I slept well lastnight in the safety of the enclosed shelter and woke up at 5:30am with a positive feeling flowing through my veins. I only woke up once to reposition my right knee, and once for a noisy critter. The animal was making such a ruckus outside that I grabbed my 400 lumens flashlight and lit up the dark night outside my shelter. Once again, it was the little streamlined armadillo crashing through the palm fronds as if were a Tasmanian Devil. I had to laugh at how something designed to withstand a wind tunnel unfazed, can create those sounds with its clumsy walk and busy hands scrounging for food under the deep layer of dead leaves.
As I packed my bag for the day, I looked at my ace bandage and squatted down to see how things felt inside my knee. I decided to take some anti inflammatory pills and try the first part of today without wrapping it. I wasn’t sure how far I could go, or at what pace, but I wanted to check it out. Now, I’m no doctor and I have limited knowledge on how the body heals, but it makes sense to me that it will heal stronger without being wrapped and having to adjust to the daily demands as apossed to healing to accommodate life with a brace, we will see.
As I set off for the day at 6:50am, everything seemed perfect. The temperatures were in the 60’s, a heavy dew was in the air to keep me from sweating, and my body felt exceptionally well. From my feet and ankles to my knees and back, all seemed to be functioning at a normal level. The trail was hilly, but not steep and was cut and marked for fast travelling, so I decided to test things out and see what I could do. At first I was moving forward at around 2mph, but within the first mile of the day I was hiking at a 3mph pace and at about 90% of a full stride. After an hour had past, all still seemed fine and I questioned how my knee could of been in such bad condition for the past few days and now I was getting nothing more than a slightly noticeable discomfort from it. Maybe it was from the short day yesterday, or the 17hrs of rest, or maybe there is actual magic in those pills of mine. Either way, life was good and the miles were ticking away faster than any other day so far on the trail. So fast was my pace that I had 13.8 miles by noon when I took my lunch break (averaging 2.8mph over 5hrs).
Once I got up from my break, my body was a little tight at first, but quickly went back to how it felt earlier, and I was cruising down the trail. This morning Gray Beard and Mickey had done the “Trade Key Program” (TKP) to start on opposite ends of their miles to keep Gray Beards van moving down the trail. I passed Mickey as she was heading my way and she told me to watch out for a viscous dog up ahead. We all knew it was there from the map app (it’s full of great info) but I didn’t know I was so close to it. She also said that Gray Beard was only 5 minutes ahead, so we parted ways and I set my pace to catch up to him. Now, “5 minutes ahead” when two folks are moving in the same direction at about the same pace is a huge gap in time, but I slowly (very slowly) closed in and caught up to him. The viscious dog was sleeping when Mickey tip-toed (literally) past the farm house, but Gray Beard wasn’t so lucky and had to defend himself with his trekking poles until the owner came out to call him back. As I got there, the dog came at me showing his teeth and barking, so I showed him the pointy ends of my trekking poles as the owner said “Tebow’s harmless, he won’t bite”, well I kept the tips of poles a few inches from his slobbering, snarling, barking mouth until he quit following me. “Good boy Tebow, you’re lucky I lost my bear mace” I said.
I finally caught up to Gray Beard for the last mile or two of todays hike and we talked briefly about handling aggressive dogs, then started talking about the TKP and the next couple of days. He wants me to give it a try for a day so I can write about in my blog, plus leaving some heavy gear in his van for tomorrow’s hike sounds pretty awesome, so I agreed to give it a shot. When we finished our miles for the day, we walked to his van and tossed our bags inside, then went into the gas station to resupply and eat a burger. We had to go pick up Mickey since she hiked south for the day after dropping off Gray Beards van up north on the trail. (It all sounds a little confusing, but everyone hikes every mile of trail while progressing forward day after day, but someone has to move the van north, hike south, then get picked up at the end of the day and brought back.)
The plan for tomorrow is that we drive Gray Beard to a church tonight to stealth camp (we got permission from the pastor) then Mickey and I drive back to where our miles ended today and stealth camp at the trail head. In the morning, we will hike with light packs to the church while Gray Beard hikes south to get his van and drive it back to the church, where we will all camp tomorrow night. I’m looking forward to the morning when I put a light pack on my shoulders, but I told Gray Beard that I’m only trying it once to get the experience. I’ve had it easy this week with the BnB, Holton Creek river campground and now participating in the TKP with a light pack and I don’t want to get spoiled. My schedule is a little more aggressive then Gray Beards and Mickey’s, so I will have to pass them in a few days and enter the next swampy section alone, but it’s been a nice week so far hiking with new friends.
The fog this morning sat heavy over the water creating this eerie view
The trail conditions looked like this most of the day allowing for speedy travel
The beautiful blackwater of the Suwannee River
Gray Beard (walking backwards for the picture) on an abandoned bridge