I recently returned from another overnight adventure into the Juniper Prairie Wilderness located in the Ocala National Forest (ONF). The Ocala Wilderness offers backpackers a different experience from other Wilderness Areas in North America. The Juniper Prairie Wilderness is one of 4 Wilderness areas in the Ocala National Forest. The terrain in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness is flat with a white sandy beach soil. The temperatures during my trip exceeded 100 degrees during the afternoon and it dropped into the upper 70’s in the evening which was a welcome relief.
If you decide to do some Wilderness Backpacking in Ocala during the Summer be prepared for a-lot of heat and humidity. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated and use electrolyte packets to replenish those lost minerals and salts that your body will lose in the heat and humidity. The Juniper Prairie Wilderness has seen an increase in bear activity. Make sure you carry bear spray and have it readily available.
Make sure that you have insect repellant with you and apply it to your clothing and skin before heading out (Permethrin and Picaridin). The summer months bring out many biting insects that can transfer diseases such as Lyme Disease and the Zika Virus. The best time to backpack the ONF is during the winter months. The heat and humidity in the summer can be very tough on backpackers if they are not used to the heat. In the winter months be prepared for very cold evenings getting into the 20’s. During winter months hypothermia is a possibility and you need to have the proper clothing and gear with you.
Backpacking the ONF is a challenge with many scenic beauties such as the open prairie areas in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. The evenings are mystic especially if you go during a full moon cycle.