpack and Water

You’ll of course need a backpack to carry all of your stuff. I prefer a backpack with an H2O reservoir built in and side pouches for a Nalgene. You’ll need to carry plenty of water with you since Florida can get extremely hot and water filling stations can be few and far between…we found this out the hard way.

Sleep System

I prefer to sleep in a tent and sleeping bag, with a sleeping pad, but if you don’t mind spraying on some bug spray and dealing with the bugs, a fly and foot print would work. A hammock with a bug net and tarp is always a viable option as well, but sometimes the trees can be spread out too far.

Footwear

Chaco’s tend to be my everyday footwear of choice. They give great foot support and I prefer sandals over shoes. However, we found out the hard way that they’re not ideal for long-distance hikes. Hiking shoes/boots would be best because of the extra support you get and the protection they provide.

Clothing

Always carry rain gear with you because storms can form in an instant. You can usually get by with shorts and a t-shirt, but make sure they’re anti-microbial and sweat wicking, of course. The winters can be mild and chilly so some long pants and a base layer is helpful as well.

Navigation

When you’re hiking the Florida Trail, make sure to buy the map for the section you’ll be hiking and the data book. Both are essential to keep you from getting lost and they do a great job of showing you where campsites, water, and civilization can be found. A compass is always a great idea to bring as well, along with a safety whistle, in case you get lost.

Oddities

Bring some duct tape. Sounds odd, but seriously, have you seen what duct tape can do? It can help you in almost any situation. You don’t need an entire roll, just wrap some of it around your trekking pole a couple times and you should be fine. I also bring a needle and thread to help with blisters.

Here’s a list of obvious things to bring that really don’t need any explanation:

    Bug Spray

    Sunscreen

    Headlamp

    Food

    Stove

    Flint/Fire Starter

    Water Purification System

    Hat and Sunglasses

    Toilet Paper

    Knife

    First-Aid Kit

Lastly, you should always plan ahead. Know the weather and dress appropriately, know what permits you need and precautions to take, like the dates for hunting season. Finally, make sure you tell people when you’re going, where you’ll be going, how long you’ll be gone, and when you’ll be checking in.

Bring these items, keep these things in mind and you should have a good time.

Happy Hiking!

Chaco…A 3-Part Review…Part II Z1

As promised a while ago, here are some of my thoughts about the Z1’s by Chaco. These sandals are at the top of my footwear list for a few reasons.

They have a heel strap

They lock your feet in tight with very little slippage. They work great for light trail hikes as well.

Chaco Z1 Unaweep is great for backpacking

They don’t have a toe strap

I like to have a full range of motion for all of my toes. When I’m going to be on my feet for a long time, these are my preference for the security and free range of motion for all my toes.

Chaco USA Z1 Unaweep is great for backpacking and hiking

They’re light

Unlike the Z2’s, the sole is slimmer, so they won’t weight you down.

The one disadvantage to these bad boys is the lack of a toe strap. Now, I know I said earlier that to me it’s an advantage. However, if you’re looking to go on some steeper and tougher terrain, these won’t be the best. The toe strap does help give more added security and reduces the risk of slipping.

I wore them to UCF’s Spirit Splash one year and they helped out a bunch. I got to protect my feet and keep my sandals on at the same time…not to mention they got a much needed cleaning.

I’d suggest wearing them to music festivals like Bonaroo or the Vans Warped Tour. You’ll be outside all day in the blazing hot summer sun. You’re going to want to wear sandals. You always run the risk of losing sandals, but if you have the Z1’s, they’ll provide: comfort, foot support, sole protection, and stay on your feet all day.

5 Simple Ways To Continue Earth Day

Earth Day was on Monday and it got me thinking about the impact us humans have on the earth. We’ve modernized the world and made things a lot more comfortable and more efficient for us, so that got me thinking about the effect that we’ve had on the planet. It’s no secret that we pollute the world every day, but to offset that balance, I wanted to share with you 5 simple ways we can help conserve the planet.

1.     Use less plastic

Think of how many bottles you go through in a day, whether it’s soda bottles, milk bottles, water bottles, etc. They all add up. Rather than grabbing a plastic bottle while you’re at work or running errands, try to carry your own water bottle or glass.

2.     Conserve water

Water’s something we need every day, yet we take it for granted. We’re blessed enough to not have to walk to a watering hole to get our water every day. Here’s a few ways to help conserve water.

  •       Pee in the shower…try to hit the drain and don’t think about it
  •       Guys-stop up the sink while you’re shaving and rinse your blade in the sink, not under running water
  •       Only use water to rinse your toothbrush and mouth after you’re done brushing

If you really want to take it to the next step, take showers like my granddad said they back in the day when he was in the Navy. You’ll definitely save water and time with this method.

