With my current work schedule, days off come mid-week, so this week's long run was scheduled for Wednesday in anticipation of a welcome cold front. Highs crept into the 80's, but it could have been worse. The destination: the highly acclaimed Citrus Loop within Withlacoochee State Forest outside of Inverness (about a 1 and 3/4 hour drive from home).
The Citrus Loop is a part of the Florida Trail system in the western corridor and is 35-40+ miles depending on whether a handful of 1+ mile side trails are incorporated to access recreation areas with water. Lack of water is the biggest challenge on this loop. I didn't want to add mileage to what would already be a long day for Uwharrie and me, so I opted for us to carry the water we needed for the entire 35 miles. This resulted in us carrying a bare minimum of 100 oz. for myself and 32 oz. for the dog.
We started at 10:20 am from the northernmost trail crossing of FR 13 and proceeded in a counter-clockwise direction. The trail was well-marked and in reasonable condition. Fresh legs and early cloud cover made the initial miles fly by. we really enjoyed the diversity of the scenery, which fluctuated from dry pine to enchanted gnarled oak forest. There were even rolling hills, which added to the flavor. All in all, I was really impressed with this loop, especially the western half.
As we rounded the bend and headed north on the eastern half, our pace suffered as the afternoon heat took its toll on an unrelenting stretch through shadeless pine. Still, the sight and fragrances of the wildflowers kept the mood light even as I resorted to periodic walking breaks. Uwharrie was doing surprisingly well in the heat, but I made sure to water her regularly (whether the silly raisin dog wanted to or not). We startled an owl who flew off with a green snake. We also saw coyote, squirrels, deer and turkey on the loop.
We were both happy to return to the car at 4:45 pm. This is a great loop and I certainly would love to return to it later in the winter- a great introduction to Florida trail ultra running!
3 days ago