Florida Trail Day 20

Florida Trail - Savanna sunset over palms

Day- 20
Date- January 18, 2019
Location- Yates Marsh
Elevation- 30 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 17.2 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 170.4 miles
Weather/Temp- sunny/ low 80s
Injuries- none
Pain level- zero
Spirits/Morale- Happy
Wildlife encounters- turtle, gators, armadillo
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 2
Hunger/craving- none
CatFox Status- Tired of riding
Food Eaten – Leftover pizza, jerky

Thoughts/Stories-

We made it out of the room and were on our way at 9 am. I was disappointed right off the bat, because we had over 14 miles of paved, busy, noisy, road walking before we could get back on trail.

That meant 14 miles of burning up in the sun while carrying Katana and trying to hold an umbrella over us while singing the Julie Andrews tune (to calm Katana) every time a giant semi buzzed by 3 feet away from us. It could be worse I suppose…

The road walking was dull and grueling as usual, and the first 8.5 miles were alongside a very busy highway. But, one incredibly harrowing and extremely stressful thing happened…

Towards the very end of the highway, a huge pond slider turtle started crossing the highway in front us from the opposite side we were on – about 60 yards ahead of us. My stomach tightened as soon as I saw it, and I immediately hoped we could get to it before it got hit.

Another string of vehicles was coming from behind us and getting close to it when we were 30 yards away. The first 4 (normal) vehicles all made a conscious effort to swerve and miss it in one way or another – the turtle was about 3/4 of the way across the first lane. The final vehicle was a giant semi, and it didn’t budge an inch. It stayed steady on its course to our absolute horror. I had the instant reaction to look away, but I didn’t. What happened next was incredible…

One of the many tires caught the edge of the turtle’s shell, but not enough to crush it. Instead, the pressure from the tire clipping the edge of the shell launched the turtle out from under the truck about 6 feet into the air, tumbling and spinning another 15 feet off the road and back into some reeds where it had come from!

It happened fast, and almost comically, but the turtle was definitely in one piece when it flew off the road. When the last two vehicles passed, I trotted quickly across the street with Schweppes to where the turtle had flown. There it was, right side up, settled in the crushed down reeds a little ways past the roadside ditch.

I asked Schweppes if he would grab it so we could carry it across the road to the huge pond it was obviously heading toward, but he refused. So I had to climb into the reeds and bend down very carefully with Katana on my pack and scoop it up with one hand. It weighed well over 10 pounds, but it was not difficult to carry. My hand was just big enough to palm the side of its shell without needing to cradle it to my body.

It was in one piece, besides a deep scrape on the bottom of its shell where the truck had compressed a non vital corner of it to the road before it slipped out and launched into the air. I knew it was ok, because 5 seconds after I picked it up, it pissed all over my leg. This is something I’m very accustomed to from helping box turtles and gopher tortoises across streets back up in the panhandle. Turtles like to pee on you when they feel threatened, and it’s usually a very surprising amount… like in the order of close to a half liter sometimes – depending on the size of the turtle.

I got it across the street and slid it into the pond. It was definitely a little dazed by the way it swam off, but it did swim off! In hindsight I wish I would have taken some pictures, but my hands were just too full, and I was too focused on getting the lucky reptile back in the water.

After the 14 miles of roads, we were finally back on real trail – the first real trail since Big Cypress at the beginning. Damn did it feel good to be back in some woods.

Oaks and sabal palms abounded, and I have to say, they make a pretty good team when it comes to aesthetically pleasing woodland – and extra specially when it comes to a foreground for sunsets.

I let Katana hike a bit, and she was running all over the place after an entire day of riding. So much so, that I had to pick her up again if we were going to get to camp before dark.

We saw a large possum on the half shell (armadillo) on the trail, but it scuttled off before I could get a good pic. There was also an unreal amount of hog signs. Huge swaths of ground were rooted up on the trail and around it for miles. A stark reminder of the destructive nature of these invasive animals.

I’d actually love to see a wild hog out here. I have yet to see one on a thru hike, so it would be nice to check it off the list. My gut tells me I will….

We’re camped out in a beautiful palm and oak hammock (grove). I can’t wait to have a better look at it in the morning.

Hoping for no more busy roads for quite some time! We’ll be shooting for over 20 miles tomorrow.

Go to Day 21.

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4 Comments

  1. Forgot to mention that I picked up a snapping turtle once to get it off a very busy road. A man who was in a truck behind me yelled out: “YOU ROCK!!”

  2. What an incredible turtle story! Once when I was in Virginia,I saw a large turtle get crushed by a car. The person never even tried to avoid it. We had just turned our car around to go move the turtle off the road but this car came flying down the road and just ran right over it. We were all devastated. I am so glad this one made it out alive. Your sunset pics are amazing!

  3. Tears of laughter are running down our faces at the thought of that very lucky turtle flying through the air! Well done for helping it get to the pond.

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