  •      Hop in without the water running
  •      Wet yourself down (don’t until the water gets hot)
  •      Turn off the water
  •      Lather up
  •      Rinse off

3.     Organize a car pool/use public transportation

This method may be a little more time consuming, but think of all the time you saved in number 2. Not to mention, you’re cutting down on the amount of exhaust entering the air every day, saving yourself some money on gas, and cutting down the need for oil.

4.     Cut down on energy consumption

Our lives are constantly in fast-forward that it seems like we always forget the littlest things. It’s as simple as turning off the light when you’re leaving the room. If you like to fall asleep with the TV on, put a sleep timer on it. You can also unplug electronics and cables that aren’t being used at the time. If you do these things, you may even see your electric bill get cheaper.

5.     Get involved

If you feel led to help preserve our planet, do something about it. I’m not talking about going vegan and joining Green Peace. It can be as simple as writing your Senator, State Representative, City Mayor, etc. about changes you’d like to see and give some solutions. Join a volunteer group that’s centered on environmentalism. You can even donate to environmental groups that you support.

An Easy Way to Get Out of Your ENO

We’ve all seen the cartoons where someone’s lying in a hammock and all of a sudden they get spun around really fast and shot out. Folks, it’s possible and here’s a “safer” way to do it.

Step 1

Lie on your back in your ENO and wrap the excess material of your ENO around your arms and legs. It helps to also spread your arms and legs outwards to create tension.

Lying in my ENO hammaock

Step 2

Start leaning to one side. It might be tough at first, but keep going and remember to keep pushing outward with your arms and legs.

Leaning sideways in my ENO hammock

Step 3

This is where it can get a little nerve racking. Roll over. Everything in your body at first is going to tell you to stop and lay on your back. As long as you have the excess material of your ENO wrapped around your arms and legs and you’re still pushing outward with your arms and legs, you should be fine.

 

upside down in my ENO hammock

Step 4

Breathe. You’ve probably never been in this position before, so calm your nerves; you’re almost there.

Step 5

Carefully remove one leg from your hammock and let it dangle or set it on the ground, depending on the height of your setup. This helps you get an idea of what you have to do with your other leg. When you feel comfortable, tighten your arms and shoulders and remove your second leg and place it on the ground.

Getting out of my ENO hammock, one leg at a time

Step 6

Celebrate! You did it! Now you can go show off to all your friends and show them a new trick you learned in your ENO.

Safely out of my ENO hammock

You can get in your ENO this way as well. All you have to do is follow these steps in reverse order.

A couple of things to note when you do this.

  •    Start close to the ground when you do this
  •    ENO says that you shouldn’t rig your hammock more than 18 inches off the ground
  •    If you don’t feel comfortable…Don’t do it!

Inspiration in Crazy Weather

It seems like most of the country is getting smacked with some sort of natural storm lately. We got nailed with a ton of wind, rain, and lightning on Sunday. As I was driving back from Jacksonville in a torrential downpour on parts of I-95, I thought back to when I was a little kid and how I loved playing in the rain.

Inspirational Life with Storms

Crazy I found this picture and saying online later that day. Anyways, I think it’s very fitting considering the recent events and odd weather patterns.

Cars, Bikes, and Transportation

Have you ever come home from work, started prepping food for dinner or for the next day and found you’re missing that one ingredient? Yea, that happens to me every so often too. So what do you do?

You probably:

Get in the car

Drive to the grocery store

Park your car

Shop

Pay

Load the groceries in your car

Drive home

Unload

Then, you get to cook/prep again

That’s a long list to get a couple quick things. Not to mention, you’re putting unnecessary miles on your car, causing unnecessary harm to the environment, and wasting gas.

When something like this happens to me, I like to take my bike to the store. It’s a great way to get outside, get a cardio workout in, and do a small part in helping preserve the environment.

I do realize that this only works if you have to grab a couple things. If you’re going full-blown grocery shopping, by all means, drive your car. If you only need to grab a couple of those last minute things or if you have to go somewhere that’s a short distance, why not take a bike?

What do you think about using a bike to get to the grocery store or go a short distance?

Chaco…A 3-Part Review…Part I…Z2

Chaco LogoTo kick off this 3-part Chaco review, we’re going to look at the Z2 style, probably the most recognizable sandal that Chaco offers. With it’s crazy toe strap design, this style stands out among the rest.I wear this style the most when I’m going to be out-and-about for a while and don’t want to have to worry about them going flying off my feet. This style is also perfect to take to the crag. If you’ve ever been climbing in North Carolina, you know that it’s sometimes a good 15minute-45minute hike. Once you get to the crag, they’re easy to put on and take off, when you’re not climbing. With their high traction and self-cleaning tread design, this makes them a perfect sandal for easy hikes.What makes this style stand out is the toe strap, like I mentioned earlier. I find that the toe strap keeps my foot in place and stable, better than the other styles that Chaco offers. The webbing and sole design also allow you to get that perfect fit across your foot and toe so your feet don’t go sliding all over.

