Quick Adventure Facts:
What - Ocean to Lake Trail
When - February 18th to February 22nd 2016 | 5 Days
The Ocean to Lake Trail is a secondary trail that is part of the Florida Trail System. The trails connects Lake Okeechobee in the west to the Atlantic Ocean at Hobe Sound.Length
The OTL connects multiple parks, reserves and wildlife management areas as it meanders along for approximately 63 miles.Terrain
The Ocean to Lakes Trail is mainly comprised of wooded trails, remote dirt roads/paths and a couple sections of short road walks that are separated by sections of ankle to waist deep cypress swamp. One of the most unique features of the trail is the eastern section that passes through the rolling sand dunes of Jonathan Dickinson State Park.Weather
A typical winter thru-hike will see temperatures in the low 40's at night and the low 70's to 80's during the day. It isn't uncommon to have a day or two of rain during this time. Occasionally, temperatures will dip to around freezing which can make the sections through water much more difficult to deal with.
Most hikers choose to hike the OTL from late autumn to early spring. The heat, humidity and bugs are all huge deterrents to attempting a thru-hike of the trail during warmer months.
Interstates and state roads offer easy access to both ends of the trail. The trail is well marked and easy to follow.
Guthooks Florida Trail app is a great resource for planning and navigating the trail.Resupply
The trail is very short in a length and doesn't usually require a resupply. Those looking to do so, can easily load up on the second to last day at a Sunoco Gas Station and Sierra Square Strip mall that is located along Indiantown Rd..Gear
By: Matt Favero
Hiking in Florida can be quite unique to say the least. I can’t think of a single time that a seasoned hiker from outside of the state of Florida didn’t show absolute disgust and disinterest when I’d mention the sections of the Florida Trail where you hike through long sections of swamp. These sections of trail are permanently submerged underwater with nothing more than orange blazes on cypress trees guiding the way.
They bemoan the threat of alligators and anacondas and having to walk with wet feet for miles on end. Then there is always talk of the bugs. It’s like somehow hikers develop temporary amnesia and forget about the mosquitos in the Sierras or the black flies in Vermont.
To those of us who’ve actually hiked in it, it’s pure beauty. The still water reflecting the shapes of tiny cypress trees. Ospreys, hawks and eagles flying through the sky and perched in pine trees. Cranes, herons and egrets slowly making their way through the water hunting for fish. It is one of the quietest places I have ever been; both soothing and majestic. There is a natural inclination to make a little noise as you can, almost like being in natures library.
While not part of the Florida Trail proper, The Ocean to Lake Trail is a 60+ mile trail is part of the Florida Trail System. It connects Lake Okeechobee to the Atlantic Ocean at Home Sound. The trail winds mostly through wetland and wildlife management areas with a beautiful stretch through the rolling sand dunes of Jonathon Dickinson State Park.
Wanting to share this type of beauty with our friends, Joe, Red Beard, Hardcore Steff and myself invited our good friends Cannonball, Stargazer, Jessica Hikes and (all the way from Switzerland) Lukas to join us for an Ocean to Lake thru-hike. Wouldn’t you know it? We decided to do it during the wettest year on record too!
We all met at the Zpacks shop late in the afternoon and drive a couple of hours south to drop a car off at the beach in Hobe Sound. Steff’s cousin then picked us up and drove us to Lake Okeechobee. We camped in a horse pen at the trail head which had soil so compacted that we could barely get our stakes in the ground. Semi’s blasted by all night and we didn’t get very much sleep.
Once on trail in the morning, the trail teased us for the first few hundred yards with some lush forest before dumping us on dirt farm roads. It didn’t take long to before the trail disappeared under the water and stayed there for quite a bit. Eventually, the trail dried up a bit and we took the opportunity to get lost and promptly hiked a mile off trail. Once we made it back to the trail, it didn’t take long before we plunged right back into the water.
Soon after, we saw our first alligator. In reality, unless you’re full on swimming in fresh water in Florida, an alligator isn’t going to bother a full sized adult. Undeterred, we continued along the wet trail until we hit a nice dry camp spot about 16 miles into the day.
It didn’t take long to get our feet wet again on day two. The trail quickly entered a beautiful forest and small cypress trees outlining the narrow trail. For the next few hours, the trail alternated between being dry and being underwater. Later in the day, we had to cross, for lack of a better term, a shallow lake. The water was up to our waists and there was no way to avoid getting seriously wet.
Not long after crossing the lake, the trail shot us out on a dirt road which lead us to the Everglades Youth Conservation Camp. We found a spot just outside the camp and set our tents up for the night. In the middle of the night, I woke up to Jessica calling my name. A raccoon had grabbed my pack and was dragging it away. She got out of her tent and grabbed it for me as I wasn’t fully clothed.
The next day the trail continued on the dirt road alongside a canal before plunging right back into the water, yet once again. After crossing our first major road, the trail become extremely muddy and entered a section that looked like a Central American rain forest.
The rain forest soon gave way to small scrub oaks on the edge of a marshland prairie before it turned into a nice section of boardwalk. The boardwalk ended and dropped us right back into the water before dumping us out on a dirt road along side of a canal.
The trail left the road a couple miles later and continued through a park for a couple of miles until we approached another major road. We followed the road to a little strip mall with a convenience store and a pizzeria. After gorging ourselves on pizza, we crossed the road and dipped into the woods once again.
A couple miles later we found ourselves following along a beautiful lush river. We found a nice spot to set up camp and ate our left over pizza. Otters splashed in the river all night as we slept.
Our last day began with a short trek that led us underneath the Florida Turnpike and into Jonathan Dickson State Park. The forest was thick as we approached Kitching Creek and soon gave way to a long stretch of pine forest.
Eventually the pine forest disappeared into one of the jewels of the OTL Trail, the rolling sand dunes. Huge rolling white sand dunes appear out of now where and are like nothing I’ve ever experienced in Florida. The soft sand is difficult to walk in but the change of pace and scenery was a welcome change.
The dunes end, unceremoniously, as they giveaway to a long stretch of road walk. The road walk begins on a busy road before going through an old section of Hobe Sound. Soon the trail runs right and follows a beautiful shaded street that leads over a bridge and onto the beach.
We all jumped in to celebrate our accomplishment and then made our way to a victory feast at a local Mexican restaurant. It was a wet hike but it’s unique challenges and scenery had made it an awesome one to share with friends.
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