This is the Florida I really like. On my only off day in Orlando, not counting the day I flew in, I went out to Lake Kissimmee State Park in search of their 13 miles of trails. Luckily, not one of them had a TRAIL CLOSED sign at the trailhead.
Kissimmee is a 5900+ acre park with an incredible variety of terrain: From forest to floodplain and flatwoods to hammock, Kissimmee had it all.
At the trailhead was a fishing hole that had a lot of attention. Mostly parents with kids were fishing from raised platforms. It wasn’t hard to see why they were fishing from above the shoreline: I immediately spotted two alligators floating offshore, with only the top of their heads out of the water. I could see fish everywhere, practically begging just below the water’s surface. I was told they were Florida Largemouth Bass, although they looked like a bunch of pet carp.
I didn’t hang out long enough to see one caught. I had just spent the past several days immersed in a sea of humanity, with a second round coming the next day, so I was looking for solitude on the trails. I found it too. The only company I had once I left the trailhead was several deer that I hiked past.
It was an absolutely beautiful day, with temps in the low 70’s F, not a cloud in the sky, and I had those 13 miles of trail to hike.
This remnant of Florida fascinates me. I honestly love hiking through the flatwoods and hammocks. It’s so different from what is in Alaska. It’s also kind of enjoyable to be hiking in a t-shirt in March and without mukluks.
They very recently had a controlled burn in the park, and one of the trails went right through one of the burns. The scent of burnt vegetation hung in the air. The burn was so recent, that I would occasionally walk through a pocket of air where I could smell the heat itself. I’m not sure if it was a hot pocket or just an area where the sun beat down in such a way as to amplify the scent, but it was intense.
I had never been to Orlando, which shocked the hotel manager. In fact, I even received a head shake when I confessed that this was my first visit to the city. I did not add that I would not have visited at all if it wasn’t a business trip.
It’s an interesting town, and I enjoyed the 80F degrees, but I’d prefer the Everglades or Dry Tortugas. I’m more of an orca in the wild than an orca in a pool, kind of guy.
Still, I did enjoy the trip, and the food was decent, although prices easily surpassed Fairbanks, which took me by surprise. Car rental prices were relatively inexpensive, but gas prices varied wider than I have ever seen. They were all over the map, with a difference of 60 cents a gallon around the city. The cheaper ones are not around the airport, by the way.
Last week, I had a 10 day business trip down under, as in the Lower 48. Orlando was Part One of the excursion. I landed at their airport at 5:30 am. Since I was not going to be allowed to check into the hotel until 3pm, I had some time to kill. After breakfast, I picked up a few things that I forgot to bring and then searched for a park with a trail to hike.
I picked one out and headed down the highway. This was my first time to Orlando, and after spending the past 12 hours traveling, I just wasn’t in the mood for the intense traffic. It’s pretty nasty in Orlando. Shout out to I-4!
After arriving at the park, I walked about a bit then came across the trailhead:
There were three trails, and a TRAIL CLOSED sign at the start of each trail. An hour fighting traffic to go twenty miles, and the trails are closed. I was not impressed. There was no explanation. I’m not overly familiar with trails being closed. In Fairbanks, it’s usually because the trail is going through an active wildfire zone, and in Anchorage I remember warning signs highly discouraging of the use of a trail due to a grizzly killed moose carcass just down wind a bit, and one never knows when that grizzly will return to chow down some more. I was hoping to at least find a sign saying “Trail Closed due to Alligator Eating Wayward Tourist”, but there was no such sign, and I started to assume it was probably due to the trail getting a bit muddy, or something equally hazardous.
In the end, I found what I thought was a small hardly used trail along a creek, but eventually I was told off by a woman in a canoe who said that I was not on an official trail and I needed to go back.
I almost told her to go soak herself, but in the end, I just pointed to the opposite shore, and asked, “Is that an alligator?” Then I walked back to the car.
Alaska Airlines has announced the end of an era. Their 737 with the king salmon painted on its fuselage will be repainted. Dubbed the Salmon-thirty-Salmon by an admiring public (mainly Alaskans), the repaint is facing a recall effort on change.org, but it seems the lure has been cast.
The paint job made its debut in 2005, and the plane has been a favorite up here ever since. That first painting of the 129 foot long king salmon was paid for by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, but subsequent repaints have been done by Alaska Air itself, as it continued to help promote wild, Alaskan seafood.
A spokesman for the airline stated that “a wonderful new design will be introduced in the coming months”. Alaskans seem skeptical however, thus the change.org petition.
Salmon-thirty-Salmon’s final flight will be April 17, when it flies the Southeast Alaska “milk-run”: Seattle to Anchorage, with stops in Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangell and Juneau.
Lost in the excitement and drama of Fat Bear Week, was the story of how two Russian nationals crossed the Bering Sea in a boat, landed on St Lawrence Island, and turned themselves in to authorities in Gambell, Alaska. The two men were seeking asylum in order to escape Putin’s War in Ukraine.
Gambell, Alaska, population 600, is actually much closer to the coast of Russia, than it is to Nome, which is 200 miles away. The two Russian men were flown to Anchorage.
The incident adds to the drama going on between Alaska and Russia. Russian military aircraft have been veering into Alaska airspace for several years now, and recently, the USCG followed a flotilla of Chinese and Russian naval ships out of the Aleutian Islands.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park was established on this date in 1972. As I’ve said before on here, GMNP is one of my favorite National Parks. My trip there, which involved some serious dirt roading in a ’73 Beetle, was completely spur of the moment and unplanned. I brought back a Bug full of memories when I found this gem in Texas.
Mack Rutherford, a 17 year old pilot, is attempting to become the youngest person to fly around the globe solo. Rutherford left Sophia, Bulgaria on March 23.
He recently flew his Shark ultralight plane down the Aleutian Chain, landing at Attu, Shemya Island, and Adak. Rutherford arrived at Unalaska on August 1. When I last checked his online tracker, Rutherford was in Ketchikan, following the coast down to Mexico. Although, by now, Mack has no doubt moved further on down the coast.
The young, Belgian-Brit Adventurer is expecting to complete his circumnavigation by the end of August.
A new tourism study released by the University of Alaska Fairbanks turned a few heads recently. The group of tourists that spend the most money and stay the longest in Alaska are birdwatchers. In fact, birders spend twice as much time in Alaska when they visit than the non-birders do. In 2016, birdwatchers spent over $300 million in Alaska.
The study probably shouldn’t have surprised as many people as it did. Alaska is a birdwatching mecca. Alaska is home to the largest concentration of shore birds in the world. There are some 530 species of birds that have been documented in Alaska, 55 of which are considered rare.
So, if you want to see a red-breasted sapsucker, I suggest the rainforest of Southeast Alaska. As for Fairbanks, we have a very active and vocal raven population.
Fairbanks remains pretty dry, but we’ve had a couple of tenths of an inch of rain lately. Out east, near Black Rapids, a heavy rain storm coupled with heavy snowmelt caused a flash flood to hit the Richardson Highway where it crosses Bear Creek.
Bear Creek won. Travel to the fishing mecca of Valdez from Fairbanks will now require a much more round about way.