Date- January 14, 2019
Location- shoreline of canal
Elevation- 30 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 18.5 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 129.3 miles
Injuries- Bad bug bite
Pain level- sore feet
Wildlife encounters- gators, buzzards, osprey, turtles
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 2
CatFox Status- Autonomous Maximus x 10
Food Eaten – Wings, onion rings, grits
Last night was a new one for me. Around 2 am I awoke to the sound of squeaking and chewing right behind my hammock (which was set up as a bivy). It sounded too big to be a mouse, so I thought I better check it out. I unzipped and poked my upper half out while shining my light into the weeds. I’ll be danged if there wasn’t the cutest, most fearless baby skunk I’ve ever seen.
I left it alone and went back to sleep thinking it would move on. Not a chance. All night it kept waking me up, chewing and squeaking almost right next to my face. To tell the truth, I was pretty nervous about startling it, so I just let it do its thing.
Finally, when it was a little after 5 a.m. and I’d given up on going to sleep, I decided I’d try and get some video of the little fella. I got out of the hammock and shone my light; there it was, still just mucking about. Except when it saw the light pointing, it came right for me and got within 3 ft before I got a little loud and scared it, I think. It was right after that, I noticed two more baby skunks just behind the other one. I’d made camp on a den of skunks!
I laid back down for a while, and the stinky trio was gone by first light. It wasn’t until I was packing up that I realized what happened. I’d left Katana’s food bowl out after I fed her in the dark last night, and they’d gotten into it.
The food bowl itself was one of the expensive travel food bowls from ruffwear that cinches shut and can be scrunched up when empty. I’ve had it for 3 years, and it’s her main food bowl even when we’re home.
Well, it was nowhere to be found when I was packing up. What I did find was a pile of dry dog food where they tipped it over, but no bowl. I searched all over the surrounding area and down the steep embankment of the levee… it was nowhere to be found. Those little suckers literally stole Katana’s dog bowl. And you know what… I’m not even mad. That seems like such a weird occurrence, that I’m actually kind of honored. I hope that family of skunks treasures that dog bowl in their den for generations to come.
A thick fog rolled in off the lake last night and drenched everything. My sleeping bag and my hammock were soaked, but I’d stayed warm. The fog lingered until late morning, making for beautifully cool hiking conditions.
Katana set a new record for herself today. She hiked for over 4 consecutive miles right out of camp, never needing to be picked up. Words don’t express what a weight off my mind and shoulders this was. She was still going even when I decided to pick her up – she just looked like she was getting tired, and my leisurely pace was getting faster than hers. Still, I was one proud dogfather!
We stopped for lunch in a town called Moore Haven (which we walked through), before continuing on. A section of trail had been closed for construction, forcing us to walk almost 8 miles of paved residential roads and highway. The highway portion (around 5 miles) was teeming with semi and dump trucks. Throw in the added inconvenience of almost no shoulder, and you had nearly a perfect recipe for unenjoyable hiking.
We finished up all the road walking in the late afternoon and laid all our stuff out to dry in a grassy recreation area. While sitting in the shade of a palm we were approached by a female wilderness firefighter.
She introduced herself as Adrienne, and come to find out, she’d seen my Appalachian Trail video on YouTube, and also seen me in some of Jessica’s (Dixie) videos from the PCT! It was a crazy coincidence, especially given the timing. She had just seen them last night, and then here was the CatFox and I in flesh and blood, right here in her proverbial backyard. Interesting timing indeed, and an ode to the trail providing. In fact, Adrienne has her own AT thru hike planned in the next few years.
We chatted about the Florida Trail, the AT, firefighting, and long distance hiking in general. I could really feel Adrienne’s enthusiasm for wanting to make her thru hike happen. I have no doubt it would have/will happen, but sometimes a chance meeting or crossing of paths is all it takes to really light the fire and tip the scales. To hear things you already know, but still needed to hear out loud to affirm the path you’re already on. I’ve been having experiences like this almost non stop for the past 5 years, and let me tell you… the feeling is transcendent, bordering on divine. The trail provides. The universe provides. You provide. Look for the synchronicities taking place around you, and they will lead you exactly where you need to be. They’ve never let me down, even when it has felt like they have – so long as I’ve kept my mind and my eyes open. I suspect Adrienne will be in for many more meaningful coincidences if she stays the course…
We wrapped up the evening at over 18 miles as Okeechobee Lake bottom control burned into the night. A blaze close enough and bright enough to almost rival the sunset… almost.
I finally got to hang between two palm trees tonight and get up off the ground. I’m about 6 feet from the water, so we’ll see if I get any toothy visitors before morning. I doubt it.
I’m becoming concerned about a really bad bite on my lower back/upper butt cheek. There’s an area about the size of my fist that has become very red, itchy, and swollen. The skin is taking on a very rough and hard consistency, and it’s got me a little worried. If it doesn’t get better, I’ll probably walk into the next clinic I find. If it gets worse, I’ll probably try to find a ride to the nearest clinic. I’m not noticing any kind of necrosis, but it’s deff not like any bug bite I’ve ever had before, and Schweppes seemed concerned when I asked for an opinion. We’ll see what it’s doing in the morning.
We should be finished with Lake Okeechobee tomorrow and on to more remote and wild trails. I’m looking forward to the new challenges!