Stealth camping really has its ups and downs! My decision to camp in the trees behind the church was great in the fact that I knew the church had a water spigot, so I wouldn’t have to filter water, and also the property is fenced so I didn’t have to worry about animals from one side of me, also in heading there lastnight, it let me knock out 3 of the 30 road miles before todays all day road hike. The bad side to stealth camping at the church is that the neighborhood parties there at night and I was at high risk of being seen which wouldn’t have fared well for me. Luckily I was hanging from a tree and fence at just the right angle so that when the cars came around the parking lot, their headlights hit the tree and the shadow fell right inline with my hammock! After the party was over at around 10pm, all was quiet until 5:30am when a group of folks showed up for a before school function or practice. The parking lot had cars flowing through it like a fast food drive thru and I thought for sure I would have my cover blown by one of the teens eagle eyes, but somehow I again managed to lay in full stealth. After I felt comfortable that everyone who was supposed to be there, was, I jumped up and tore down camp as quickly as I could in the dark and moved my operation to the park next door (where the neighborhood was partying) to situate my pack and eat a good breakfast. I found an outlet and plugged in my phone charger to juice it up and relaxed for a bit. Ed and Nonsense came apon the church at 7:30 and they already had a few miles under their belts having started at 5am this morning! Nonsense plugged in his electronics and I used my sewing kit to mend Ed’s shoulder strap while we waited for batteries to charge, then we hit the road as a trio.
My feet and tendons were not as warmed up as theirs were and I quickly watched them out pace me down the road. It didn’t bother me none as we all know my ailments and just as they didn’t expect me to hurt myself in keeping up, I knew they were going to do the whole 31 miles to the next camp today and didn’t expect them to wait around for me. As typical hiking goes though, I would pass them when they took a break and then they would pass me as I did the same. We played that game until I broke for lunch and they passed me for the last time of the day. Just before that though, we all walked across a bridge that recently had a too heavy of a vehicle drive over it and the whole thing was tilted to one side like a funhouse floor! The bridge was closed for obvious reasons so the road had nearly no traffic for about 10 miles, which left it as a two lane hiking path for most of the day :).
On my final stretch of road walking (on a busy road) before finding a place to camp, a car slowed down and asked if I wanted any water. I recognized the driver as Sandra Friend from her pictures on the Florida Trail facebook page. She is kind of a celebrity here as she is a founder of the Florida Trail alliance from years back and is responsible for writing the Florida Trail guide book, keeping the map app updated and also working with the communities to spread knowledge of the trail. It was really cool to meet her and her friend ‘Tigger’ and we all talked for a few minutes before we parted ways. I really thought today was going to be long day of dodging cars and trying not to get blown over by 18 wheelers, but it turned out to have a lot of cool experience along the way.
I ended up making camp in the woods right off the busy higway by Taylor creek. Sandra said it was the last good place for about 9 miles, so I took her advice and knowledge of the trail as a blessing. I know I said I would do sub 20 mile days until my tendons heal up, but there is a campsite where I can have a fire 22 miles away. With 9 of those being road miles, I might just give it a shot. Safety first though.
nothing but open road
an orange grove on valincia road. I wonder how many of there there are in Florida, or is this where they really come from?
my dinner spot on Taylor creek