Backpacking the Kissimmee Prairie

Last weekend I got to backpack with friends near Lorida, Florida (not a typo). From the first trailhead, we had a leisurely 2.5 mile hike to the Hickory Hammock campsite. The trail and campsite were well maintained but the weather was hot and sunny, about 82 degrees. Even though most of the hike was in the shade, there was still a lot of sweating. There was a water pump near the campsite (non-potable) but we only used it for cleaning dishes. We did find an interesting sight after dark – Carolina wolf spiders. They were all over. The way we first noticed them was by shining our headlights on the ground. They have 2 eyes that reflect light – like little diamonds. 3 of my co-hikers decided to walk away from camp that night to watch the full moon rise over the prairie. After arriving at their destination, they all turned off their headlights. Soon after the headlights came back on, when someone heard a raccoon charging towards them.  The rest of the night was uneventful but the following morning brought rain. Fortunately, we’d already packed all our gear and mostly finished breakfast. The rain lasted about 2 hrs into our hike so it wasn’t that bad. We took a break at an equestrian center that had a large covered pavilion and composting toilets. That’s downright luxurious to a backpacker. While on our break we got to watch a red shouldered hawk for a while. For the remainder of the hike, we also spotted wild pigs, a crested caracara, a fairly large gator and the usual assortment of vultures, herons, egrets, and osprey. We took another break at the next trailhead and replenished supplies for our second night in the wild. While there, a visiting French backpacker stopped to chat on his way through. He started in the Keys and was averaging 20-22 miles a day (our total mileage for 2 days was probably 14), including hiking after dark in the Everglades with only his headlight. He was definitely on a mission to complete his hike before returning home. We continued on to the next campsite and found the trail in pretty bad shape. It hadn’t been cleared in awhile and was poorly marked. I think we found the campsite by accident and it wasn’t very appealing. By majority vote, we hiked back out to the car. The plan at that point was to drive to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park and camp one more night. Unfortunately, the campground was full so we all returned to our respective homes.

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