Date- February 17, 2019
Location- Madison Shelter
Elevation- 85 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 27.6 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 613.5 miles
Weather/Temp- cloudy, 70s
Injuries- rolled ankle
Pain level- low
Wildlife encounters- Corn snake, armadillos, TICKS
Days without shower- 7
Days without laundry- 7
CatFox Status- Peachy
Crossed the 600 mile mark and put away an almost 28-mile day through mud, water, and overgrowth. Whew!
We got out of camp at 8am sharp and within half a mile found ourselves in the middle of a Civil War reenactment of the battle of Olustee. We’d heard there was going to be one this weekend, but we didn’t know the trail would go right through the reenactment area. So we were treated to some awesome live marching music and a procession of Confederate soldiers on foot, as well as horseback.
I’ve never been to a Civil War reenactment before, but if the marching instruments were halfway accurate – I can’t imagine what it would have been like to march into battle with those cadences booming in the background. The bass from the drums was intense! I had chills trying to visualize myself in the shoes of a soldier back then, marching to stand stalk-still in a field and then trade deadly shots in the open – against other human beings. The drums must have been one helluva motivator and adrenaline boost back then. They awaken something primal in you, under the right conditions. I know they did with me, this morning.
The trail today was a very healthy mixture of overgrown vegetation, mud, old logging roads, and shin to knee-deep water crossings. To top it off, the humidity was soaring and the air was stagnant.
Up until 1pm we were lucky enough to enjoy fog and overcast, even though the air was still suffocating. Once the fog burned off and the clouds broke up a bit, the forest went from hot steam room, to hot oven.
The humidity and heat of the deep south is something special. I’m firmly convinced that if it weren’t for our spectacularly humid and hot weather… Florida would have more people than California. I’ve talked to so many tourists over the years who’ve claimed the only reason they don’t move here is due to the heat and humidity. I personally find it well worth it. I’ve been to every kind of beach on every coast of this country, and I can tell you almost unequivocally… there is NOTHING like the Gulf Coast of Florida. I’m not being biased, I’m being honest. There is so much going on in our coastal Gulf of Mexico that people don’t know about… especially fisheries-wise. There is nowhere else in the world that you can catch the size, volume, variety, and quantity of fish that we do – FROM SHORE, or just beyond it on a pier or kayak (I’m talking sailfish, mahi, kings, cobia, jacks, snapper, grouper, wahoo, barracuda, sturgeon, gar, blackfin, bonita, and countless others). Not to mention the crystal clear, bathtub-warm, calm waters. Then, there’s the snow white sand and carefree barefoot beaches – no rocks. I could wax poetic all day, but I’m getting off subject.
As has become custom, we moved in 7+ mile increments, with 30 minute breaks in between. Katana only hiked maybe a mile and a half today due to the very swampy and overgrown nature of the trail. There just weren’t a lot of sections where she could really get going.
Wildlife was sparse, besides a gathering of hundreds of robins that were foraging through the slender pines and palmettos around us for the better part of 3 hours. I’ve seen these giant groups of robins before, but not quite this gigantic. Their calls in the forest were a beautiful backdrop to the foggy morning.
The greatest find of the day, and possibly the entire hike so far, was a beautiful corn snake about 2 ft long (Schweppes found it across the trail). I haven’t found a wild corn snake in over 10 years, so this was a rare and amazing treat for me. Even by corn snake standards, this one was exceptionally beautiful; very vibrant colors, as well as very aesthetically pleasing patterns.
I picked it up easily and draped it over my walking staff for a few pictures before releasing it back into the palmettos.
The ticks were unreal today. I found 10 on me (1 attached) and Schweppes caught 11 on him (3 attached). Katana even picked one up during a break. This tick presence only added to the monotony of the day. You felt inclined to check yourself all over, every 5 minutes. Every speck of mud or piece of debris that stuck to you looked like a tick. Thankfully we’re not in Lyme disease country.
I rolled my ankle hard in a muddy rut on an old logging road in the early afternoon. My whole foot grew hot, but I kept moving through the pain to keep up the circulation. Thankfully it didn’t swell, but I’ve had a sharp, pulling pain across the top of my foot since then. I’m guessing my main extensor tendon is strained or partially torn. Hopefully it’ll be better after a good night’s sleep.
We finally crossed over Interstate-10 today and turned due west. I officially feel like I’m back in the panhandle. It may seem weird, but I feel a special connection to I-10. I’ve logged more cross country driving miles on that interstate than any other. It was the Interstate I first drove cross country on with my family as a child; the first road my dad let me reach over and take the wheel on when I was 7 years old. The PCT, CDT and the FT all cross over, under, or across I-10. So for a moment, you could almost say you’re connected to all these trails at the same time. I know I feel connected to the places and lifelong memories associated with I-10 every time I get on it (as cheesy as that sounds). I’m a sentimental person, so I can’t help it.
By dark we had 22 miles racked up and were hungry for more. We had a 5 mile road walk ahead of us, so we decided to knock it out and camp in the woods at the other end. It was a peaceful walk, mostly on a dirt road, lit by the light of the nearly full moon.
All in all, I feel like today was a really tough day. The heat, humidity, bugs, ticks, and terrain were all working against us. I feel absolutely filthy. I’ve got a week’s worth of mud, swamp water, sweat, scabs, cuts, and bites festering on me. We’ve got 10 miles to reach the town of White Springs tomorrow. I haven’t looked forward to a shower this much so far on this hike. I think we’ll run into Poet and his family there too!