January 24th – 27th
Sorry about the long stretch of no posts! With the four zero days associated with Billy Goat Day, the posts caught up to us in real time. I decided to build up a week’s worth of buffer posts so that it doesn’t happen again. So, there should be a post uploading every single day unless for some reason I don’t have service for a week, or I get off trail for a week (neither of which is likely). Here we go, we’re back!
What a weekend!
As planned, we spent Thursday at my sister’s house relaxing, washing off, doing laundry, resupply, eating pizza and watching movies on Netflix. It felt like Christmas.
Friday afternoon she gave us a ride across town to meet Poet, his wife Hippie Chick, and their two children Finn and Julia. They just so happened to be in Melbourne at the same time as us, and offered us a ride with them to Billy Goat Day in east Orlando.
We piled into their 4-Runner, hitched it to their Lance camper trailer and were off. It was just getting dark by the time we reached the campground/park. There was a quiet get together of hikers around a fire. It was here I finally got to meet Grey Beard (Dale Sanders), the oldest man to thru hike the AT (still I think). Dale is in his 80s and I’ve been following his adventures for the past couple years, so I was excited to finally meet him. He’s probably the spryest octogenarian I’ve ever met – the guy never stops! He is also hiking the Florida Trail and posts a lot of content from his adventures. So if you’re interested in watching a really old man run circles around us younger AND other older folks, you can find him on FB here…
The festivities weren’t scheduled to start until the next day, so it was very low key at the campground. It wasn’t long before everyone decided to head a half mile out of the campground to a lone dive bar down the street called “The Hitching Post.” I tucked and zipped Katana into the hammock and went with them.
There were around a dozen of us thru hikers, as well as a few trail angels. Together, we took up almost one whole side of the bar.
As I’ve said in past writings, I’m really not much of a drinker. But every so often, probably barely once a year… I’ll tie one on. Well, I tied one on that night, along with everyone else.
We showed up, I had a couple Yuenglings, and then Poet bought everyone a round of Fireball. Feeling tingly. Had another Yuengling and began feeling toasty… and generous. So I bought everyone a shot of Jaeger – which everybody on earth hates, but that’s the only reason to drink it. It’s like a punishment and a gift rolled into one.
Got a game of pool with teams going and had another beer. Then we all began a tournament of electric darts after that and had a couple more beers. In between games, Parks bought another round of Jaeger shots for everyone. At this point, I don’t think anybody was tasting or feeling anything. Another hiker named Pikachu had already puked, rallied, and was drinking whiskey on the rocks again.
We played darts and drank beer for the rest of the evening before heading back to the campground. It was a wildly fun evening, as well as one of the few times I don’t regret drinking that much.
“Billy Goat Day” was the next morning. More than a hundred people showed up (mostly past hikers, trail angels, and trail maintainers). It was a bit of a buffet style potluck get together. Nothing crazy – just food and conversation. What else do you need?
I learned that “Billy Goat Day” was actually the birthday celebration of a hiker named “Billy Goat.” He had turned 70-something years old and had over 50,000 trail miles racked up. A true accomplishment! I hope to surpass a 5th of that sometime this year…
That evening, while gathered around a fire with some other hikers, I caught 3 raccoons stealing Katana’s brand new travel food bowl. The first time, they snatched it from under the hammock and drug it about 30 ft into the woods before they relinquished it. The second time was in the dark, and they somehow managed to pull it out of the under pocket of the hammock and drag it another 30 ft before Parks and I chased them down. Unbelievable!
Speaking of Parks, he was now finished with his section hike and done with the Florida Trail for this year. He’d fallen behind on the second day out of Okeechobee, and had come into Billy Goat Day from the fancy dude ranch we’d visited a few days before. On Sunday he would find a ride back to his vehicle near Big Cypress and begin the drive back to freezing Michigan. Brrrrr!
On Sunday it was raining. It rained, and rained, and rained, and rained… I fear what all this rain will do to conditions on the trail. I guess we’ll know soon enough.
Poet and his family were going back to Melbourne and offered us another ride. Not wanting to head back to trail in a torrential downpour that was supposed to last over 24 hours, we graciously accepted. As a consequence, we ended up back at my sister’s house for one more night.
We’ll head back to trail tomorrow. I’ve got some new shoes, so I’m excited and nervous to break them in. They’re the same model I’ve been hiking in for the past couple years, but a newer version I haven’t tried yet. I’ve been wearing the Altra Lonepeaks 3.0 – and these are the Lonepeak 4.0’s. Fingers crossed there’s no difference in the overall ride and fit…