Date- February 25, 2019
Location- side of trail
Elevation- 16 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 24.3 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 741.5 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 70s
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- loose dogs
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 2
CatFox Status- Beasty
It got into the 40s last night, making for a comfortably cool night. The only problem with sleeping on the ground for me, is that I wake up every 1.5 hours or so to roll over. I fall right back to sleep, so I still feel well rested in the morning.
We got hiking around 7:30 am and had a little over 16 miles of road walking left. It was once again fairly dull, aside from the loose dog encounters. Today was our closest call yet.
The first one was a mutt who barked and charged at us, but wouldn’t come onto the road. He was harmless, but still… his initial charge was still anxiety inducing.
The second dog almost got both of us. It was another pit bull sitting on a front porch. There was a woman in her 50s sitting on the steps of her porch, talking on the phone. When the dog charged across the yard, she didn’t flinch. I stopped, frozen in place, waiting to fend off the dog or at the very least see what it did. Schweppes was about 200 ft behind.
The dog skidded to a halt at the edge of the road, barking and snarling with its hairs and tail straight up. I just stood there, waiting for the woman to do something – she didn’t. It took almost 30 seconds of me squaring off with the dog before she acknowledged what was going on and yelled, “He won’t hurt you, you’re fine.” Like an idiot, I believed her. I walked past and turned my audio book back on (I had earbuds in).
I was about ten seconds further down the road when I felt Katana tense up on my shoulders. I knew what it meant, so I spun around just in time to catch the pit about 3 feet away, lunging for my calf. I spun so quick, it startled the dog and it froze. I advanced towards it, ready to bash it with the end of my staff, but it took off… right after Schweppes who was now directly in front of the house.
I stood and waited to see what would transpire. The dog lunged at Schweppes, who kept it at bay with his trekking poles, jabbing and swinging them. The dog was barking, snarling, lunging and snapping furiously at the trekking poles. All the while, the woman just sat on her ass on the front porch yelling “Rusty! Rusty! Rusty! Rusty!” in a shrill voice. Rusty wasn’t listening. “Will you come get your fucking dog!” Schweppes yelled at her. She didn’t. She only continued to yell at the dog until it finally listened after Schweppes had swung at it for the 6th time.
I waited for him to catch up to me before we continued on down the road together. Apparently Schweppes had started yelling to get my attention as soon as the dog started to charge at me from behind. I hadn’t heard him. If Katana hadn’t alerted me, I would probably have a few holes in my calf, and a certain pit bull would be having its brain examined for rabies at the nearest animal clinic.
I really can’t get over the sheer irresponsibility of dog owners around here. I’m sure it’s not a localized problem, and I’m only noticing it due to the high degree of rural road walking we’re doing. It’s probably an issue everywhere.
While taking a break at another church around 9 miles into the day, we met another thru hiker named “Critter.” He was a tall, clean cut, skinny guy of 26 years. He’d hiked the same trails as us (besides the CDT), and in the same years. I’d never met him before, but Schweppes had met him in the Sierra Nevada on the PCT. He was moving really fast out here because he’d been skipping most of the road walks.
We hiked with Critter for the next 8 miles of road before he hiked ahead on the trail.
Speaking of the trail – it was very poorly maintained, as well as poorly marked. It stayed mostly along the banks of the swift flowing Aucilla River, which in all honesty… I’ve found to be prettier than the Suwannee.
The trail was constantly overhung and overgrown with vegetation and palm fronds. You couldn’t go far without needing to push branches or leaves out of your way. All in all, I pulled another 4 attached ticks off my body – one from my thigh, two from my calves, and one from my chest. I ended up in waist deep muddy water before all was said and done.
We passed a camped out Critter shortly before dark and went a little bit past him before making camp ourselves. In 10 miles we’ll hit another on trail convenience store. Then 20 miles from there, we’ll have to flag down a boat to get across the St. Mark’s River.
The miles seem like they’re flying by, and very soon… I’ll be hiking through my own backyard.