Today is the day that ends the consecutive 70+ mile road marching, and I couldn’t be happier! I also got to sleep in my hammock again lastnight, which felt like home, and I woke up feeling ready to hike again (which was a feeling I’ve been missing for a few days). I found that Gray Beard was already on the trail when I got up because he wanted to check out the flooding around the ponds (via his text), so after a quick snack and packing our gear, Mickey and I headed to the gas station where we finished our miles yesterday.
The first 8 miles of our hike was a carbon copy example of yesterdays hike, straight down the busy highway, no scenery to speak of, and trying to walk the fine line of not being hit by the high-speed trucks zooming by nor hurting our knees and ankles on the steep decline of the embankment. For motivation on our breaks, we would check the map app to see how many more miles were left until we got back into the woods and tried to forget about the highway right next to us. After two and a half hours, we met Grey Beard at the turnoff from the road to the trail and we all sat for a long break to discuss trail conditions. He said the trail was a real treat except for one small section where the trail goes into the flooded ponds and we would have to find a way around that, but it was only for a couple hundred yards.
With the solid trail info, we headed into the woods and Grey Beard took to the highway to finish his miles. It was so nice to have dirt under my feet again and to have the beauty of the northern Florida wilderness around me. An alligator greeted us at the first swamp we passed as he soaked up the suns heat into his black scaly skin, and I was back to loving the wild of the trail.
Our second stop was deep in the woods, far enough away from the road that the only sounds were from the wind and animals. We had just gotten to a deep creek (deeper than my trekking poles) where the bridge was washed out and the only way across was upstream a ways, there the water was narrow enough to ‘root hop’ our way to the other side and then hike back to the trail. We sat on the trail looking out across the creek into the woods for a good 30 minutes just enjoying the calmness that was all around. I took a picture to share with you, but what the picture is missing is the relief felt of having the long road march behind me, the quietness of the woods, how the temperature was a perfect 67 degrees with a slight breeze, and how crisp the air was with a hint of pine scent about it. The picture is pretty, but the whole combination experienced while sitting there was a moment of pure relaxation that was hard to give up. But you can’t make miles sitting still, and as it’s said; all great things must come to an end, we left that place of peacefulness for the next hiker to have their moment in.
At our last stop for the day, we sat at a picnic table in Sand Pond Campground, less than three miles from our intended camp. We decided we could take an extra long break there since it was a few hours before dark, and since we were stealth camping at a boat launch and couldn’t set up camp until dark. Well, it wasn’t even 5 minutes later that Grey Beard sent a text saying he had the van and was stopping at Subway, and did we want anything? My, how the thought of food changed our tune! We placed our order, grabbed our packs and hit the trail. We hiked so fast in fact, that we ended up getting to the boat launch at the same time as Grey Beard showed up with the subs, and there we all sat and enjoyed a nice dinner by the water.
Tomorrow is 18 miles of all wooded, swampy trail and I couldn’t be more excited! It will be a long hard day for sure, but I really feel at home and in my element when I’m immersed in the woods, and I’m ready to see what the trail has to offer.
the sign says “Danger!! Shallow water” notice the bench where only the backrest is visable
This is the spot where I had my moment of peace
Looking down at the water from a foot bridge
The trail was really interesting today with it’s many variations
An alligator warming his blood in the sun