Justin Fricke The Weekend Warrior and his Chaco Z2's

The biggest drawback to this style is the size. They’re big, clunky, and heavy. If you’re looking for a lightweight sandal, these aren’t the ones for you. If you’re looking for durability, foot support, and stability, this style is for you.

Check back tomorrow to get my input on the smaller and lighter, Z1 style.

Chaco…A 3-Part Review

You may have seen some people wearing an “interesting” pair of sandals around the climbing gym, at the crag, or around town…maybe even at a YoungLife camp. They have fun patterns on the straps, their soles are huge, they even have a buckle. Folks, those are called Chaco’s. Chaco’s are one of my favorite pairs of footwear…I have 3 different pairs.

Chaco Logo

You might be wondering why I have 3 different pairs of Chaco’s. Well, when you’re a climber and a surfer, you’re in different terrain and its great to have that arch support with the sandal that fits the occasion.

That brings me to my favorite part about the Chaco brand. What sets them apart, aside from their customer service, is their LUVSEAT. If you’ve ever walked barefoot on any type of loose sand or dirt, you probably felt some pressure on the arch of your foot, good pressure I might add. That’s your feet and body in alignment. Chaco has the LUVSEAT design to mimic just that.

Justin Fricke The Weekend Warrior and all of his Chaco's

It takes a little while of breaking in your first pair of Chaco’s for a couple reasons. They do have a rigid sole for added stability and need to get broken-in. You’re also not used to having something supporting your arch, creating slight discomfort for the first week or so…stick with it. Once you break-in your Chaco’s you’ll be glad you did.

Now, owning numerous pairs of Chaco’s can get a little pricey, but Chaco has great ways to help you save some pennies. When you buy a pair of Chaco’s, you virtually don’t ever have to buy another pair again. If the strap breaks, the sole wears out, buckle cracks, etc. All you have to do is mail your Chaco’s back and specify what service you want performed and they’ll hook you up…for a small fee. Still, it’s a lot cheaper than buying a brand new pair.

Check back tomorrow to see what I think about the big, clunky, and my favorite style, the Z2.

ENO Doublenest and SlapStrap Pro Review

I never really knew about Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) until I started getting into climbing. I heard a bunch of climbers talking about what they take on climbing trips, one of their “necessities” being their ENO. I found out that it’s a really simple hammock that can:

  • pack down real tight
  • is lightweight
  • easy to setup and take down

ENO logoI decided I had to get one

My ENO of choice is the Doublenest. While the Singlenest is still a great design, it’s only meant for one person. When you’re 6’2’ and like to sprawl all over the place, the Doublenest hammock wins, hands down. Now, it is a little more expensive, but trust me, it’s definitely worth it. Plus, if you get the Doublenest, it’s a lot roomier, especially when your girlfriend wants to cozy up next to you in the winter.

When you’re looking to buy your first ENO, I highly recommend getting the SlapStrap Pro at the same time. It’s a suspension system that’s longer than the SlapStrap, which allows you to be able to set up your ENO in more places, especially when trees/posts are few and far between, like at the beach.

You might be thinking that you could only then, setup in places where two trees, for instance, are further apart. Oh contraire. All you have to do is set up your SlapStrap Pro like normal, and then maybe give them an extra wrap or two to shorten the distance and BAM, you’re good to go.Justin Fricke The Weekend Warrior hanging in his doublenest hammock by ENO

These things are also very durable. Like I said earlier, they’re packable so I’ve taken mine with me on three surf trips so far, twice to Nicaragua and once to El Salvador. I still own my first ENO, which is going on three years old, and it’s held up very well. It’s worked out great because when the power goes out and it’s between sleeping in a sweltering bedroom with two other dudes or sleeping in your ENO on the patio with the cool ocean breeze, you tend to choose the latter.

ENO has a wide variety of accessories to offer, to make your hammocking experience even more relaxing, such as their Bug Net, Pillows, Travel Bags, and much more. I personally haven’t been able to get my hands on all of these accessories, there’s a LOT, but I’m working on it.

I’d say if you don’t have an ENO yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. They’re the perfect way to set up a comfortable camp when you’re backpacking, fun to set up in the back yard, heck my friends and I even have ENO parties on Sunday afternoons from time-to-time. It’s awesome when everyone can go to the park; string up their ENO’s and hangout.

To top it all off, ENO has some of the best customer service. Their website provides enough information to pretty much answer any question you have. If you can’t find your answer on their website, shoot them an email or give them a call and they’ll be sure to take care of your, like they’ve taken care of me.

Happy Hangin’!