Date- February 2, 2019
Location- Soldiers Creek
Elevation- 3 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 8.1 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 376.9 miles
Weather/Temp- partly cloudy high 70s
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- bald eagle
Days without shower- 1
Days without laundry- 0
CatFox Status- Jolly
Food Eaten – gyro/ chile relleno
Slept in, did our laundry, and met Nicole in the parking lot at 11am sharp. And thus began our REI adventure – of which I’m annoyed I didn’t take any pictures.
I carried Katana into the store with us (in my arms)… and nobody said anything. I set her on the couch by the shoe wall… and nobody said anything. She curled up and went to sleep… and still, nobody said anything. Even after I’d found a pair of shoes and moved off to other parts of the store to browse and help Nicole find gear with Schweppes… nobody said anything. As a matter of fact, she became somewhat of an attraction.
Every 2 mins or so I would position myself to glance back over at the couch from wherever I was and check on her. People would be taking pictures or sitting next to her giving her a pet. She was un-phased and un-moving. Just a picture of perfect composure and behavior. That’s the picture I wish I had of her.
I did make an interesting observation that I can’t quite explain. No matter who approached Katana, or pet her, or walked by her – she remained asleep or with her head down. But every time I would head over to physically check on her, she would lift her head and look directly at me (no matter which direction I was approaching from) before I could get 15 or 20 feet from her. I really can’t explain it, and both Nicole and Schweppes witnessed it multiple times. Whether it be a sixth sense, a subtle smell, or the unique cadence of my footsteps – Katana knew when I was close, and it didn’t matter how many other people were in the vicinity.
We finished up at REI after an hour and a half and headed back to the Townhouse Restaurant. We hugged Nicole goodbye, grabbed a bite to eat, messed with new gear for a bit, then set back on the trail around 3 pm.
We found Nicole a pack, cooking stuff, lots of other odds and ends, and went over a bunch of other gear she was better off sourcing online. Overall, it was a successful adventure and I look forward to watching her progress on the AT this summer!
I’m trying out an entirely new shoe – the Hoka one Stinson ATR 4. It held my feet perfectly straight and solid. It felt good walking in them in the store. But… they were a bit tight and narrow on my feet. After I took out the insoles, there was enough room for my feet to be comfortable, so I bought them. Unfortunately, once I got to really walking on the trail, my heels were lifting right out of the back of them. I just can’t win for losing.
I’m going to stick it out with these Hokas. My knees feel fine in them, and I’ve never worn a shoe with so much cushion (not sure how I feel about all the cushion). Luckily there aren’t any climbs on this trail, or else they’d be out of the question. I think I can swing them for now. I’ll know if I love or hate them once we get back on some rugged trail.
For the next 20 miles we’ll be walking on sidewalks, bike paths, and roads through the greater Orlando area. We only walked 8 miles this afternoon, but almost all of it was through upscale suburban neighborhoods and strip malls.
On the bike path there were loads of people walking, riding bikes, and running. The comments and questions about Katana were on rapid fire. “You got a hitchhiker!” “Looks like a coyote!” “Looks like a Fox!” “That little fellas’ got it made!” “Aww it’s sleeping!” “Aww it’s cute!” “Aww that’s so sweet!” So on and so forth. I joked with Schweppes that I was going to start immediately jotting down what people said in passing to us, word for word, and try to compile a daily glossary.
We had a bald eagle fly directly over us at one point, carrying a bunch of sticks or dried grass in its talons. That was something new and cool, but it would have been even better in a remote setting instead of an urban one.
The last interesting interaction of the day was with a father and his 3 young children out for a bike ride (all under 6 years old). One of the young boys, maybe 3 or 4 years old had fallen off his bike and was crying when we walked up on them. The father was trying to console him, and the other two kids were standing there awkwardly waiting with their bikes.
I don’t know about other people, but I’m a fan of talking to children like they’re little adults. Ironic, because I talk to my dog like she’s a child. Bottom line, I only talk to animals like they’re children, and I talk to children like they’re adults. This is because I know children remember things. They may not know what something means at the time it is said, but if the experience stands out, they will remember it until they are old enough to understand it, and then it will mean something. I know this because it’s true for me. My father would say a lot of things to me as a child that I didn’t understand… but I was still listening, and I remembered them. And every so often as I slowly grew older… I would remember something he said and it would click, and I would think, “Oh, that’s what that meant,” and like another brick in my being, I would integrate it into everything I knew about the world.
Anyway, as we approached the crying child, I decided to impart some cliche earthly wisdom. Luckily, when you’re a child, you’re not old enough for anything to be cliche. “Just remember!” I said loud enough to get all of their attention. “Pain is weakness leaving the body. You’re getting stronger, young man.”
The kid quieted for about two seconds as his father echoed me. “That’s right! You’re getting stronger!” He said in a *speaking to a child voice.* The kid began crying again as he whined through his tears, “I don’t wanna get stronger!” Well, I tried.
We came across a Mexican restaurant with a large outdoor seating area as it was getting dark. It was dog friendly, so we decided to have a bite.
By the time we were done, almost every table outside was full. Being dressed the way we were, with our packs and our trekking poles/staff, and a blind dog – we just looked out of place in a suburban setting. Especially when nobody there has any knowledge of the trail or what we’re doing. I can only imagine that our appearance is very puzzling. It’s like… they look homeless and dirty, but they have nice gear. They look like they’re poor, but they seem to have money because they’re eating at this nice restaurant. We just look like a walking contradiction and I wish I could hear the thoughts and hushed whispers of those who stared at us. The best part is when we’re about to leave a place and I sling Katana perfectly over my pack and begin casually walking away without making eye contact with anyone. You can quite literally feel the collective, “What the F**k!?!” emanating from the bystanders. Very confounding, I’m sure.
We walked another two miles and made camp off the bike path on a side trail in a thicket of woods. This area was billed as “safe” for hikers, and we found Songbird camped in there alone.
I don’t know what we’ll do tomorrow. The Superbowl seems like a good excuse to take it easy for one more day. I’m not a fan of either team, but I am a fan of Superbowl food culture and commercials. I don’t need an excuse to eat like it’s the Superbowl, but if you give me one… I’ll take it.