Date- February 8, 2019
Location- BFE Lake Kerr
Distance Traveled Today- 17.5 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 463.9 miles
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- gator, sandhill cranes
Days without shower- 3
Days without laundry- 3
CatFox Status- Titan
Food Eaten – pizza
Hot again. Sweaty again. Extra thirsty again. Loving it again.
Got out of camp at 8am sharp and enjoyed about an hour and a half of cool hiking before I started feeling the heat. A good chunk of the day was spent walking around the edge of prairie marshes. They should have been ponds but they were mostly dry, giving them more of a muddy-marshland look.
The trail would skirt in-between the marshland and the outside of the tree line, tracing the shape of the “would be full” ponds. As a result, the trail took many crazy twists and turns as it followed a now nonexistent shoreline, and the ever present tree line.
As the morning grew later, it became increasingly brutal to walk on the easterly facing tree lines, since the shade was nonexistent. On one occasion I spotted a 3 ft gator lying on the muddy bank of a fast evaporating pond. On another, I turned a corner and came face to face with some angry Sandhill Cranes. Their calls remind me of the Jurassic Park Velociraptors for some reason.
Once the prairie marshes were behind us, it was all rolling hills, slender pine forest, and scrub tunnels/corridors. Despite the heat, we were moving fast all day and took minimal breaks – about 3 all day. This was because we had our sights set on a spot called “The 88 Store.“
The 88 Store is conveniently placed about 100 ft off the trail, near the west shore of Lake Kerr, just a short distance outside the town of Salt Springs. When you first step out of the woods and onto the property of the store, you’ll immediately realize you’re in “the sticks.”
The 88 Store is a combination of: convenience store, yard sale, bar, and cafe (although the cafe is a separate building next door). We got there around 4:30 pm, and after spending an evening at this place, I can only describe it as a place for people with a serious drinking problem. I say this with absolute seriousness, not as a funny exaggeration. This was the place everyone comes to when every other bar in the surrounding area shuts down.
You know the old party saying, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” Well, this place is for the people who don’t go home. Things at the 88 store don’t even start to warm up until around midnight or 1 a.m.
Schweppes and I hung out on the front porch area with Katana for most of the evening; listening to music, eating a pizza (we called in from another town), splitting a sixer, and watching the characters come and go until almost midnight.
I wish I could capture the spirit of this place, but I just can’t. I’ll try to give you an idea through some snapshot observations.
In the earlier evening, people were coming by to purchase alcohol for other occasions (which were going on who knows where), and openly smoking weed in the bar. And every time a person left, they were given a “road beer” by the patrons or employees. People were pulling up in dune buggies, four wheelers, jeeps, pickups, and vans – walking up with open bottles of liquor or drinking beer. One dune buggy had a cooler ratcheted to the top of the roll cage, and the guy just stood in the parking lot drinking out of it.
There was a man in his late 50s sitting alone on the porch not talking to anyone, but every so often he’d loudly exclaim some random expression to nobody but himself. I can only remember 3 of them, but there were many. The first was, “After you turn 50, people call you ‘sir’ and mean it!” Then he said, “Maybe if I shoot myself in the foot, my knee will stop hurting.” The last thing I heard him say was… “I think I’ll plant some tamaters tomorrow.”
There was a character in every corner, and it seemed there was a heated argument with someone storming off and driving away drunk about every hour. It was wild! And to add to the whole vibe of the place, “Dueling Banjos” played out over the speakers not once, but twice.
I went in and bought two bottles of water at one point. The old woman behind the counter looked at me funny and said incredulously, “Is that all?” “For now,” I replied. She countered as she shook her head, “I have never seen that…”. I’m not 100% sure what she meant, but I think she was amazed that I was only buying water and not alcohol. I kid you not.
When the crowds really started pouring in around midnight, we made our way back into the woods and set up camp. It was getting to the point where you could end up finding trouble, even if you were minding your own business.
What a place! I don’t know what our plans for tomorrow will be…