"Huracan 300" Bikepacking Adventure 2022
Brandon's Krampus Tiff's Troll
Dan's Bridge Club Tom's Karate Monkey
Day 1 - Shangri La Camp to Buck Lake Camp (62 Mile day)
Giddy and grinning, the four corn raised midwesterners headed into an adventure full of surprises at every corner. Smooth single track and wide open double track quickly turned into some sand churning goodness. Followed by endless roadways surrounded by pines and open fields that stretched into the misty horizon. This was the only night we did not have a reservation at a campsite or hotel, so the thought of stopping at any flat area to set up camp ran through all of our minds over and over! Carrying on through the rain and washboard we finally decided that we would try to make it to our original destination at Buck Lake. Here we thought we would be able to camp for free and have access to water. Thankfully we rolled into camp at sunset but quickly realized we were supposed to have some sort of reservation. We decided to set up anyway as it was already dark and there was no way we would have made it anywhere else. Dinner was prepared on our camp stoves mmmmm dehydrated pad thai! We weren’t in the mood to try to fight wet wood and fatigue to get a fire going, so we nestled up for a chilly night of much needed rest after about 62 miles of hard riding.
Day 2 - Buck Lake Camp to Wekiwa Springs State Park Camp (67 Mile day) A cold and damp morning slowly turned into a sunny and dry afternoon for some amazing riding through more sand, mud and even a recently burned forest. We made our way through more of the Ocala National Forest on two wheels slowly but surly** :p On our way to Wekiwa Springs to camp we saw some bear tracks, sugar sand, and what appeared to be a lot of turtle diggings? (As told by a local later on at Cumpressco) The terrain of day 2 somehow was even more surprising than that of the first, putting our bodies, gear and minds to the test! We all survived the day and came to the much anticipated river crossing just as the sun was about to set. We stripped down as much as was comfortable and planned to carry the bikes two at a time so we did not get our gear wet or break our backs! The water was cold but felt pretty good after a long day of riding. We all made it through the crossing to get redressed and dry. There were about 8 miles of singletrack/unknown terrain ahead, and let me tell you, it was tough! The sun made its way down as we navigated through a very swampy cypress forest in the dark. Tiff and I had a slight panic attack as we dreaded what may lurk in the trees surrounding us! Dan and Brandon made better time through this section and were lucky enough to stumble across some wild pigs! We made it to camp and prepared dinner and still had no energy to make a fire. Warm showers at the campsite were much appreciated after wading through a river and trekking through a swamp. Rain was called for in the morning so we called it pretty early and got some good rest.
Day 3 - Wekiwa Springs Camp to Clermont Fairfield Inn (50 Mile day)
Day 3 started a little better than we expected and the rain held off until we were well on our way. We started out on pavement as we made our way from camp to Lake Apopka. (my personal favorite spot of the trip) The wildlife here was amazing, millions of birds, a few gators, and best of all barely any humans! We were able to ride quiet gravel roads all the way around one side of the lake. While riding we even got to see a few ospreys try to snag fish out of the water. Rain slowly made its way into our day as we were riding around the lake but I personally think it made the place even more magical to ride through. After making it to another entrance to the park we realized that we would be hopping on the road for the majority of the day so we turned our lights on and added a few pieces of high vis gear to our bikes and rolled into civilization. The road ride was way more intense than we expected, but very rewarding. Who would have guessed that there are some BIG HILLS in florida?! After climbing our way to the tops and bombing our way to the bottom of what seemed like endless rollers and psycho drivers we made it to our oasis for the night a HOTEL WITH BEDS AND LAUNDRY service to get our gear dried out for the rest of the trip! This stay was much needed after being wet for a couple of days, and the giant pile of food we got from Cracker Barrel did not disappoint! We spent the evening in the drizzle soaking our feet in the hot tub as we planned for our next couple days of adventure.
