I’m almost a month behind in these posts. Must do better.
The original plan was for Charles (now Nonsense) and I to do two short 5-7 mile days taking us to Pine Island Slough (still within Kissimmee Prairie State Park) then Town of KICCO (pronounced kiss-o) campsites, followed by a slightly longer 10-mile walk into River Ranch Resort. River Ranch is a fancy dude ranch-themed resort with a golf course and saloon and air-conditioned teepees, etc. – they let Florida Trail hikers camp and use the showers. Nonsense’s wife was then going to pick us up from the resort for a break in Gainesville – the Florida Trail Association had a film festival/fundraiser thing happening that weekend.
Given the short hike planned we left out of the Kissimmee Prairie campground late morning. On the campground road we passed a tree occupied by a couple curious raccoons. Leaving the campground the trail continued on through the prairie, with the roads we were following turning sandy.
A couple hours later we arrived at the campsite. Nonsense and I had both been checking the weather forecast for the next couple days and we’d come to the same conclusion. The forecast was calling for a huge downpour the morning we were going to hike into River Ranch. Instead of taking three days to get there we decided to make it in two days – that way we’d be at the ranch when the rain hit instead of 10 miles out. So after eating lunch we continued on.
For 2.5 miles the trail continued along the sandy road at the edge of the park. Upon leaving the park the path became a little bit rougher – lumpier trail to strain the ankles and long grass to hide potential snakes. This stretch was only 1.5 miles but by the end my nerves were a bit frazzled. And upon sitting down to rest I discovered that I’d picked up lots of very sharp burrs that found their way into all sorts of uncomfortable places.
After removing all the burrs I could find – more would be found later – the pack went back on and off we went on the last 2.5 miles for the day. The trail turned onto a road which took us across a lock and over the Kissimmee River, then eventually into our campsite. The Town of KICCO campsite is on the remains of an old cattle town – KICCO = Kissimmee Cattle Company. The land is part of the South Florida Water Management District, and there are still cattle concessions in place. The SFWMD has free campsites available on many of their properties – some only for tents but many open to RVs. When we got to KICCO there were a couple campers and a converted school bus, but still plenty of room for us to set up tents. Plus there was a privy!
In the morning I filtered water from the river, keeping an eye out for gators, then we continued on towards River Ranch. For awhile the trail followed the dirt/gravel KICCO Grade road alongside the Kissimmee River. We passed herds of cows, who always kept their distance, and beehives. The sky was huge and blue and expansive over the river and prairie.
After a few miles the road moved away from the river and into a series if oak hammocks and meadows. The trail bounced from path to road to path – I’m not sure we caught all the turns we were supposed to take. At one point we left the oak hammocks and passed through a palmetto field, then a stretch of trail that had been torn up by boar.
Mid-afternoon brought us to the roadwalk into the ranch. We registered, set up camp, then hit the general store for pizza. The campsite was essentially a huge field with a few trees here and there – nothing much to stop the wind from blowing through. And that night ahead of the coming storm the wind blew strong. Originally the rain was supposed to hit around 2am but it gave us a reprieve until ~8am. We’d just packed everything up and were starting to head to the store when the sky opened up. So we ended up getting drenched, but at least it was just a short walk to the store. Got breakfast and sat at done covered picnic tables and watched the rain come down.