Date- February 15, 2020
Location- Pinhoti Outdoor Center
Elevation- 902 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 22.3 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 23.2 miles
Weather/Temp- clear, 50s, 60s
Injuries- Cuts and scrapes
Pain level- Sore feet
Spirits/Morale- Feeling strong
Wildlife encounters- Turkeys, 17+ Dogs
Days without shower- 2
Days without laundry- 2
Hunger/craving- Sweet Tea
Well, we tentatively hiked that 22 miles today (17 of which I carried the Little Dog).I slept warm and cozy last night and awoke to Nimblewill making me a cup of coffee in the main area of the cabin. I’m not a coffee drinker, but when a living trail legend makes you a cup of coffee – you drink it. So that’s what I did.After a little conversation and a quick picture with the man, Katana and I were on our way again around 6:45 am. We needed to make up for the negligible miles yesterday.Katana hiked the first mile before I picked her up to try and add some more distance to our morning. When the trail was old logging roads, we could clip along at 2 mph or better (when she wasn’t smelling things). As we hit narrow trail with roots, rocks, and blow downs, she slows to less than 1 mph – especially when she has to smell every little obstacle on the trail. I let her go for a little while in these sections, just to increase her confidence. Then, I’d pick her up and carry her the rest of the way. I know I said I’m in no hurry; but I’m damn sure not trying to hike the majority of this trail at a sub 1 mph pace. I choose my battles – and don’t let them choose me… if I can help it.Between the remote logging roads and narrow trails we hiked today, the little rascal racked up around 5 miles. I was very pleased with her pace and performance when she was hiking.
Feel the Burn
Speaking of the trail, it was so much like the AT… I could swear I was there instead. Nice steep roller-coaster climbs, but nothing much more than 400 feet of climbing. Still, it was more than enough to get the legs burning and heart pumping.I can certainly feel the difference between carrying Katana on the Florida Trail versus carrying her up these steep climbs. Fortunately, I spent a lot of time in Australia putting myself through some vigorous workouts five days per week – with a lot of focus on my lower back, legs, and shoulders. If it wasn’t for that, I’m certain my lower back would have been screaming today while going up some of those climbs. Thankfully, I didn’t feel a thing anywhere (except in my feet). They’re pretty sore, but I’m attributing that to the crazy amount of extra weight that’s pressing down on them. Actually, they didn’t start getting sore until I had to wade through a couple of creeks around 12 miles into the day. It was walking in wet shoes that got them soggy and tender. And yes, I’m still not wearing socks – but my feet remain resilient…
Bracing for the Fall
I took a hard tumble in the middle of the afternoon. I had just turned onto a rocky logging road when I didn’t lift my foot high enough and tripped on an embedded rock. Well, let me just say… that tripping and falling with a dog on your shoulders is quite an ordeal. First of all, I can’t catch myself by leaning forward and trying to steady my center of gravity. If I do that, then I could dump Katana from a height of 4 or 5 feet, and that just can’t happen. If I’m tripping hard enough, I just have to go down – flat out. So that’s what I did.
The Art of Falling
As I fell, I kept my torso straight and just put my hands out to catch myself at ground level. This way Katana would simply roll forward off my shoulders, over my head, and already be at ground level. The worst that could happen is she’d roll. So I hit the ground HARD on my hands, chest, and knees. She rolled off my shoulders, over my head, and onto the ground where she did one more roll. Then she popped up and looked in the direction of my voice (which was exclaiming several loud expletives). She continued trotting down the road for another 100 yards before I was able to gather myself and catch up.My hands were burning like I was holding dry ice, and my right knee and shin had some pretty good cuts that were oozing a bit of blood. All in all, it wasn’t too bad. However, I’d landed hard enough on my chest (where I keep my cell phone clipped) that it shattered my phone screen. I can still see everything and it still functions – but I’m pretty upset. I hiked the entire Florida Trail and CDT with this phone and didn’t get so much as a scratch on it. Two days on the Pinhoti and the screen is cracked like a spider web, even with the Otterbox attached!By 4 pm we had 16 miles completed and had reached a long road walk. Six miles into that road walk would put us back at the Pinhoti Outdoor Center. I decided we’d get there no matter what.
Can you say Woof?
Well, as bad luck would have it… “no matter what” turned out to be braving 17 loose dog encounters over the course of 3 miles of that road walk. This was a new personal record for dog encounters on a trail – in such a short period of time. Out of the 17 dogs that approached us, only 3 of them were what I’d consider close calls. Most of them were either frisky friendly, or kept their distance without charging. The three dogs that did charge and lunge (seemingly attempting to attack) included a gray pit-bull, a white mutt, and a large husky with a blue and brown eye.Since the pit-bull’s owner was between us, I thought we were in the clear. I thought wrong! It charged off the porch and spent the better part of 30 seconds lunging at my legs. I kept it at bay with my Yucca walking staff as the owner’s commands fell on deaf ears. He eventually retrieved it and locked it inside his house. Two minutes later, a large white mutt (about 70 pounds) came charging down the street from the same property. The same guy was yelling at it in the distance. This one meant business as well, and made a few lunges before heading back home.
Here We Go Again!
The last one was the husky, and this one actually unnerved me the most. Husky is not a breed most people would let wander freely, but lo and behold, here it was… and it was cold and calculating. It didn’t make a peep as I walked by. In fact, I didn’t even know it was there. I just happened to glance to my left, and there it was – stalking low out of some trees in the front yard (about 20 feet away). I nearly had a heart attack!Once I spotted the husky, it stood tall and calmly strode into the center of the road behind me. He still hadn’t made a peep. I began to talk to it calmly, as he trotted along unassumingly. I was in the middle of complimenting its heterochromia eyes when it suddenly charged full speed with a loud snarl… giving me another heart attack. It totally snake-eyed me and waited for my guard to be down. I thought for sure it was going all the way, but the staff came out and deterred it at the last moment. It followed me, howling and barking for nearly 2 minutes, before heading home. There was a second husky in the yard, but that one was chained up. I don’t know if I could have thwarted both of them.
Throughout all the dog encounters, Katana remained very calm across my shoulders. This was despite the very clear and near presence of seemingly aggressive dogs all around. Only once did she try to stand and begin snarling. She did this when the large white dog approached (after the pit-bull confrontation). Maybe that particular dog was giving off the most sinister vibes, in her estimation. I did my best to remain very calm and level headed throughout each encounter, in hopes that Katana would mirror my energy and demeanor. I’d like to think it worked.It was dark by the time I reached Hwy-280 and gave Kimm and Nathan a ring. They had previously told me to call them when I reached the highway and they’d pick me up and drive me the 1.3 miles to the hostel. They were true to their word! Nathan pulled up just as I was getting to the highway and whisked us away!It’s day two and I still haven’t camped yet, as I’m sleeping in my van tonight. I’m not complaining because it’s freezing out there! This is the first time I’m getting to use my own vehicle on a thru-hike. I must admit, it feels pretty cool. Tomorrow I’ll use it to get a small resupply in the morning.I didn’t see a soul today, and won’t be surprised if I don’t see any other thru-hikers on this trip. No plans for big miles tomorrow. Looking to get a late morning start and hike about 10 miles to an established campsite. We’ll see how it goes!