Date- February 1, 2019
Location- Winter Park
Distance Traveled Today- 22.4 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 368.8 miles
Weather/Temp- mostly cloudy/70s
Injuries- Messed up feet
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- armadillos galore
Days without shower- 0
Days without laundry- 8
CatFox Status- sassy
Food Eaten – bacon jerky, gyro, pizza
The overly friendly possum foraged around the camp for most of the night. The noise it made by itself wasn’t enough to keep me up, but… it was enough to keep waking Katana up. And keeping Katana up and alert IS enough to keep me up. So I was intermittently awake and asleep up until around 2am.
Another later start, around 8:45 am. From the get go, the trail was majorly water and mud. This was the fourth day in a row with wet feet, but they’re holding up strong for now. My current foot issues are stemming from these new shoes, not the trail. There’s an REI not terribly far from where we ended up in Oviedo today, so I’m going to go there tomorrow and find some new shoes. I’m very excited!
It was humid as hell, although not too hot or sunny. Still, the sweat poured. No matter how fast we pushed today, the miles seemed to drag by. I don’t know if it was the muddy-watery trail, or the unchanging scenery of palm hammocks, scrub plains, and river banks.
Speaking of river banks, we walked along the banks of the Econlockhatchee River for around 5 miles today. As it were, it became the site of our first “close call” (as humorous as it ended up being).
The river was low, leaving the top of the very steep, nearly vertical banks rising anywhere from 6 to 10 feet above the water. This created somewhat of a “cliff” next to the trail – the bottom of the cliff being the very slow moving river.
While taking a short break, I let Katana wander and explore a bit. The bank in this area was lined with thick foliage; thick enough to keep her from getting past it and going over the edge. However… there was one open spot with a bunch of tangled roots jutting out – jutting out enough that they themselves could have acted like a barrier.
Sure enough, Katana found that little gap and trotted out to it. I was watching the whole time and commanded her to “stop!” She did, right at the edge. Then she put her nose down, didn’t feel anything under it and moved one front paw forward, probably thinking it was a small step down. We haven’t encountered any long drops on this hike, so there was no reason for her to be anticipating one. She put the paw down on the nearly vertical edge, crouched, and started to go down like it was a steep hill. I yelled “STOP!” again as I sprung up, but it was too late.
When she realized it wasn’t a steep incline and more of a sheer drop, she rolled onto the roots, rolled again, and in an attempt to “right” herself, kicked right off the edge. The drop was about 7 ft into the river and she landed upside down in water that was 3 to 4 ft deep.
As soon as she was back at the surface I called for her so she wouldn’t swim towards the center of the river – which was about 80 feet across. Luckily, she swam right back to the muddy bank and hauled herself onto the thin strip of land. Had she swum out, I would have jumped after her. Luckily, the way the bank was cut, the muddy portion was actually tucked under the top of the drop – the “cliff” might be described as being in the shape of a lightly curling wave. She was lucky for that, because it would have been a harder fall in sand or mud.
Throughout the whole ordeal, she didn’t make a sound. Not a bark, not a whimper, not a squeak. Just perfectly composed. After she pulled herself out of the water, she stood there looking up, like she was waiting to be picked up or rescued.
I quickly instructed Schweppes to keep an eye out for approaching gators as I forced my way through some shrubs, cutting myself on briar vines while scaling down a less steep section of the sandy crumbling bank. I waded through the mud and picked up the eagerly awaiting little dog before boosting her back up on top of the bank. She immediately turned around to wait for me to come up behind her. This actually startled me at first, because I thought she was going to try and come back down to me. I had to push her out of the way to get back up while holding onto roots and the trunk of a small cabbage palm growing out over the edge.
As soon as I was back up, Katana was running down the trail sliding, snorting, and rolling around in the dirt and leaves. Her typical routine after getting wet. She wasn’t even phased! All we could do was laugh. If anyone could manage to fall off a cliff in the flattest state in America… it’s Katana. Just another day in the life, I suppose. That was her second cliff fall on a long hike, and I’m just glad we could laugh it off… again.
We still had almost 5 miles to go, so we pushed on – Katana grooming herself on top of my pack.
There wasn’t a ton of diverse wildlife today, but I saw 4 separate armadillos in the afternoon and evening. Between dillers, coons, and grinners, I don’t know which is my favorite. The armadillos do this really cute hop when they run away, which makes them quite endearing. The possums seem to be perpetually cross eyed, making them pathetically cute. And the raccoons just have this guilty as sin – “but it wasn’t me!” look, no matter what they’re doing.
We reached the edge of town at 6:45 pm and walked 2.5 miles down the dark streets until we came to a restaurant called “The Townhouse.” They let us sit with Katana in the outside patio area.
My old friend and classmate from high school, Nicole, came and joined us since she lived about ten minutes away from where the trail wound through town. She is planning to section-hike the entire AT and is starting this summer. So, we caught up over food and drinks and talked gear, as well as hiking.
She took us to a room and offered to take us to REI tomorrow. In fact, she asked us to basically be her guides in REI and help her get completely outfitted for her upcoming section hikes. I’ve never helped anyone get completely outfitted for a hike, so I’m really excited about this. The enthusiasm is contagious when hanging around “up and coming” long distance hikers, and it really takes me back.
Schweppes was back in contact with the wallet guy again. He really wanted to meet in person, but we just weren’t near any roads at a time when the guy could make the commute up to Oviedo. Schweppes explained our situation, but the guy just didn’t understand. He kept trying to get Schweppes to send our location to him, but didn’t understand that we were in the middle of nowhere. After sending over 20 messages about wanting to know where we were, he became a bit indignant when Schweppes told him the earliest we could be at a road would be after 6pm. Schweppes told him he would mail it to him if the timing to meet in person wasn’t going to work out. The guy still wasn’t happy. I don’t know if it was distrust, skepticism, or if he just wanted the hundred bucks as soon as possible. Who knows, but he was definitely getting a little testy, despite Schweppes’s efforts and promises to get it back to him. I think this wallet is going to end up in the mail or at the police station lost and found. We’ll see.