Day 18 miles: 246.8 – 267.7

Lastnight was one of my most peaceful nights of sleep on the trail so far. It might have been from the long previous night, or it might have been the long miles travelled yesterday, or it might just have been mother nature giving me a break. Whatever the reason, I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until 6am to quiet surroundings and a nice start to a long day.

My first two miles of travel were both fun and slow as I had to pass through a lot of sloughs and wetland areas that although a treat in their own right are scary at the same time. While I feel like a kid as I was wading through the water, I also know that the alligators are hungry for breakfast, so I didn’t splash around anymore than necessary. Once I felt confident that I had a few miles before the next alligator hole, I sat down to dry my feet and swap my shoes from the camp/water shoes to my hiking shoes. My left foot was pretty tender from yesterdays highway hike and at this point in the day I was already questioning my decision to aim for three lakes camp. The reason I like to go from campsite to campsite now is the ability to make a fire. When I stealth camp, which has been my primary way of camping, I have to depend on my flashlight and noise to keep the critters at bay, and I like the security a fire provides. Also, I lost my can of bear mace sometime yesterday. I think it was when I stopped on highway 60 to tend to my foot, but the only thing of certainty is that I didn’t have it this morning when I packed up my gear.

As I pressed on through the miles before lunch, I passed through a prairie that was five miles across. I was thankful for the overcast weather and could only imagine how hot it can get while making that pass on a sunny day. Once through the prairie, I checked my map app for a lunch spot. I found a picnic table that would be at mile 12 for the day and set my course for there. Although I passed through a lot of pretty lands and took a lot of pictures, my main focus was my left foot and my hips that are now getting raw from my pack. By the time I made it to dry lake camp, I seriously contemplated staying there, instead of pressing on with the last pre-planned 9 miles of the day. As I sat there with my bag half unpacked and my socks drying in the sun on the table, a southbound hiker came into camp for a break too. It’s rare to see another hiker, and although I’ve met a few, this guy was only the third person currently hiking the trail that I’ve met. His name is ‘Cautious’, a young 20’s something year old hiker that did the AT two years ago (accomplished) and is doing sections of the Florida Trail as money allows. We talked for about 30 minutes and since he came from the camp I was headed to and vice versa, we shared what the other could expect for the rest of the day. Now convinced I could make the last of my miles and feeling rejuvenated from the food and rest, I started to put my foot cream on my foot. Cautious saw what I was doing and said “man, that looks bad!” Coming from a seasoned hiker, I almost felt relieved that it wasn’t just me. I finished packing my gear and getting my shoes on then we parted ways. I felt pretty good for about half of my remaining miles but got slowed down by sloughs the second half and then the pains returned. I was worried about making camp by dark, which caused me to press a little faster than my body would allow, which unfortunately resulted in my left Achilles tendon to get inflamed. Having delt with that issue in my right leg, I took an anti-inflammatory and slowed my pace back down for the last mile. I made camp at 6pm, just as the sun was dropping below the tree line and used the remaining bit of light to quickly set up camp, hang my food bag and gather firewood. I guess Cautious didn’t have a fire here lastnight because there is firewood all over! I took advantage of the abundance of wood and now have a pretty good stack sitting next to my ‘ready to go’ fire, and if I need it tonight, it will be impressive :).

a nice footpath over a deep swampy section of trail

the Florida Trail provides a beautiful hiking experience

the open prairie looking back after crossing it

one of the many wetland crossings

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