The Night time is the right time… Adam Sandler has a skit where folks chant that over and over and for some reason that popped into my mind… Lastnight, when I went to bed after my easy miles day, I fell asleep pretty quickly to the sounds of the frogs and grasshoppers calling out their peaceful melodies. I had preset a fire in the fire ring (so all I would have to do is put flame to it) if needed, but I wasn’t expecting too. My hammock was gently swaying and I was at peace as I drifted off to wait for my sunrise alarm clock. All was well until 1:30am when I woke up to pee. At least that’s why I thought I was waking up, but all was not so. I heard a low growling sound about 30 yards away. It lasted about two seconds, then an inhale, then a low growl, then an inhale, repeat the sequence. I was not sure what to make of it, so I guessed it was about time to put flame to my fire and light the place up. It didn’t rain lastnight, but the dew was coming in like a cloud and I was having a hard time lighting the fire. Whatever was watching me work decided to let out a long deep growl that freaked me out a little, and for the first time this trip, I chambered a round in my little (probably useless) .380 pistol. I finally got the palm fronds to light under my pile of wood, but had to wait an agonizing few minutes for the damp wood to get going. My LED light was pretty much useless against the thick fog and my visibility was limited to just a few yards away so all I could do was stand there and wait. As the fire grew, the growls went further away until I couldn’t hear them anymore. I dechambered my round and after about an hour I thought it was safe to go back to bed. Right as I was about to head over to my hammock, something big started killing something not so big. I could only think of game calls that mimic that sound to draw in more predatory animals and I hoped for a quick death. Now certain that I was in the presence of a meat eater lurking around camp, I found it difficult to leave the perceived safety of the fire, and I kept adding wood until about 3am. By 4am all was (and had been) quiet and I finally got back to sleep.
Morning came quick, (for obvious reasons) and since I had a full 20 miles planned to get to a boat ramp at the head of the Kissimmee river, I wasted no time in getting myself out of dodge. Crossing Pine Island slough was only a few yards from camp, so I left my camp shoes on and wadded through it, making sure not to startle any alligators. On the opposite side of the slough as I sat down to dry my feet, right there was the freshly imprinted tracts of a Panther, which could have been the growls and killing I heard! My plan to cross all the sloughs in my camp shoes or barefoot really paid off, as the last one was crossed at mile 4 of the day. I was grateful that after the last forge, the next 16 miles would be in dry shoes, and I was able to enjoying the beautiful landscapes of today. I felt like I was on tour through all parts of the United States as I walked through Alligator ponds for Florida, a forest of trees dressed in Spanish moss that made me feel I was in Georgia, a walk through an evergreen grove that felt like the Pacific Northwest and I grazed with the cattle in what felt the wild west cattle fields of Wyoming. Almost all of my miles were trail miles or dirt roads used by the Florida Trail Association and I really have to give them another round of applause for providing me with such a nice day of nature viewing from their well maintained and well marked trails.
As I was nearing the end of my daily trek, I came out of the woods onto highway 60 and noticed that it is a pretty busy road. Although I was about to stop for the day, I decided to only eat a quick meal at the boat ramp and use this evening to walk the 5 miles to the next section of trail instead of waiting till tomorrow morning. I figured if its busy now, in the morning it will be worse, and there wasn’t really any good spots to hang my hammock at the ramp anyway.
As I was finishing up my meal, an older gentleman came over and asked if I was a “Through hiker”? We got to talking for awhile and he himself is a hiker named ‘Baltimore’ who has done the Appalachian Trail, twice! He also said that what I heard lastnight was most likely an alligator doing the growling and killing. Baltimore was a pretty cool person to meet and our conversation was great but I had to get back to hiking if I wanted to make camp with any daylight left.
On the highway, it’s difficult to make ground because the shoulders are steeply sloped and the wind from the trucks pushes you down the side even harder. There’s no escaping it, it just is what it is I guess and it had to be done. About 3 miles into the 5 miles of higway, the sole of my left foot was starting to hurt again like when I came out of Big Cypress! I was walking so I was facing oncoming traffic and my left foot was on the downhill side catching my weight sideways with each step. I wasn’t paying attention until it was too late and I screwed up my foot again. I changed my socks in a futile attempt to fix it and limped on through the remaining few miles, cautiously this time. As I finally got to my turn off the highway, I noticed that there was no place to hang a hammock, anywhere! It was already 7pm and dark out, so I pulled out my map app and found 2 MORE miles down the trail is a hunters check station. I know those have structure to hang off, so away I went. It’s funny how things evolve. I was going to camp at a boat launch under highway 60, then I was going to camp right off the higway, but now I am comfortably laying under a beautiful star filled sky a few miles away from the highway noise. Although I’m tired, it’s a great ending to another great day.
good morning prints
This is a typical slough, it doesn’t look like it, but the water is calf deep and its probably 50ft wide of flowing water
This is a free range cattle farm I’m passing through and what reminded me of the cattle plains out west.
this picture is dark, but I even saw buffalo today