Date- January 3 – 6, 2019
Ya’ll are going to think I’ve lost my ever loving mind. And maybe I have…
I talked about doing the Florida Trail this year for maybe 3 to 4 months before actually setting out. Of course one of the first people I asked to join me was Schweppes. We’ve hiked countless miles together between the Triple Crown trails, and I consider him one of my best friends. So it seemed like a no-brainer.
But Schweppes had no interest in doing the Florida Trail (who can blame him), and declined every invite. In fact, I don’t think he thought I was going to go through with it either. I’ll be honest, I didn’t have a lot of enthusiasm for this trail, and like I said before, I really only wanted to do it for the drastically different experience – not for the good time of it.
So when the day finally came that I set out on the FT, and I sent Schweppes the picture of me at the southern terminus… he was genuinely surprised to see me actually doing it. And not the least bit envious to see me starting a thru hike without him.
He called me on my third day, while I was dying in the mud, sitting under my umbrella thinking about what they’d write on my tombstone.
“How is it?” He asked. “F***ing terrible. The hardest thing I’ve ever done – especially in this heat with this dog on my back.” “You gonna quit?” “F**k no.” “Dude, I think I might come out and do it with you.” “Quit talkin’ and come out then.” “Well if I do, I’m doing the whole thing and starting from the beginning, not just meeting you wherever you are.” “If you hurry, I’ll wait for you in the next town,” I said. “Hell no!” He joked. “I’m only coming out if you start from the beginning again with me…”
I knew his coming out to hike wasn’t solely contingent upon me starting over with him, but I knew how wishy washy he could be sometimes. And I knew if I played the “one-up, machismo game” with him – he’d play ball. We’d been feeding off each other’s type A personalities nonstop for the past 4+ years, so we both knew how the game worked.
After a long pause since he’d thrown out his ridiculous offer, I finally answered. “Alright A**hole,” I said jeeringly, “If you bring your ass down to the swamp, I’ll do this whole section over again with you.”
The ball was in his court. *Long pause…*
“Lemme get home tomorrow morning from Denver (where he spent New Years), crunch some numbers, go through my gear, and then I’ll let you know,” he replied. “A’right man, lemme know soon. I don’t wanna be doing this whole damn trail over again.”
Hook, line, and sinker. I knew I had him now.
He called me again at the end of the next day. As I answered the phone, his first words were, “Dude, I just quit my F***in’ job and it feels amazing! I’m gonna fly down on Sunday!”
And that was that.
That’s how you decide to thru hike. You set it at the top of your hierarchy of priorities… and then it happens – just like with anything else. You can’t hit what you want without aiming for it first. Once you learn to aim, you tend to hit a lot more marks, or at least the ones you want to hit. Most of us don’t even know what we’re aiming at, if anything. Do you?
I called up my little sister and begged for the favor of her picking me and Katana up from the Seminole Reservation in two days time. I’d then have a day to rest and tweak gear before picking up Schweppes at the Orlando International Airport (not far from where my sister lives), and then take us back down to trail.
Now I wasn’t about to do that section over again with Katana, so new arrangements had to be made. I offered to let my older sister Carly’s son Ethan (my nephew, who just got his driver’s license not too long ago) use my car while I’m on the Florida Trail. I only asked that they drop Katana off to me on the Seminole Reservation when they came down three days later to get my vehicle from the Oasis Visitor Center where I intended to leave it. She agreed!
So all the ducks were in a row to make this crazy little change of plans happen. Katana was accounted and cared for at my little sister’s house for the next three days; and her travel arrangements were taken care of by my older sister. I was taking care of mine and Schweppes’s travel arrangements to the trail. And my older sister and nephew would be getting my vehicle taken care of after I left it at Oasis. Bing. Bang. Boom. Everyone was winning… except me, who was foolishly doing the most miserable stretch of trail I’ve ever encountered… over again, willingly.
And so here I am, 3 days since finishing my first 5 days on the Florida Trail – camped out with Schweppes at the Oasis Visitor Center, prepared to redo the previous 47 miles in three days, instead of five. We’re looking to get an early start in the morning and crush no less than a 22 mile day to start off with (to the first real water). It’s cooled down considerably and with the absence of Katana this stretch should be twice as easy as before.
The masochistic side of me is actually quite excited – in total disbelief with myself, but still excited. We’ll see what Big Cypress has in store for round two…