Date- March 6, 2019
Distance Traveled Today- 21.8 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 848.1 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 50s
Injuries- cut up legs and feet
Pain level- moderate
Wildlife encounters- zero
Days without shower- 4
Days without laundry- 6
CatFox Status- beast
The only thing worse than getting out of a warm hammock on a freezing morning… is putting freezing wet shoes on warm dry feet. I’ve been having to alternate between socks and no socks in these Hoka shoes. Lately, with how much sludgy water we’ve been crossing, I’ve needed to wear socks. Too much debris has been getting in them and cutting up the tops of my feet. The bottom of my feet have been bullet proof, but the softer skin on top has been more vulnerable to rough objects.
This morning I couldn’t bring myself to put my freezing wet sandy socks back on, so I just went sock-less in my cold wet shoes. Schweppes and I left out before Critter and began the day’s death march. First thing, we had nearly 3 miles of freezing muddy water and bogs to slog through. Both our feet were completely numb and entombed in mud.
A little over 3 miles into the day we ran into none other than Poet and his family. They had been on a family cruise for the past week or so and were just getting back on trail. To get back in the swing of things, Poet decided he would hike a few days with us before heading back to where he left off and attempting to re-catch us.
The trail today was a mixture of road beds, swamp, bogs, water, mud, ridiculous overgrowth, and slender pine forest. I can’t get over how much water is on the trail. My feet haven’t been dry for days.
There have been almost no animals around the trail since the temperatures took a dive the other day. The only real wildlife we’ve seen are frogs and birds.
Of all the little inconveniences plaguing the trail through goooood sections, it is without a doubt the overgrowth which has been the most challenging for me. Mud, sure. Water, no problem. Scratchy, thorny, sharp branches, vines, palmettos, and saw grasses… OUCH! Most of the scratches and abrasions are so fine you can’t even see them – but you can feel the hell out of them; especially when you work up a little sweat, and doubly so when a spot gets raked over for the second, third, fourth, fifth time. Everything below my knees feels raw.
Thanks to the presence of some relatively clear road beds, Katana was able to get in a good 4 to 5 miles today. Although we’ve still been finding ticks on us every day, Katana hasn’t had but two crawling on her since taking the Nexguard treatment in Palatka. So I suppose she can be a poster child for them now.
By the end of our 21 mile day of wading and stomping through sludgy forest, my feet were pretty well ground up from not wearing socks. All as a result of leaves, twigs, and other tids and bits getting into them while thigh deep in muddy-watery leaf litter.
Despite the nastiness of the trail conditions, there’s still a great beauty to it all. There is also a certain swelling of pride in knowing that you’re putting yourself through this nightmarish terrain willingly. I mean, most hiking enthusiasts will hike anywhere, even if only for a day or even a couple hours (no matter how difficult the terrain or climbs are). What most people can’t/won’t do is put themselves through day after day of strenuous hiking – like most thru-hikes command. In the case of the Florida Trail, not only are you doing a thru-hike, but you’re also hiking through terrain/environments that a great number of other hiking enthusiasts wouldn’t touch with a 100 ft pole. People who would climb Katahdin or summit a snow and ice covered 14’er – wouldn’t be caught dead thigh or waist deep in a Florida swamp. Not even for a minute. That’s what makes hiking this trail an accomplishment. Yeah there’s a lot of factors that make it incredibly boring, miserable, and UN-enjoyable – but it’s the fact that there are so many people who would love to thru-hike, but still won’t even consider this trail… that makes it a gem worth hiking. It is the epitome of the path less traveled. I believe not even 50 people attempted a thru-hike of the Florida Trail this year.
Hippie Chick and the kids drove over an hour out to pick up Poet. They offered to take us out to dinner and camp at the state park campground where they were staying in Sopchoppy. After 3 days of eating sardines on crackers and nilla wafers… this was an offer we couldn’t refuse.
After a hearty dinner of smoked wings and ribs, we went back and had a few nightcap gin and tonics at the campground on the Sopchoppy River.
I think Poet is going to hike one or two more days with us before heading back to where he left off…