I didn’t sleep much lastnight courtesy of the endless swarm of swamp mosquitoes attacking me. They had found me lying there as an immobile and delicious buffet of Moose blood, and they were calling in their friends to join in on their feast. As they were stabbing me with their syringe sucking noses, it felt like I was having an involuntary bloodletting experience that I couldn’t escape from. At 1:30am I turned on my headlight (that is clipped to my ridgeline above me) to see at least a dozen mosquitoes over a quarter inch long buzzing around, and the only thing I could think of to do was smoke a cigarette in hopes that it would clear them out from under my rainfly. It did work, but only for a few minutes and then I was back to swatting at the continuous swarm of blood suckers. I couldn’t fall back asleep until after 3:30am when a breeze finally picked up that was strong enough to over power their bird like wings, and also for the itchyness to subside. To add insult to injury, my right knee was giving off a sharp pain all night and I was under the constant need to squeeze it and move it around. If I left my knee still for to long, the pain would intensify until it was unbearable, and a few times I had to grab my leg with my hands and move my knee manually. I don’t know what’s going on in there but something isn’t happy.
At 6:30am I was woken up again by the swamp mosquitoes coming back for breakfast, and I was forced to pack up camp in a hurry and hit the trail. It was actually good timing because I planned on doing over 20 miles today, so I can make it to the BnB by tomorrow night. I was down to my last liter of water, so I check my map app to see where the nearest water source was. I know I can filter out of the swamp, but I wanted to find a clean flowing stream. Even better, the map app showed a Civil War battle ground with a spigot less than a mile from the trail, and only two miles away! I set my course to get some clean water and away I went. As I arrived at the battle grounds, I was greeted by a ranger named Ellis. He was a friendly guy who liked helping out hikers and asked if I wanted some extra calories (which I always do). He brought me into the ranger station to feed me a microwavable meal and a Gatorade to drink while we talked about the trail and traveling the world. It was a quick stop since he had to work and I had to hike, so the detour took less than 30 minutes in total. With a full belly and topped off water supply I was ready to make good time on some miles. The trail was only partly muddy, and I made it over the I-10 bridge shortly before noon. Despite the looming rain clouds overhead, I was on track to meet my goal for the day all the way up until I stopped at 12:30 for lunch. The spot was preplanned because it is the oldest shelter on the Florida Trail and I wanted to check it out. When I got there, it looked like the shelter was newer than the others I have stayed at, so either it has recently been rebuilt, or time has been really good to the structure. As I was packing up from lunch (around 1pm) the rain started to come down, and within 5 minutes it was a downpour with thunder starting to roll. I decided that since I was in a dry safe spot, I’d stay put and ride out the storm from under the tin roof shelter. I hung my hammock up to enjoy the sounds, smells and scenery in comfort and eventually fell asleep for a quick nap.
By 2pm, the storm had pushed through and it looked safe enough to get back to it. Now delayed an hour, I changed my camp spot from stealthing at the trail head, to a designated campsite a few miles short of there. As I got on the trail every step came with a squish or a splash as the ground was now saturated from the storm. The trail also passed through a controlled burn area of a few miles long that still had some smoking logs burning here and there. I’m guessing the burn was yesterday and not today because it was only the biggest of the fallen trees still smoldering, and I was glad it had just rained to keep the ash down. As expected, the trail also had a lot of large bogs that I was thankfully able to bushwack around to keep my socks dry. At one bog there was a large water snake sunning himself right where I needed to step. He was about 5 feet long and could have swallowed a tennis ball without showing it! I lightly poked him with my trekking pole and he turned to look at me for a moment before letting out a loud hiss and swimming away.
I finally made it to the campground I was aiming for around 5pm. It wasn’t my original camping spot, but the one I picked after my rain delay at the shelter. As I was walking to get water, I saw two tents and a hammock set up with a clothesline full of wet clothes. I knew these folks were hikers and must have gotten caught out in the storm eairler today. I walked over to them and introduced myself and we had a quick chat before they invited me to stay with them at there spot. The three hikers were named ‘Walkabit’, ‘Shaggy’, and ‘Abby Normal’ who are down from Cincinnati to do a 60 mile section of the trail. They have been coming down and section hiking the Florida Trail for a few years now and most of it completed. After I was done setting up camp, we sat around the picnic table for a few hours telling our stories about our past adventures from earlier in life, and we had a really good time doing it.
Tomorrow will be a 21 mile day if I want to make it to the BnB to meet back up with Gray Beard. The trail was hard today, but tomorrow will be much dryer trails and a change of scenery as I get to hike the banks of the Suwannee River for most of the day. I’m glad I got the rain delay today so I could meet Walkabit, Shaggy and Abby Normal as it’s the few people I meet on trail that really make this trip interesting.
looking out at the rain as I took a break in my hammock
Yeah, that’s the trail right there
Olustee battle Grounds where the largest battle of the Civil War took place in Florida. The field you see is where 1000’s of soldiers died and were buried there.
I was happy to see this boardwalk instead of slogging through there