Date- February 14, 2019
Location- Lake Butler
Elevation- 135 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 25
Distance Traveled Total- 562.9
Weather/Temp- overcast, 60s/70s
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- deer, stray dogs
Days without shower- 4
Days without laundry- 4
CatFox Status- Titan!
Katana killed it today! It was our longest day to date on this trail, and Katana hiked over 10 miles of it!
It was a cold, cold night, but I stayed very comfortable in the hammock. In the morning however, my quilt and the outside of the hammock were soaked with condensation. They’d have to be dried out in the sun at some point.
Almost the entire day was hiking on an old railroad bed. The rails and ties had been removed, leaving only a nicely graded path. Some of the most leisurely hiking you’ll ever do is on old railroad beds. This was how Katana got her biggest day yet, on top of our overall biggest day on the Florida Trail.
Around the 6 mile mark we passed by/through part of the town of Hampton. We walked a couple tenths of a mile off the trail to a Sunoco gas station/convenience store. We spent about an hour there, and I got a great feel for the atmosphere of this town.
I don’t know if we were on the bad side of town or what, but it was very much like the 88 store. I’ll try to paint another snap shot of the hour we spent there…
Across the street from the gas station, which was in the middle of a residential neighborhood/trailer park, were two guys about our age sitting in their front yard (next to the road) around a campfire. They were smoking cigars and drinking beer. This is at 10:30 am on a Thursday.
A man on a bicycle (also about our age) pulled up and commented on Katana’s beauty. As he pulled away, he threw an empty sweet tea bottle on the ground. I was literally sitting next to the large storefront trash can he had just pulled up to, only seconds before.
Next, two men (a little older than us) pulled up in an old beat-up Sunfire. The passenger got out and immediately threw half a sandwich on the ground before walking past the trash can and into the store.
Fifteen minutes later, the clerk came out and swept up the sandwich and the bottle into one of those long handled dust pans and dumped it in the front trash can. I felt like I’d just witnessed the Hampton circle of life.
Lastly, a man (of indeterminate age… Middle?) came putzing up the road on a lawn mower towing a wagon. He was wearing a black hoodie, had tattoos all over his face, and was carrying a white chihuahua in his lap. He pulled up to one of the gas pumps, set the chihuahua in the wagon, and greeted us in a voice that sounded like crushed glass before going into the store. I turned to Schweppes, “We gotta get the f**k outta here,” I said with a pathetic chuckle. “Yeah.” Was all he said.
We were packed up and gone before crushed-glass-man could finish filling up his lawn mower. My only regret is that I didn’t take a picture, but I assure you it was an image I’ll never forget.
Those instances previously described stuck out the most, but there was no shortage of characters coming and going from the store. That clerk (an older Indian man) must go home at the end of each day and have an epic decompression routine to rival the best of them. Or maybe this was nothing compared to running a shop in India. Hmmm, perspective is everything…
The rest of the day was as dull as dull gets. Watching Katana knock down the miles was the best part. Rail-bed hiking is nice hiking, but in this flat landscape, there isn’t anything to see. It was just a tunnel with swamp or pine forest on either side.
Had we started the freezing morning before 9 am, and not spent an hour in Hampton – we probably could have finished in daylight. Since that wasn’t the case, we finished around 8:30 pm and treated ourselves to some Hardees on the outskirts of Lake Butler (a town).
The Hardees ended up being a strange stop in and of itself. I ordered a monster thick burger and five chicken tenders. It took them (no joke), over 20 minutes to get my order out to me. I was in no hurry, so I didn’t care. But when they did bring it out, they’d stacked 8 honey mustards next to my 5 tenders. For perspective – 2 honey mustards would have been more than enough for 5 tenders. I really don’t know what they were thinking. Perhaps I just look like a guy who loves his honey mustard. Who knows?
We traveled deeper into town and made camp in some trees in front of the Town Hall. This was allowed, per prior information we’d received when calling the Town Hall earlier that day to get said information/permission.
I’m not sure what our plans will be tomorrow, but we might be meeting a mystery guest. I’m just not sure if we’re going to meet them here, or in the next town of Osceola, about 20 miles further up the trail.
This section has been saturated with towns and stopovers. We’ve been hitting at least 1 or 2 towns/convenience stores almost every day since leaving Palatka. It’s kinda nice, but it also kinda sucks. It’s nice because I haven’t had to carry any food with me, but it sucks because the town food we are getting isn’t as special since we’re getting it every day. It’s when you’ve gone 5 or 6 days without a good town meal that it really begins to taste like Christmas. The Florida Trail is just spoiling us…