Date- January 29, 2019
Distance Traveled Today- 23.4 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 305.4 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 60s 70s
Injuries- hot spot on front balls of feet
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- buzzards
Days without shower- 5
Days without laundry- 5
CatFox Status- firecracker
Food Eaten – bacon jerky, mackerel fillets in EVO, Chinese buffet
Today is Schweppes‘ 27th birthday and it was cold, cold, cold this morning.
A layer of mist hung in and above the palmettos, giving the forest a very soft and eerie glow in the light of daybreak. The sunrises and sunsets are very different here compared to the mountains. Down here, you’re not always in a position to see the coming and going of the sun in just the way you’d like. In the mountains, you can choose just about any peak or high point and know you’ll be in for a treat at dusk or dawn. In the flatness of Florida (unless you’re on the beach), you never know what the foreground of your sunset or sunrise may be. Sure, you’ll catch the pretty colors in the sky, but you might not catch the sun. I’ve always got my eyes peeled every morning and evening for some strange or unique foreground to contrast and mix just right with our tropically southern sun.
Due to the cold, we started much later than we would have liked – around 8:40 am. The trail was still saturated with water from the rain a couple days earlier, and our shoes were soon soaked.
The first 15 miles of the day were a mixture of palmetto and slender pine prairies, palm hammocks, oak hammocks, and combinations of both. There was a lot of water, especially within the shady hammocks. We intermittently waded in shin to knee deep water for a few miles collectively.
For the first time since Big Cypress, the forest was peppered with cypress domes. One thing I find cool about the cypress domes is their ability to keep track of past water levels. You want to know how high the water has gotten in a particular area? Look at the cypress, they’ll tell you. In this stretch of trail, the water had been over our heads at some point. Looking at the cypress domes from a distance, the dark brown tint that represents how much of the cypress trees were underwater, very nearly resembles a screen fence at first glance. The cypress are packed so close together, and the water line so level and consistent – the eye has a hard time breaking up the darker shades from the narrow gaps in the trees. I don’t think the pictures do it justice, but you can get the gist.
Walking through the flooded palm hammocks was a chore. Palm trees naturally shed a ton of debris – old fronds and the “V shaped” husky bark that peels and falls off from the trunk with age. In the flooded hammocks, so much of the palm sheddings are floating and sticking up out of the water. It looked like trash, or like a bomb had gone off and disintegrated a bunch of palm trees. It truly resembled something from a tsunami disaster. Walking through it was a bit of a chore. You were always stepping on objects, or bits of plant matter were sticking to your legs or finding their way into your shoes and socks. The only positive was that the cool water felt good on sore feet.
We didn’t see a single animal all day. It was as if they’d all disappeared or made for higher ground. It was actually very strange.
Halfway through the day I got a message from Parks. He’d gotten back to his car and was on his way back to Michigan. He asked if we wanted him to find us at the nearest road and go out for beer or pizza one last time. I told him it was Schweppes’s birthday, so the timing was impeccable!
I let him know which road we would be on and when, and he agreed to meet us. When we finally did reach asphalt around 15 miles into the day, we wouldn’t be seeing trail again for 30 miles. We hit one of the longest, most continuous paved road walks of the entire trail – and most of it on busy highway.
We beat feet and knocked out almost 20 miles before dark. Schweppes still wanted 27 miles, and Parks was happy to wait. In fact, he delivered a slice of cake and a cupcake when he found us about 3.5 miles into our road walking.
As it turned out, part of the road we were on was closed to vehicles due to construction. The furthest we could go for the day (and still get picked up by Parks) was a little over 23 miles. Parks drove up to the closure and waited for us to hike our last few miles to him.
From there it was only a 12 mile drive into Melbourne where we had a very good AYCE Chinese Buffet (it was birthday boy’s choice).
We’d had every intention of heading back to trail to camp after we ate – but all three of us were so full and tired, we could barely keep our eyes open. We split a nearby roach motel (it actually did have roaches!) and called it a day.
I don’t know when we’ll get back to trail tomorrow, but the plan is to hike over 20 miles and finish the entire road walk, no matter what. Katana is not going to like the lack of freedom…