Date- December 31, 2018
Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 13 feet
Distance Traveled Today- 13.8 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 20.8 miles
Weather/Temp- partly cloudy/80s
Injuries- tiny toe blister
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- Black Racer snake, lizards, crows
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 2
CatFox Status- No complaints yet
Today’s hike was brought to you by Donna Summer. Thank you Donna for your continued inspiration and motivation to put one foot in front of the other.
Seriously though, today whooped my ass worse than anything in the past couple years. This initial 20+ mile dry stretch has been a bane unto my existence.
I had around 3.5 liters to get me over 14 miles to my purported first water when I awoke this morning. Under any other circumstances (on other trails), this should have been plenty to get me there without too much trouble. But throw in some 84 degree, 100% humidity… and I was probably losing over a liter an hour through my pores. I managed to stretch what I had up until about 2.5 miles before I finally reached water, but that wasn’t nearly enough to keep me adequately hydrated throughout the day in these circumstances.
I knocked out the first 6 miles without too much trouble, carrying Katana the entire way. After that, the heat kicked in. I tried to drink half a liter per hour, but I couldn’t escape the muscle cramps and fatigue – especially in my shoulders and neck due to carrying little dog. It became a pain slog.
There was almost no wind. My legs, arms, and clothes were sweat soaked at all times. My skin stung all over from the dozens upon dozens of tiny scratches and cuts. The unvarying stride of hiking on flat ground coupled with the lack of diverse views and unvarying terrain made for mental torture. I could imagine hell being a place where you continuously walk through a landscape that doesn’t change, and never allows you the feeling of getting somewhere… and it’s hot, and all you want to do is guzzle water but you can’t. If that could be hell, then the Florida Trail has been purgatory so far.
Even if it weren’t for the dehydration cramps and fatigue, it still would have been a tough day. The nonstop searching for orange blazes which mark the nonexistent path. There is no path cut through the forest – the only path to follow is the flattened vegetation of those who came before you, and sometimes not even that. Very often you’re just trail blazing through the undergrowth to get to the next orange blaze shining through the trees and palmettos.
The only exciting animal encounter I had was with a large black racer snake. I nearly stepped on it while looking for the trail and wandering around a patch of limestone rocks and tall weeds. I stopped so abruptly at the last second, I almost tipped forward onto my face. This exact situation is what I fear happening with an eastern Diamondback, or cottonmouth in all this overgrowth. For once, I’m actually nervous about running into snakes.
I cooked a 14oz grass fed ribeye for lunch. I should have cooked it yesterday, but I wasn’t hungry enough. After a day and a half in my pack, it was still delicious and I haven’t turned green yet. I suspect it could probably last 2 or 3 days in milder temps. I still have bacon, and large beef sausages left to cook. Eating on trail has never been so fulfilling.
First thing in the morning I passed 3 other hikers going south back to Oasis. They were section hikers with plans to go 30 miles to a highway, but the lack of water had forced them to turn back.
I finally reached my first water of the trail a little before 5 pm. It was literally a mud puddle no more than 2 inches deep in the rut of a swamp buggy track. I didn’t care. I scooped bit by bit into one of my bottles with a collapsible cup, then strained that through a bandana into another bottle – and then drank the still cloudy water through my sawyer filter. Although I was prepared for it to taste like pure shit, I was surprised to find it tasted like rain water. I drank a liter on the spot, then filtered two more using the two step process.
We weren’t far from our first multi mile knee deep wade through mud and water, but it was far too late to begin that endeavour. I decided we’d camp in the first suitable spot, then tackle the swamps in the morning.
I cooked some beef brats for dinner and gave one to katana mixed into her dry food. It’s hot at night. Hot enough that I don’t need a pad in my hammock to avoid eskimo ass. The cool air beneath is more than welcome.
These forests seem dead during the day, but they come alive at night. The crickets and cicadas go crazy at dark, providing constant background noise. I can hear barred owls and other exotic bird noises that sound like laughter intermittently throughout the night. As I was writing this, a coyote gave an exceptionally long howl – not much unlike how a wolf sounds. Nothing answered it, and I haven’t heard it again, but it couldn’t have been more than several hundred yards away.
My greatest fear at night is black bears. Most people don’t know this, but Florida is overrun with black bears. Due to how dense the human population is, many of them are accustomed to people and don’t shy away easily. In my area of Florida alone, there have been several attacks/bites over the past few years. Being alone out here, I don’t fancy the idea of fending off an unafraid bear in the middle of the night. If I was anywhere else (besides grizzly country), I wouldn’t give a second thought to them. But knowing Florida Black Bears first hand… they have my attention.
I should be through the worst of this trail by the end of tomorrow. I have about 10 miles to cross I-75, and then the terrain should change up a bit.
Katana did well today. She was a patient and pleasurable passenger. I let her walk a little bit on swamp buggy roads, but they never lasted long enough to amount to much distance. I can’t wait to get out of this overgrown hell and let her rack up some miles.