12 days Canoeing and Backpacking the Ocala National Forest, FL

By Grant Sachs – ENO College Brand Ambassador

YE OL’ 2K15! Was a complete success! 10 brave participants from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse chose to spend part of their winter break embarking on an unforgettable 12-day adventure to the Ocala National Forest. It took nearly 1,400 miles of driving but once we finally arrived our journey began with some relaxing canoeing on the Ocklawaha River.

We paddled upstream the first day and encountered a vast variety of very active wildlife. More birds than you could possibly count, multiple turtles bathing in the sun around every corner, alligators, and MONKEYS! Yes, we saw freaking packs of monkeys! They were running around and climbing trees everywhere, we even saw them jumping across the river! Don’t believe me? Check out our GoPro montage Highlight video as well!

We later had some more quality time on the river and got to chillax at a sweet spot next to the water for several hours on our last full river day. It was inevitable that the fleet of ENO hammocks that we brought along would be set up as well as the challenging ENO Slackline! It was a total hit with this incredible group who were enjoying this entire experience thus far.

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The trip then transitioned into its second stage; we took all the gear from the canoeing portion and packed it into backpacks and proceeded to hike along the Florida Scenic Trail! What an awesome opportunity to experience two entirely different types of adventures in one epic trip! We hiked a grand total of 37 miles and it was no easy feat. After the long days of hiking we cooked up some awesome dinners including: Pesto Pasta, Lasagna Glop, and Pita Pizzas to name a few. We ate a ton and then stayed up late talking about the day and telling stories around a nice warm fire. During the nights, everyone had the opportunity to curl up in their sleeping bag between two trees in their ENO hammocks. It was such a huge hit and everyone loved the wonderful backcountry sleeping experience.

The days were filled with many miles on the trail and it took lots of courage accompanied with some amazing endurance to keep pushing through some pain all the way till the end.  What an amazing sense of accomplishment we all felt as we finished the hike, especially as we plunged our dirty sweaty selves into the cold spring water at Juniper Springs to conclude or journey in the best way possible!

By the end, on the drive home, we had devolved some pretty incredible friendships and become such a tight-niched group that none of us could ever forget. It was tough to come to the reality that classes for second semester were literally starting the next morning but YE Ol’ 2K15 was exactly what we all needed to start the new semester off right!