Day 4 - Fairfield Inn to Cumpressco Camp Green Swamp (68 Mile day)
HOT PREPARED BREAKFAST… we were rejuvenated, refreshed and ready for a long haul on our bikes. We set out as the sun was rising and spent the first part of the day riding a nice paved trail called the South Lake Trail. What a great way to start the day! Our date with civilization quickly came to an end as we headed west toward Mabel, FL. We hopped on another paved trail for a quick section (Van Fleet Trail) and before we knew it we were back on the doubletrack and sandy back roads of “The REAL Florida”. The Wide open pine forests and quiet roads made for a very peaceful, yet challenging day. This was the first day we were going to be dry for the ENTIRE day so spirits were as high as the sun in the pure blue sky above us. We had to make sure to conserve our liquids on day four, as there were no places to get water between the paved trail and 17 miles after our next camp site. Thankfully we were able to pack enough to make it through! We slowly made our way into the Green Swamp area and found our campsite as our miles of riding crept up on our knees and ankles. This campsite was tucked away in a little cove of moss covered trees and is where Brandon found out that the sand piles we’ve been seeing are from the gopher tortoise. Clear skies, dry firewood, and warm soup made for a great evening among the stars. As we were tucking into our tents, we were blessed by the yipping and yelling of a pack of coyotes to make our trip to the dreamworld a little challenging.. :p
Day 5 - Cumpressco Camp to Holder Mine Camp (52 Mile day)
It was an oatmeal in the tent kind of morning as we awoke to yet another mid 30s start. I liked running the camp stove in the mornings to get a nice burst of heat and a little bit of tea to get me motivated and packed up. We decided to bail on the final legs of the Huracan 300 route and jump over to the “lite” version because we were toasted, our knees and ankles were whiney, especially mine! This route took us to the Withlacoochee State Trail after some more sandy wide open roadway and some super soft double track that sucked your soul. Oh, and more frigid water crossings! Those 17 miles to the restock point definitely felt like an eternity. The scenery made it all worth it though. Boy, was that gas station food DELICIOUS, I bet we all consumed well over 1500 calories and had left overs to get us through the rest of the day. After a few sketchy road miles we made it to the 46 mile long paved trail that we would spend the majority of the day riding. Along the way we spotted a fresh fruit stand sign on the trail for Ferris Groves. We decided to stop, and they had MILKSHAKES!! Fresh strawberry and orange milkshakes made with real fruit hit the spot, so did the pineberries! With just a short while left to camp we stayed a while and stretched in the sun as the day continued to get warmer. The rest of the way to camp was smooth sailing, ending with a few miles of singletrack through the pines. We were surrounded by firewood, nice people and clear skies once again! Pizza delivery was a treat, it’s funny how much you can eat after a few long bike rides.. Another night of solid rest.
Day 6 - Holder Mine Camp to Shangri La Camp (40 Mile day)
It was our final day. We would carry on with the “lite” route to camp today with high ambitions to set up camp and strip our bags off of our bikes and go ride single track until the sun went down. We took the same singletrack back to the Withlacoochee trail and headed north to the end of the trail. At the end we decided to have a small lunch and head over to the next section of trail on the Dunnellon trail. So far most of the terrain was paved. Next we headed into a short but stressful section of road riding that led us to Pruitt park and its selection of off road trails for hiking, biking and horse riding. This section started off pretty rough due to the trail being shared by the horses, but it quickly turned into peaceful singletrack and very quick doubletrack through the giant moss covered trees. One last time we got to soak in the paradise that central Florida has to offer. This section took us to another paved trail that was familiar, one we had ridden on day one! Our energy that was depleted days before seemed to come running back into our bodies for a short while as we realized that we were almost to the finish! The last section of singletrack was smooth and flowy all the way back to the campground. We were roasted.. We decided to load up our bags and bikes in the truck and go treat ourselves to a nice Mexican dinner and a classic ice cream parlor, SO GOOD. We all kind of laughed at the idea of trying to get our bikes back off of the truck and go ride some more through the woods. Instead set up camp one last time and recalled some of the good and bad times of the trip, dreading the drive home that was planned to start before the sun rose. I think we were all asleep before 9 pm.
What a great adventure…
Thomas asked us to add a few thoughts on our equipment and bikes. Here is my assessment of how the Krampus did on the Huracan 300.
First off, this bike has been my dedicated MTB for only one season. I had not even considered it for bikepacking trips until I swapped out my bridge club. The Krampus a 2015 Model, 1st generation. These did not come stock with very many bottle bosses. Safe to say, I had some packing challenges.
What is great about this bike? 29x3 inch meats! The Surly Knards are the only tire I’ve run on this bike so far. They are like the Krampus, heavy and durable. I ran them tubeless thanks to the Gorilla tape hack for the rabbit hole rims. It is safe to say that I was glad to have the extra width when the trail got sandy.
Bikepacking bags saved the day when it came to stuffing all the over packing I did yet again. I added some Ergon bar end grips before the trip for some extra hand positions. 800mm bars, and I was driving a bus around. Fun!
This bike usually runs a PNW suspension dropper. Man did I miss that! Next time I’ll swap out my saddle to a well worn Brooks Flyer that has made an appearance on many of my bikes.
The Surly Troll performed great on yet another bike tour. Equipped with Microshift Advent X 1x9, Tubus Low Rider Front Rack, 27.5 x 2.2 Super Yumms, Ortlieb Waterproof bags, and a Green Guru Saddle bag with some waterproof sacks, I pedaled through all of the surfaces that the “REAL” Florida had for us. Although my drivetrain was screaming after some of the sandy sections, cleaning it when I got back wasn’t all that bad.
