Lastnight was the end of the cold front, giving us a brisk farewell of 41 degrees this morning. I was woken up before my alarm at 5:40, by a text message from Gray Beard, saying he was already on the trail! Well, I was still pretty tired, and it was still dark and chilly enough outside that I didn’t want to leave the comfort of my warm hammock, so I went back to sleep until 6:15. When I did emerge from my warm cocoon, I was able to break down camp and get in the van in under 30 minutes to warm back up. Mickey wasn’t far behind, and we were on the road to the next trail head by 7am.
“Sopchoppy” is the name of todays 20 mile section, and it is right next to the dreaded (swampy) Apalachacola Forest, which we figured meant that our feet were about to get wet. Luckily, our first steps of the day were along the banks of the Sopchoppy river and on firm dry ground. The trail was looking pretty good on this cold morning as we progressed through the first mile, but conditions rapidly declined. By the start of the second mile we were already hiking in water, but what is different from the Sopchoppy and the other swamps on the Florida Trail is the 8 inches of fine mud and decaying foliage that lay below the top few inches of water. Each step introduced a new slurry of muck into my shoes as I slogged along, and I regret not have gators at the moment (slip on covers for shoes that sit tight around the ankle). This lasted for about a mile before we got to higher/dryer elevation and were finally able to dance around the worst parts of the swamp and start letting our shoes dry. I had to ring out my socks on the first three of our breaks to keep my feet from being squishy, and I needed to shove my hands in my shoes and scrape out the muck quite often. It was a nice prelude to what I’ll have to do on breaks for the next few days as we progress through the Apalachacola Forest.
We caught up to Gray Beard (taking a siesta) around lunch time. He was waiting on us to pass him so that he could get filmed crossing a huge milestone; his 1000th mile mark (from Key West)! It was a big accomplish for him on his quest to complete the Eastern Continental Trail (from Key West to Canada) as a section hiker (which he has already done the whole AT and now most of the Florida Trail as section hikes)! Mickey and I also reached a big milestone today of 800 miles traveled! It’s not quite as impressive as Gray Beards 1000, but I’m darn happy with reaching 800 miles of exploration so far :).
Today was our first 20+ mile day in awhile, and for some reason it was quite difficult. I am worn out and sleepy from trudging that far and hopeful I feel more energetic my morning. It could have been the mucky trail and my wet feet, but after a few day of low miles, my body didn’t recover much. I honestly think that the only way to make a 20 mile day seem easy, is to do it after a few 25 mile days :). But none the less, tomorrow and the following day should be our last 20+ mile days on the trail to finish before the end of the month, and as an added bonus, on of Gray Beards friends has offered to shuttle the van for the next two days so that we can all hike together through the swamps. That should make things a little easier :).
The slow flowing Sopchoppy river
This doesn’t look to bad, but the “dry” spots are shoe sucking deep mud. It was easier to stay in the water
Oh look, a foot bridge! How it’s decided where these go, I’ll never know.
awe, he’s just a little guy.