Ah the sun! How I’ve missed you these past three days! This morning I woke up to clear sky’s and the sun coming up over the ridge of the canal 100 yards to my east, and I could see that today was shapping up to be a good day. I got ready really slowly this morning because I knew I only had 15 miles till my next camp and the dew was heavy from lastnight so I wanted to give my gear time to dry out. I didn’t put my feet on the trail until 9:15 (my latest start time yet) but time is what I had. I knew there was a water cache 5 miles up the trail so I used 1/2 a liter of canal water, filtered and boiled, for breakfast. The first 5 miles flew by and there was indeed a water cache of 10 gallons of clean drinking water, things are looking good.
The next five miles I timed myself to see what my pace was for the day since my feet only hurt a little and the trail is a gravel road atop the levy, 3mph, not to shabby. I notice as I’m walking that I keep stepping over and around millipedes that are what seems to be like they are on a migration to the south. I saw about 100 of them over the 5 miles to my lunch stop and they all seemed to think that the direction I came from was the place to be. At my lunch spot my stove canister decided it was a good day to die and I was only able to warm up my water, but not boil it. It didn’t concern me too much because town was just 2 1/2 miles further down the trail and I figure I could pick up a new one there. As I pack up lunch and hit the trail I see a group of folks headed my way. One of the members of the 7 person pack is holding a protest sign for clean water. I didn’t have the heart to tell these folks that I hadn’t seen another soul for days and that I was the only person for them to protest too for at least the next 30 miles. I did however ask them what they were doing out here. They were marching a pace too fast for half the members to keep up with, and without slowing down to chat the leader of pack said they were marching around the lake in prayer. I gave a quick scan of their gear as they hurriedly passed by and noticed they had insufficient gear and supplies and were going so much faster than most of the party could handle that I figured that the planning council failed to do their research and that they probably started today and will stop in their quest soon after if they don’t figure trail life out quickly.
As I got to the lock for the canal I asked the worker there if she knew of a store nearby that would have campstove fuel. The lady called the only store in town and sure enough, they have the little bottles that a pocket stove screws onto and the store is “just a mile” down the road. Well “just a mile” was a close estimate, but it was really a mile and a half, significant when you are on foot and have to back track. Once I got to the little store I go to pick up a canister and find out all they have is the green can that screws onto a camp stove, not the little can that a pocket stove screws onto, but the store had a restaurant in it so I got a burger before back tracking to the Lock. I call my friend Josh who lives 45 minute away and tell him about my delima and he agrees to throw me a lifeline and bring me a canister. Back at the lock I talk to Sue who has a 45 year old son about to retire from the Army and we were having fun working the lock to let a boat through when another lady comes up looking for “a group of hikers”! I know who she is talking about and let her know that they are about 5 miles behind me and headed further down the trail behind me. She begins to tell me their story.
This group of protesters started their journey on Saturday but hadn’t gained many miles. They got caught in the storm that I was hunkered down for and the lady standing there in front of me was originally hiking with them until she got hypothermia and had to be carried out. She was looking for the other hikers because she has their camping gear and food in her truck but didn’t know that the canal roads are gated for employees only. Oh my! I bring up my map and show her a boat launch on the canal near where she thinks her group is and tell her that’s the closest she is going to get to the trail and them. Sue agrees with me and we all part ways as I head down the trail and the lady goes off to find the boat ramp a few miles back. I wonder if that group knows that they can’t walk around the lake due to construction. I also wonder if they know about the road marches through Moore Haven and Clewiston. I wonder how far they will actually make it on their prayer quest… Simple wonders I have that I’m sure will fade quickly, as I have my own journey to attend to.
My friend Josh really came through again and delivered a full canister of fuel to me that will get me through the large expanse of the Kissimmee prairie. There is a good chance that I will be without phone reception for a few days as I make the long leg through this upcoming portion of the Florida Trail, but I will update as I can.
the long canal march. In the distance you might be able to see a water tower, that’s where I am now
fun facts placemat at store/diner in Buckhead Ridge
me and my friend Josh who has really saved the day, today