This morning started off great because I slept well and woke up a few minutes before my alarm sounded. I happily started tearing down camp but can’t help to notice that my feet still hurt a little. I feel like I can probably do some good miles anyway and pre-plan to stop if they start to hurt to bad. I hang my solar battery charger onto the top of my pack then head over to Suzan’s camp to see what kind of concoction she has left me on the picnic table. As I approach her camp I see that she too is already up (which I was kinda hoping she wouldn’t of been so I could get moving) and she gives me a herbal mix of cold pressed herbs and spices that are supposed to help with my joints and tendons. I’m not sure what to think about it because it smells like feet and tingles my toung a bit, but what’s the worst that can happen right? She wants to give me more information about becoming a free spirit and connecting my soul to the earth, but I give her my email address and ask her to send it to me instead so I can hit the trail. She agrees and laughs then tells me to have a safe journey, and away I went.
As I started walking I felt pretty good, it is a cool morning and still windy with a simmering reflection coming from the dew covered grass. I’m happy I took a zero day yesterday as my pace is quick and steady and the foot pain is ignorable. I make it the two miles to the last gas station on the reservation in good time, so before I head out onto the miles of canal marching I decided to swing in and grab some hot food before tackling today’s miles. The sausage and egg sandwiches were as to be expected from a gas station and I ate them pretty quick. At this point I’m only 2 miles in for what might turn out to be a 20 mile day so I get ready leave. Then the unfortunate happens. I throw my bag on my shoulders and head out the store and now unlike a few minutes ago, my feet are on fire!
I try to ignore the pain and press on. I start focussing on my surroundings like how when I pass a farmers field some of the cows run away but in each field there seems to be one or two curious cows that stop and watch me walk past. I notice the grass and how on top there long dead blades but underneath there are little light green sprouts coming up to see the world. Maybe it was the strange brew Suzan gave me or maybe I was becoming affected by the pain in each step, but it kept my mind busy and it got me to mile 10 for the day. At mile 10 there was a water cash of a bunch of one gallon jugs left by “trail angles”. This was a great find because the water in the canal is agriculture runoff from big suger to the north and is full of chemicals. I take a seat on the grass and pull off my shoes and socks to let my feet dry while I fill up my water containers. I check out my feet to see that they still look the same as yesterday so I figure new socks and a break should be all I need… Well, I wrong about that one as you will soon see.
It was only about 12:30 when I decide to get on the move again. I still have a lot of sunlight left and I think I can push another 10 miles to get to a spot that I think has a set of trees that I can hang my hammock in. From where I am to the trees is open levy walking with gators swimming on either side, so it’s either make it past the canal or sleep next to alligators, I think I can make it. I stand up from my break and hoist my pack onto my shoulders and take the first few baby steps. I realise right away that things are not good but I keep gingerly walking until the pain is normal again and I can take actual steps.
Quick story: When I was in high school my younger brother liked to go mudding. You know, where you take your truck to mud holes you shouldn’t drive through and see if you can make it across. Well one day I had my 2 wheel drive F-150 out at a hole and with my brother sitting shotgun I gave it a go. It was awesome throwing mud everywhere and working the truck through the mud (like I knew what I was doing) until I wasn’t making forward progress anymore. I tried backing it up then going forward, turning the wheel hard over so that the tires could grab the sides of the rut, but nothing worked. I told my brother that we were stuck and he said for me to let him try. We swapped seats and my brother said “if you’re moving, you’re not stuck” and proceeded to wiggle my truck all the way out of the mud hole. That was over 20 years ago and a forgotten memory until today when I realized I was making only one mile an hour and I thought I was going to be stuck on the canal. But like my brother said; if I was moving, I wasn’t stuck. Press on.
About two hours and two miles later I happen apon a dive team working on one of the water flow tubes under the levy. I stopped and chit-chatted with them, talking about how many alligators there are and how they remove them all from their work site and then damn up the canals on either side of the levy to keep the divers safe. We then talked about the trail and the fun I’ve had, then one of the guys said to be careful of the Panthers. I told him about the one I saw and he said “no, I mean on the levy, there’s one a few miles down the road!” I replied that I didn’t think that they would out here since it’s all wide open swamp for miles around, and thanked him for letting me know to stay vigilant! And down the road I went.
I only made it two more miles down the canal and I’m fairly certain I’m not going to make the next six miles by nightfall. My pace isn’t better and I really need to do some maintenance on my feet before they put me out of commission. I got lucky in the sense that I found a metal railing around one of the underflow tubes of the levy to hang my hammock. I was also finally able to get a needle deep enough through the thick skin on the balls of my feet to puncture my blisters and drain them. My feet feel worse initially which surprises me, but getting that fluid out will help them heal faster. Now tonight I just have to be on the lookout for a single known panther, not get ate by alligators and hopefully tomorrow I will be able to walk a little bit faster and longer.
sunset view of tonight’s impromptu camp
it’s so windy there are waves in the canal
miles and miles of levy walking