This morning kicked off with another mid 40 degree chill fest, as Treehouse and I got up pretty early. He got up to because he has a 30 mile day ahead of him and needed to get moving, and I got up because it was cold and I simply needed to move around. Grey Beard (of course) was already getting his pack on to move out, so Treehouse and I chatted a bit while we waited for Mickey to pack up her camp. It was a pretty good morning which ended with all of us on the trail by 8am, Grey Beard and Treehouse NOBO, while Mickey and I moved the van north and hiked SOBO for todays miles.
Once again, the weather couldn’t be better for hiking. With the cold temps in the morning, it makes me hike a little faster and with the high being in the upper 60’s that means I will sweat less, so I can carry just one litre of water (I do drink a litre before starting each day’s hike and I have my filter if needed though). Today is a special day too, as three BIG milestones will be crossed, so spirits were pretty high.
Early in todays hike (before any milestone was crossed) I had a weird experience. You know how when you get deja vu and it seems like you’ve been there before, or when you smell a certain scent it takes you back to a random meal your mom cooked in the middle of the week when you were 8 years old? Well, the mind really is a playground for memories and sometimes those memories jump from the apex of the swing-set to the forefront of the mind and you are suddenly taken back in time, like Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap. Today as I was hiking, lost in thought, I had an experience of perfect temperatures and smells and the weight of my pack and I was taken back to an early hiking trip with my dad in Indiana when I was barely 13 years old. It was so real that for a brief second, I felt like a kid again and if I was fast enough, I could have turned to see my dad behind me… I kept that to myself and I pondered over the power of the mind for a few miles until we got to milestone number one.
Today, after 64 days on the trail, I crossed the 1000 mile mark! It felt amazing to carve that number in the sand and to finally be in the 1000 mile club. There have been many days where I wasn’t sure I could get this far, but there we were, Mickey and I celebrating (more internally than externally) in our own ways, and together at the same time. This is her second 1000 mile crossing (her first was on the AT) , but it was a huge accomplishment for both of us. It was also a little saddening to realise that the trail was mostly (almost entirely) behind us now.
The second milestone was for us to reach the highest point on the Florida Trail. This happened towards the end of our day, on a great hike through the always surprising and changing Florida Trail. The highest point is a whopping 271 feet above sea level, and it is the lowest “highest point” of any National Scenic Trail in the United States. We joked as we approached the point that we were about to ascend above the tree line, or that we needed to put on our oxygen tanks, but the trail was surprisingly gradual and an easy climb. At the “Summit” we took a break and took photos to memorialize the moment, then hit the trail to finish or last 3.1 miles and cross milestone number three.
The last set of miles were mostly down hill (not surprisingly) and therefore pretty quick. We did pass a few beautiful spots worth pausing for a picture, but we finished the last leg of the trip in just one hour. Finishing the day gave us milestone number three as we now have officially less than 100 miles until we finish the trail (99.3 to go)! WOW! Double digits in miles! I’m shocked that the end is so close. This means Grey Beard is about to turn north onto the ECT and Treehouse, Mickey and I are about to do the last run to the south through the woods and the beach, all in the next few days. I’m sure it will be an adventure, but I will be sad to see Grey Beard turn north as we branch southbound to the Gulf of Mexico…
…and I would walk 500 more
“Reaching” the highest point on the Florida Trail
This picture doesn’t do it Justice, but there is a steep cliff here
Thehot and dry section of todays trail
Buck branch creek
A steep set of stairs down to a foot bridge