Date- January 15, 2019
Location- Side of levee
Elevation- 30 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 21.4 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 150.8 miles
Pain level- sore feet
Spirits/Morale- Tired but good
Wildlife encounters- Birds
Days without shower- 3
Days without laundry- 3
CatFox Status- Aloof
Food Eaten – Burger, Breakfast sandwich, B&G, Tots
Another chilly, overcast morning – perfect for Florida hiking.
We were back on the paved levee making tracks by 7:30. I let Katana romp around for a bit at the beginning, so Parks and Schweppes got a little ahead. But I still had human company…
An old man named “Rusty” pulled up next to me on his bike and road along side me at my walking pace. First he inquired about Katana, then about what exactly we were doing out here. After I told him, he asked how old I was. “Twenty nine,” I told him. “When i was your age I was married, had two kids and a career on a factory line in Ontario,” he replied. “Different paths!” I said – “Maybe I’ll trade in for that life in another decade or so…” ” Well I’m seventy four and a half now, I retired at 52 and been living the RV life ever since.”
After this introduction to each other, conversation with Rusty really picked up. He rode along side me for the next 20 minutes telling me all about the best RV parks in America, cussing like a sailor about “young people these days,” gossiping about other RVing couples in his park, and how the internet and social media are eroding society. He was a feisty old fella and I quite enjoyed his company while it lasted! He was like a perfect cliche version of a grumpy grandpa, but I didn’t mind a bit.
The rest of the day’s hike was more of the same. The entire trail since after the first 30 miles has been a mixture of paved roads, gravel roads, grass roads and levees consisting of any of those three combinations.
Since getting through the initial first 40 miles of levees following the Seminole Reservation, the trail around Lake Okeechobee levee has been interesting, boring, monotonous, easy and hard – all at the same time.
Seeing the lake and the canals and the elevated views from the raised levee around the lake has been beautiful. However, much of it has been pavement or gravel. Not to mention there have been several closures on the levee (due to construction) which have forced us to walk roads and highways with little to no shoulder. Those stretches have not been a pleasure at all. They’re noisy, dangerous, hot, painful, smelly… but all part of the adventure.
My feet hurt from the unforgiving and constant pavement, and I’m ready for some actual trail. I’m also ready to be around less civilization. Since the walk around the lake began, we’ve been able to eat in a town at least once a day, sometimes twice. There are lots of small communities around the lake, and the trail passes through or right by nearly all of them. I don’t want to say it makes it too easy… but it makes it pretty easy. I suppose it’s to balance out the being on pavement so much. Either way, I’ll be happy to put the lake and the towns behind us and get into some wilder territory again.
The sun broke out around noon, but the air remained relatively cool. As evening set in, we crossed into the small town of Buckhead Ridge. More walking on a busy highway ensued, and we had to very carefully cross over a narrow bridge in the dark. As of this day, that was the narrowest, most scary bridge crossing I have ever done on a trail. We had MAYBE 2 feet of clearance between the rail and the road, but I doubt even that much. Throw in heavy traffic on both sides of the road, and my nerves were seriously rattled carrying Katana the quarter mile across that bridge. Even Schweppes was rattled and suggested turning back and just waiting until morning to tackle the bridge.
Due to massive agriculture through this region, the roads are absolutely teeming with large vehicles in service to transporting crops and workers. Buses, semis, dump trucks, tractors, and super duty pickups make up probably 1 out of every 5 vehicles on just about any given road out here. I’ve grown very weary of it, and I’m ready for that change.
We wrapped up our 21 mile day a little after 8pm and made camp on the levee directly on the far side of the vehicle barrier. We’re only 4 miles from the large town of Okeechobee, and we’ll need to do a big resupply for this next section. As of Okeechobee, we are officially done walking around the Lake and supposedly onto an 80 mile stretch before the next town. I look forward to seeing if this will be trail, roads, farmlands, wilderness, or what…
P.S. The bite on my back seems to be slowly getting better. The swelling, itching, roughness and redness has gone down, but it looks like a discolored bruise now. Still keeping an eye on it…