Date- March 21, 2019
Location- Bayview Campsite
Elevation- 2 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 11.8 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1,098 miles
Weather/Temp- not a cloud in the sky, windy, 60s
Injuries- SLASHED toe
Pain level- medium high
Spirits/Morale- can’t get me down
Wildlife encounters- racoons, black drum
Days without shower- 3
Days without laundry- 7
CatFox Status- Having a ball
We were up before the sun to watch it break the eastern horizon. It did not disappoint. The weather forecast for the next week or so is spectacular! High 60’s to low 70’s every day, with clear skies.
The wind was sustaining between 10 and 15 miles per hour all day – numbing your skin to the intense baking of the sun.
We were supposed to hike along an asphalt bike path for the first 4 miles of the day, but screw that. I told Schweppes and Poet I was going to walk in the wet sand, away from the road. They joined me.
Barefoot hiking at last; beachfront hiking at last; wet-feet hiking (we didn’t mind)… at last. We never did more than a couple miles at a time before stopping to lie in the sand and marvel at the beauty. So long as you stayed in the wet sand where the waves were gently breaking, you could make quick and painless forward progress. If you decided to walk in the soft sand… you were working twice as hard – for half the payoff.
The water clarity wasn’t at its best today, but it didn’t matter. The sand was its usual blinding white – as soft and fine as angel dust. There are not many places in the world where you can find sand as white, let alone as soft as the sand here.
I carried Katana most of the time, but allowed her to run around as much as possible. The little dog loves the beach, especially since losing her sight. When she feels that sand under her paws, she knows she can run wild and wide open without a care in the world… and that’s what she did. I could only let her run around for so long before she’d get too far away in one direction or another – mostly ignoring me due to her knowledge that she was safe to roam the obstacle-free terrain without my help. Frustrating little monster!
Are dogs allowed on the beach? No. Having said that, I carried her through any stretches that had people and only put her down on the desolate stretches, of which there were many. If law enforcement happened to see us and ask me to vacate the beach with her… then I would. The road paralleling the beach all the way to Fort Pickens (the finishing point) was never more than a hundred yards or so away. If I got fined the $50 for having her out there… so be it. After all we’d been through, it was well worth the risk. However, not a soul said anything to us about her presence and everyone we encountered had nothing but smiles and polite things to say/ask.
I carried my fishing poles the entire day but never caught anything. In fact, I never saw anything to cast onto, and the other fishermen on the beach weren’t having much luck either. I saw one person catch a 30 lb black drum in the afternoon and that was it.
Poet’s family met us for lunch at the Opal Beach Pavilions in the early afternoon. Back in 2010… I caught a 13 foot 9 inch tiger shark from this small stretch of beach. There were memories along every step of today’s hike.
It just wouldn’t have been a complete hike if I didn’t hurt myself before the end. I had to go the bathroom really bad and the restrooms next to the pavilions were closed. So I began jogging behind a sand dune. About halfway there it felt like I stepped on a knife with my left foot. I took a few more jogging steps before I looked down to see blood spraying out from the bottom of my foot all over the snow white sand. All I could think was, “…F**K…”
I finished the rest of my jog, peed, and then walked back to see if I could find what I’d stepped on. Buried just beneath the sand was a piece of broken cinder block with one of the broken edges pointing straight up, as sharp and rough as a chipped dull blade.
At this point I hadn’t even looked at the damage, but had deduced that it was one of my toes that had been cut, and not my foot. I walked back to the pavilion, sat at one of the picnic tables and nonchalantly said to Schweppes, “I just destroyed my toe.”
(Skin flap folded down)
(Buried cinder block edge that I stepped on.)
As I sat there hovering my foot above the concrete foundation of the pavilion, blood was dripping and even appeared to be spraying out. Upon closer examination, the rock had torn a deep gash, and flayed a thick chunk of skin that was hanging off my left index toe.
The skin hanging off was a relief, because it formed a built in band-aid. I cleaned it off, loaded up on Neosporin, wrapped some “second skin” around it and mummified it in gorilla tape. It stung and throbbed immensely, but the show must go on! We were too close to worry about little things like “InJuRiEs.”
I hobbled the last 5 miles of the day with my throbbing toe, over the sand and across sand dunes. The last 1.5 miles saw us move away from the beach and more towards the middle of the island. The terrain we were treated to here was the most unique of the entire hike, in my opinion. I was amazed that the state allowed the trail to traverse the sand dunes like it did. For now, the pictures will suffice as a description.
We made camp in a pine grove about 75 yards from the Intercoastal Water Way (ICW). One of my best friends, Charlie, lives on the water almost directly across from where we camped. He drove his boat (along with his 6 year old son, Mason) across and anchored up near our camp, delivering pizza and fresh water. We made a fire and stayed up for a couple hours before Charlie drove his boat home. It doesn’t get anymore “Florida” than that.
It’s hard to describe the feelings I had today. The gist of it is… today wasn’t all too different from a normal day when I’m not hiking: I was home; I was on the beach; I had my fishing gear; I was with my dog; I was walking around in the water and the sand…. nothing out of the ordinary. I wish I had some more profound feelings or revelations to share with you on my last full day in pursuit of finishing the Florida Trail, but I don’t. Maybe tomorrow.