Date- January 10, 2019
Location- Side of levee canal
Elevation- 13 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 18.3 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 66.2 miles
Weather/Temp- Clear/ 60s
Pain level- sore feet
Spirits/Morale- feeling strong
Wildlife encounters- 50+ gators, dozens of tropical birds, water snake
Days without shower- 1
Days without laundry- 4
CatFox Status- un-containable
Food Eaten – Bacon egg and cheese sandwich, pork belly rhines, biscuits and gravy, plantain chips
It dropped below freezing last night and we awoke to frosty grass this morning. The cold gives me rust, and it was 9 am before we got to hiking.
We stopped at a small convenience store/diner 2 miles down the road and had breakfast before buying a few supplies. I particularly enjoyed playing with the stray cats living behind the building.
After breakfast it was back to business, and buddy… business was good. The trail was all straight lines and gravel roads along canals full of gators, and would go 3,4,5, or 6 miles at a time without so much as a bend in it. At no point during the day did we not have water on one or both sides of us. And at no point did any vehicle ever pass by us when we joined the gravel roads around mile 3 of the day.
After those first 3 miles we were clear of all residential buildings and into farm lands and god knows what else. I can’t even tell you how many gators we saw today, of every size from a couple feet up to more than 8 feet long. All day they were sinking and surfacing in the canals or charging off the grassy banks into the water in a flurry of noise and churning water. It was the only real visual simulation we had.
We crossed out of the Seminole reservation at the ten mile mark of the day and were faced with a cross roads. The trail split in two different directions. One pathway was an official reroute – and the other was the official Florida Trail. The Florida Trail had some levee construction going on somewhere within the next ten miles and was supposedly closed. However, we couldn’t find any information that said it was impassable. The reroute took you way out and around for 13 miles before rejoining the official Florida Trail a little over ten miles north of us. We didn’t fancy missing official trail and tacking on extra miles, but we didn’t even know if the official trail was hike-able. There was even a sign posted at the junction from the FTA (Florida Trail Association) saying to take the reroute.
Neither one of us wanted to make the call on whether to take the reroute or the official trail, so we decided to leave it up to chance and flip a coin. Heads we take the official trail. Tails we take the reroute. No matter what, we were going with the coin results.
It was heads.
We decided if we got 5 or 6 miles down the trail before running into a crumbled bridge or washed out levee, then we’d just swim or wade to the next side rather than double back. It wouldn’t be more than a 15 yard swim at the most.
I don’t know if we would have gone through with it after all the gators we saw, but luckily we never had to. We ran into some abandoned construction, but nothing that blocked or closed the trail.
Katana was itching to hike all day, and she forced me to put her down every 20 to 30 mins so she could walk. She’d be on point for five to fifteen minutes, then get too caught up in smells on the side of the road and I’d have to pick her up if we were going to keep pace.
There was water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Agricultural runoff and fertilizers had fouled the water in the canal, so we were carrying our own for the next 40 miles of levee walking. Luckily trail angels have it cached with fresh water every 10 to 15 miles.
Temperatures didn’t get out of the 60s today, but the sun was still strong. Regardless, these were the most pleasant hiking conditions I’ve seen all month. I don’t think I caught Katana panting but a handful of times.
I can’t even imagine how dull today would have been without someone to talk to. The views, the trail, and the physical repetitions of flatland walking were literally unchanging for the entire day.
It was all we could do to pass the day by telling dumb jokes and reminiscing over all the good times with old friends, on old trails. It boggles my brain how much living we’ve crammed into the last 5 years – enough to fill up a couple average lifetimes I reckon.
We did get on the subject of messing with people on Katana’s behalf, and made some serious headway. From now on, when someone asks what kind of dog she is, or what happened to her eyes – we’re just going to tell them she’s a “Closed Eye Shepherd” (Schweppes’s idea), and see where it takes us from there.
It was already dark when we finished up our last two miles. We found a remote campsite a little ways off the levee and branching down a smaller canal.
My feet are sore, but nothing abnormal after walking on gravel for almost 20 miles. My hamstrings are what’s really killing me. They’re as tight as piano wire after all this flat walking.
Only 32 miles more of levee walking before we hit Lake Okeechobee. We’re gonna shoot for 20+ miles tomorrow, but we’ll see what happens…