Suncoast Chapter - Florida Trail Association

Easter/Passover hike - April 8, 2007

Florida Trail Assoc Logo
Hike Report by Gordy Hawkins
Standing outside the car, head tilted slightly back, I took in a deep,
deep breath and slowly let the air out. 53 degrees, cool, crisp,
slightly overcast. One glorious day for a hike.

The Fourth Annual Easter/Passover hike was held at the Citrus Tract of
the Withlacoochee State Forest near Inverness. It was a point to
point eight mile hike though various terrains and natural environments.

There were twenty six of us from the Florida Trail Association (FTA)
and Acewalkers Racewalking Club. Two clubs with positive energy. From
all, a respect for health, nature and being. Thanks to my friend,
John Bangos from the FTA, for helping out being the sweep and later on
being the lead.

The hike started on the western side of the 40 mile Citrus Trail
Loop. We hiked on a sandy road for 3/4 mile to get to the actual
footpath and then headed south. The trail with the orange blazes on
the trees is one of the FTAs maintained trails throughout the State of
Florida. We would hike up hill and down. Through pine forest and
palmetto patches. Giant pine cones scattered the ground and pine
needles softened our foot steps. Over limestone rocks and gnarled oak
tree roots. But always it was over an easy and well maintained trail.

The sunshine emerged during the later part of the hike and many
jackets ended up in hikers' knapsacks or tied around waists.

There were areas where the controlled burns from months earlier left
the lower part of the pines' bark charred. The ground was cleared and
open with only light brown from pine needles on the ground and bright
green stems of new brush starting to grow - just as nature would do if
a natural fire had cleared out the undergrowth making way for new
spring growth. No glittering, dashing, kaleidoscope of colors, but
comforting hues of nature's beauty.

The last 3/4 mile brought us to Dames Caves. An area with several
small caves/sinkholes. Enough to pique the curiosity. Thus when we
came to the largest of the caves and there was a steep rocky entrance
to it, the climb down had to be made. Those up above could see the
spirited ones down below though the large opening above. When I went
down, one of the hikers had a flashlight. There were just three of us
there at that time. We got down on our hands and knees and crawled
through a small opening. Surprisingly, to me at least, was that we
ended up in a large underground room. Without the flashlight, this
would not have been discovered. With the flashlight off, the room was
the blackness of eternity. Only by turning our heads in the direction
of the small opening we had crawled through were we able to use our
visual sense. Heads turned away from that opening, and only darkness,
black darkness.

After the hike many of us headed to CiCi's Pizza Buffet with all you
can eat pizza, pasta, salad and desert. The manager gave our group a
discount of free drinks. All for less than $5.00 including tax.

What a day! What a glorious day!