I can’t really pick a “favorite” piece of gear because everything I had worked really well. I did appreciate swapping sleeping pads with Thomas on a couple of the colder nights. Should have definitely brought my heavier sleeping bag. I underestimated Florida February, especially with the cold front that was lingering from the north. I could have added a front rack for a few extra things. My bags were packed to the max with all of my gear and food. This trip was way more intense than I imagined. I knew that this was a type 2 fun trip but it really tested my physical and mental self. After day 2, I really contemplated whether or not I would finish the trip. But, with Thomas by my side, his encouragement really pushed me through. Sure, I cried once or twice, but I do feel like I accomplished something big. Can’t say for certain whether I would do the route again. But I would gladly go back and session those mountain bike sections again. Once we finished, as tired as I was, I was thinking about the next trip we are going to take.
I have been building up my Surly Bridge Club (aka Ezra Bridger) gradually over the past year with a mix of used, and new parts. 2021 was a tough year for finding new components so I settled for an eBay direct from China 11-46 cassette and 32T chainring to complete my 1X10 drivetrain with a microSHIFT thumbie and Deore mech from the parts bin. 1500 miles so far on this setup with no issues. Bar ends on the Surly Terminal bars give a variety of hand positions similar to the Moloko bars but in aluminum. Perhaps the best upgrade on this bike so far has been the wheelset I built; 27.5 Velocity Duallys laced to Velo Orange Disc Hubs with DT Comp spokes. With 2.6” Schwalbe Rock Razors provided excellent grip and fast rolling on the varied “road” surfaces we encountered in central Florida. However, I was not so impressed with the Velo Orange QR skewers; they look cool but were constantly coming loose. I don’t think they were designed with bikepacking or the vibration of dirt roads in mind. Eventually I ended up tightening them down with pliers. I have already ordered a set of bolt-on skewers to replace them. Overall the Bridge Club was a great ride for this trip with ample space for cages and bags. I opted for a bike packing bags instead of panniers, Revelate Terrapin 14L, Mag Tank, & Hopper frame bag, Swift Industries Zeitgeist Bag, Wald basket supported by a Surly 8 Pack Rack. Handlebar bag and stem bag by Donut Sack. Despite trying to pack light, I was definitely at the limit; it would have been nice to have a full frame bag and/or a Revelate Jerry Can. With temperatures ranging from 30 to 70 degrees, sunshine and pouring rain it was hard to settle on just a few items of clothing. In hindsight I wish I had brought my rain jacket instead of just a windbreaker. I spent two days soaked to the bone and the excess moisture in the saddle led to some discomfort on day one. At night I slept in my Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 backpacking tent (which I love) Nemo sleeping pad and 30 degree bag. I have had an inflatable Nemo pillow for a while now and never really loved it, so for this trip I bought a Therm-a-rest Compressible pillow which was much nicer. I ended up bringing both pillows and used the inflatable between my knees for side sleeping. Perhaps the most luxurious item I brought was my Bose noise canceling earbuds which along with melatonin made falling asleep at night super easy.
This was definitely the hardest week of riding I have ever done. I felt prepared but the Hurican 300 is a tough route. Add in two days of rain and the challenge was every bit mental as it was physical. However, for me the beauty of the landscape and the thrill of exploring the unknown was enough to push any pain and discomfort aside. Day 2 was probably my favorite, Ocala National Forest, and Wekiva State Park were unlike any place I had ever ridden before. Pure magic. The hills north of Clermont/Minneola were a blast and made me glad I spent so much time riding in Southern Ohio last year. At the time I wasn’t sad to skip the Croom single track (I was really dragging that day) but I plan to go back and check out this area next time I am in Florida. I am sure it will be way more fun without the added weight of all my gear. I want to thank Karlos Bernart @singletracksamurai for curating this route.
Thomas K. I rolled with the Surly Karate Monkey, set up with 27.5 x 2.6” Schwalbe Rock Razors, what a great tire! I swapped out the suspension fork for a rigid so I could haul the whole kitchen sink with my Tubus low riders and Surly 24 pack rack. The racks carried my Ortlieb front city rollers and a custom basket bag from Dave at Donut Sack Bike Bags. I swapped the dropper out for a rigid post to carry a 16.5L Ortlieb booty rocket to fit our two person tent, my sleeping pad and pillow. I was able to stuff a couple of cans of soup in there for dinner one night as well! Fenders from SKS came in for the win to keep the road spray down. My Selle Anatomica saddle kept my bum nice and comfy for the whole trip. My mitts stayed calm with a set of ergonomic grips and my “bar-mids” to add another couple positions on the bar. If you’ve made it this far, you might be a bike nerd :p I rolled on the 1x10 Microshift AdventX group and had ZERO issues shifting through all of the muk and sand. Lights from cygolite kept us safe from cars and panthers alike and the trusty garmin logged every mile. RWGPS on my phone kept us on path and we only missed a “few” turns.
My personal favorite piece of gear had to be my rain jacket from Bellwether, it kept my soul warm on those first few rainy days.
One thing I look forward to changing on my bike for the next tour will be changing to a 2x10 drivetrain to give my 2 baby cogs a rest.