A day of rest can really refresh the body and it has almost erased the damage done from the difficult swamp and restored the ‘pep in my step’, so to speak. This morning Gray Beard was eager to move early, (like always) and Mickey and I started a bit later (which is becoming the norm). Since we were scheduled for only 16 miles today, and it’s all road walking, we saw no point in hitting the trail before 9am. Road walking has always yielded a 2.5mph average, so we knew we had plenty of time left in the day to make miles happen.
We drove the van back to where we left off before the zero day, and once we exited the van, we were immediately attacked by a swarm of nats (the bitting kind)! By “swarm” I mean a cloud of nats descend on us and the van to the point it was hard to see and breath. We quickly decided to skip our routine prehike smoke, and we got right into the road walk to try and out pace them in the head wind.
Our first stop was the “leaving Apalachacola Forest” sign where we took a farewell picture signifying our probability of never returning to the swamp filled and physically exhausting section of the Florida Trail, then we got right back to hiking away from the swarm of nats. They were so thick and precise at dive bombing your eyeballs that I had to squint to keep my eyes bug free, and breath through my nose (with my mustache as a filter) to keep them from entering my mouth. This went on for all of the first hour, and we cruised at over 3mph till we got to the top of a hill, where the wind was strong enough to keep them away. It was on the hill that we met Gray Beard, who hadn’t stopped for a break yet this morning, and was already 12 miles in for the day! Man, this guy can hike!
On our break, we all discussed the trail (road) conditions ahead, and figured out our game plan for tonight and tomorrow. We decided it best to drive forward after our miles were done today to Hillcrest Baptist church (an extremely hiker friendly place) and camp there for the night. Tomorrow we will then backtrack the miles south, then returning to stay a second night before hiking forward again. The plan seemed solid, so we ended our break and pressed on with the road marching.
The rest of our hike went as planned, as we averaged about 2.5mph (with breaks) and with fresh legs, there were no issues other than the steep embankments stressing our knees and ankles a little. We finished our hike back in Bluntstown still feeling pretty good overall, and then drove up to the Church. There we were greeted by the pastor (Wilton Quattlebaum) who stands about 6’7″ and is quite “big boned”, a kinda scary looking fella but with a heart of gold. He showed us to the newly constructed “hikers cabin”, a two room building still under construction, but with walls, ceiling and power, and even an outdoor shower with hot water! It’s a nice cabin now, but once it is finished, it will be amazing. A cedar tree had fallen on the property during the hurricane, and they have already cut it into a stack of plank boards for the interior walls and plan on really jazzing up the place. The future hikers are going to have quite the pit stop here, and it will become ‘the place’ to take a zero-day very soon!
After our feast and conversation, Mickey and I went to our rooms in the cabin while Gray Beard took to his van, parked outside. There is rain forecasted in the next few days and we all hope it arrives during a night we have this perfect setup provided by the church. With that as our only concern, I will sleep peacefully tonight, as I’m still rested from the zero day and ready for whatever new adventure surprises us tomorrow.
Another beautiful sunset here in Northern Florida
there are so many downed trees from Hurricane Mathew everywhere. It’s hard to get a picture that captures the destruction
An old steam engine in the middle of Bluntstown, FL
The Apalachacola River, the time zone division is the center of the river, so this picture was taken in the Twilight zone
Officially done with the Apalachacola Forest. Bye Felicia!