Date- February 27, 2019
Location- St Marks
Elevation- 3 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 9.1 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 774 miles
Weather/Temp- Overcast, Rain, 70s
Pain level- zero
Spirits/Morale- a little wet
Wildlife encounters- hog, gators, garter snake
Days without shower- 0
Days without laundry- 0
CatFox Status- Trooper
Today is my official 2 month mark for being out here. However, in the effort of hiking this trail from the beginning with Schweppes – it’s only the 50th day.
The mosquitoes and black flies buzzing outside the hammock all night were a source of constant noise. When light finally broke and I could see them all stacked up outside of my bug net, I didn’t want to deal with them. We both stayed in our shelters for an extra 45 minutes trying to postpone the inevitable.
As soon as I threw open the bug net, they poured in as I poured myself out. The first thing I did was grab my 100 deet and spray my legs and arms. I don’t put it on my neck since Katana spends a lot of time in that area, but if I douse myself really well everywhere else, it keeps most of them completely away.
The mosquitoes kept their distance as I packed up, but the tiny black flies were too dumb. They continued to land on my exposed legs and arms in hordes, dying almost immediately on contact with my skin. This was very satisfying, as my body became a black fly graveyard with no extra effort on my part.
We walked the levees for a few more miles, spotting many gators along the way. It was nice seeing so many of them again. The south Florida gators had been very skittish of people, but these panhandle gators seem to know no fear. Probably not as many people hunting them.
After the levees it was a little bit of paved road, then a couple miles of some old jeep track, and then two miles of narrow trail through pines and palms.
It began to rain steadily as we started the jeep track portion of the day, and it never stopped. As far as rain goes, it was my favorite kind to hike in – it was falling straight down with no wind to drive it. The perfect rain to use an umbrella… and I did.
I still stand by the claim that an umbrella is my favorite piece of hiking gear – bar none. Call it essential or call it a luxury item. Either way, you won’t catch me on trail without one. You can’t beat keeping the upper 3/4 of your body dry while hiking in a downpour. While Schweppes was getting soaked to the bone and fighting to maintain his core temperature… I was dry, comfortable, and still warm.
Umbrellas have made long days in freezing rain, sleet, hale, snow, and wind a pleasure, rather than a pain. And nothing beats being able to sit down under your umbrella in the middle of a storm or hot sunny patch and enjoy your own little island of dry or shady bliss. It’s a no-brainer for me, but some people would rather suffer than carry the extra 10 to 12 ounces of cheap umbrella weight. And if you decide to not go cheap… you can find hiking umbrellas for 5.5 to 8 ounces these days. The one I’m currently using weighs 5.5 ounces, has lasted this entire hike, and has seen countless uses (mostly for sun). I’ll do a write-up about it after this hike.
During the rainy jeep-track portion of the hike, we came across a small garter snake who was bloated on a recent meal. It looked too lumpy and stuffed to be one single creature inside of it, so I speculated it had probably gorged itself on the countless tadpoles that filled every flooded corner of the forest.
About 150 yards ahead of us on the jeep-track, a large jet-black animal emerged out of the forest and began quickly trotting our way. It must have been between 250 and 300 pounds, and we speculated it was a bear for several seconds. But as it got closer, it became apparent it was just a big pig. The biggest boar I’ve seen out here to date. It was still 100 yards away when it finally noticed us, froze for a few seconds, and then darted off the track.
It was a little after 11am when we’d finished up the 9 miles to the banks of the St. Mark’s River. Under normal circumstances, we would have waited to flag down a boat and asked for a lift across to the other shore. But in this downpour, there was nobody on the river.
We decided to utilize all of our options and called a local marina. It had been recommended to call this marina if you couldn’t find a ride, and they’d send a boat to shuttle you across for free. Only 15 minutes after calling them, a pontoon boat pulled up to our shore and we hopped on. It was a 4 minute ride back to the marina where we thanked the employee, and were on our merry way again.
We stopped in at a local restaurant in the town of St. Mark’s called the Riverside Cafe and had lunch. By this point, Schweppes was getting cold from all the inactivity of sitting on the river bank and at the restaurant. The will to leave the comfort of civilization and rejoin the fray went to zero. So we got a room for warmth and to dry off gear, persons, and little dog.