Date- February 13, 2019
Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 154 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 19.1 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 537.9 miles
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- zero
Days without shower- 3
Days without laundry- 3
CatFox Status- Beast
It started raining around 1am last night, waking me up. There’s something about being snug and dry in a hammock when it’s storming – it just gives me this comfortable feeling like a loved one embracing you with a warm blanket.
I fell almost immediately back to sleep and didn’t awaken until 7 am. It was still raining. By shortly after 8 am, the rain had stopped completely, never to be seen for the rest of the day. We were packed and hiking by 9.
Once again, we moved in 6 to 7 mile chunks. It really helps to break up the day while allowing for fewer but longer breaks.
Stray dogs were the only wildlife we encountered today. Around 13 miles in, while walking a paved road through a residential neighborhood (official Florida Trail), we spotted a white pit bull about 120 yards ahead on the side of the road in front of someone’s house.
The second that dog noticed us walking down the road, it tore off full speed in our direction. “Here it comes,” Schweppes said, sounding almost exasperated with un-surprise. I asked him to quickly pull my knife off the side of my pack and hand it to me. He did, and I slid it (still sheathed) into my shorts pocket.
The knife is just a Cold Steel Canadian Belt Knife – the same knife I used on my AT hike. It weighs about 3 ounces (with the sheath) and has a 4 inch blade in the style of a bird and trout knife. It isn’t much, but in the right hands (mine), it’s more than enough to ward off an attacking dog.
Katana has already come close to being killed by a pit bull (within the past year). I’m under exaggerating when I tell you that I got to the scene and *broke* it up mere seconds before it would have been too late. The sounds and sights of her near death are not something I’m ever going to relive at the hands of another dog anytime soon. It’s not a story I’ll probably ever recount in writing.
The pit bull stopped about 3 yards in front of us and just barked and growled – blocking our path. Katana tensed up and tried to stand up on my pack. I held her down with the hand holding my staff, and kept my other hand on the knife in my pocket. We stood there at a stand still for over a minute, hoping someone would call their dog home. No one did.
We advanced towards the pit bull and it started barking more intensely. Its tail was alternating between a small wag and standing still and straight up. As we moved forward, it swung around to our rear.
If one of us didn’t keep facing in its direction, it would begin a cautious lunge closer – whether to smell us or attack, I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t think the dog meant us any harm, but if Katana got worked up enough, there’s no telling how it could have reacted to her. That’s what I was most concerned about.
Once we were away from the house, the pit bull stopped following us and went back to where we originally saw it.
Around 3 miles after the pit bull encounter, while walking down a residential dirt road, a yellow lab approached us. It was snarling and barking while the hairs on its back were raised. This one was too scared to attack, as it would retreat back if we moved towards it. Nevertheless, it did follow us down the road a considerable distance.
We’ve seen a lot of loose dogs on this hike, but it was an interesting coincidence that two of the most aggressive ones would fall on the same day. As I’ve said before… when it rains, it pours!
Katana hiked over 5 miles this morning, mostly on trail through Gold Head State Park. She seems to be coming more and more into her own with each day – so long as I give her the time to do so. She’s even gotten better about smelling.
I try to turn every experience out here into a lesson for her. She’s learning what sort of behaviors and actions will land her on the pack. Ironically enough, for the first time in her hiking career, I think she’d rather be hiking more than riding. If she smells around excessively, or stays in one spot to smell and falls too far behind (for my personal comfort) – she goes on the pack. If she ignores commands too much – she goes on the pack.
It’s taken a while, but she’s finally been able to make these connections and adjust her behavior accordingly. The little dog wants to hike; she wants to explore; and she wants to be independent. She knows I’m here to help her, but she also has to learn that she can’t take full advantage of me or take me for granted. We have to be a team that compromises. Unfortunately, the Shiba Inu breed is not known for their compromising qualities. It’s been a lifelong tug of war and wills for us!
Once again, aside from the stray dogs, it was a fairly mundane day . If there’s one thing I miss about South Florida, it’s the wildlife. It definitely seems to be dropping off the further north we go.
We made it to a lone gas station on the side of the trail near the end of the day. I looked up nearby restaurants and found a pizza place that delivered only a few miles away. I called and had a pizza and a calzone delivered to the gas station for Schweppes and I. This trail makes it too easy sometimes.
I’ve heard legends about hikers using pizza delivery drivers for rides too and from the trail and other places (usually well known places or places with a physical address). Basically, you would go to the pizza joint and order a pizza delivered to wherever it was you were trying to go – and try to talk the driver into delivering you along with your pizza. In the case of getting into town, you would just ride back with the driver after they delivered your pizza to you.
I haven’t tried this strategy yet, but when the perfect opportunity arises, I think I just might…
We hiked another mile into the woods past the gas station and made camp. The weather is supposed to hold, but it’s getting into the 30s tonight. We are slowly getting into the panhandle, and will be turning westward very soon. I won’t feel like we’re in the panhandle until we cross I-10.