Make The Most of the Dash
Tread Lightly! Four Wheel Drive Way Jeep Badge of Honor Trail - Ocala National Forest, Florida
After spending almost two months with our family in Central Florida, for my gallbladder surgery and recovery, it was time to hit the road and get back to traveling and enjoying this beautiful country. Our first destination was Ocala National Forest where we took on the off-roading challenge of the Tread Lightly! Four Wheel Drive Way Trail, a Jeep Badge of Honor trail.
The trail offers 81 miles of off-road trails for Jeeps and other 4WD vehicles, and is open year round, weather permitting. The trail is divided by Florida State Road 40 into two sections, a northern and southern. The Jeep Badge of Honor trail check-in point is located at GPS coordinates 29.176º N 81.782º W where you will find a Tread Lightly! kiosk with trail information and a QR code you can scan to download a digital interactive map of the trail.
We arrived to the check-in point a little after noon, and found the kiosk where we checked-in for our Jeep Badge of Honor after which we started on the southern half of the trail. It had only been a few days since the last storm had hit this area with heavy rain and high winds. As we made our way through the trail, we found evidence of the severity of the storm with downed trees not only on the Jeep Badge of Honor trail, but on many of the other trails in the area.
To get through a couple of the trails, we were able to chop the trees down and continue on, but others were impassable. We spent the afternoon doing as much of the trail as we could using an app called Trails Offroad which gave us our realtime location and helped us get around the seven plus downed trees we found blocking our route. We managed to complete the southern portion on our first day, camping that night at the Big Scrub OHV Campground which was located towards the end of the trail.
The campground was empty, except for the Camp Host and ourselves. We had our pick out of about 50 primitive campsites choosing site no. 14 which was close to the facilities. The camp fee is $20.00 per night unless you have the a National Park access pass which provides for a 50% discount reducing the price to $10.00 per night. With dark clouds looming above, we quickly set up our rooftop tent and fed Moose, our Jeep dog, before the rainstorm began.
Those clouds brought heavy rain and thunder that lasted for about four hours. We rode out the rain in the front seats of the Jeep, eating our dinner of apples and granola bars while talking about how much we enjoyed this journey we are on. We reminded ourselves that things could have been worse - we could have still been out on the trail in dangerous conditions, we could have been setting up the tent in the rain, and so much more. It's all in your perspective. We were comfortable, dry, had food to eat, and each other's company. We call that a good day! Once there was a break in the storm, we made our way into the tent for a well deserved night's sleep. Having the campground to ourselves, we really enjoyed the quiet, solitude and security of being in this area.
The next morning, we broke camp early before it got too warm, took a hot shower (the only time we had wished for a cold shower), and made our way to the north side of the trail. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before we discovered that this portion of the trail had much softer and deeper sand with some portions having been torn up by ATV's and UTV's using the trail. At this point, being alone on this trail and our Jeep being as heavy as it is with all of our overlanding gear, the smart move was to call it a day and skip this side of the trail. We did not wish to run the risk of getting stuck and doing damage to our Jeep. Instead we decided to continue making our way north towards our next destination - Gulches ORV Park in South Carolina for a weekend of trails and on-site primitive camping.