Monday, April 3, 2017

Day 27/15: Long Suffering Road to St. Marks Visitor Center

April 3, 2017

My last day on the trail for this trip. I had planned to hike all the way to St. Marks today, a hike that should have ended at the St. Marks River, where I could either hope to hail a boat to take me across the river and into town, or book a $25 boat shuttle across with a local business. 

Unfortunately, I got a late start today for various reasons. That, coupled with the fact that the hike was +27 miles, and the boat shuttle ended at 5 p.m., and a storm was forecast to hit at noon, so few boats were likely to be out, caused me to alter my plan. I'd hike to the St. Marks Visitor Center instead, about 4 miles short of the river and town.

Trail Angel Larry shuttled me to Long Suffering Road, where we saw a wild boar and her piglets cross the road a ways in front of us. Now, wild boars are somewhat dangerous, and especially wild boars with piglets. I was a bit nervous to start hiking, but the piggies stayed in the woods. Phew!

I had nearly 8 miles of a road walk to start, and then I hit the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. It was a pretty, interesting place. The first few miles were singletrack through the woods -- my favorite -- but then the trail became a wide road through the forest. That wasn't so exciting.

But later the path became a dike walk with water and marshland on both sides. I saw a lot of birds and some alligators. I wish I could have taken in more of the view, but it was very windy out on the dike with the storm brewing, so I had my head turned half the time because of the wind.

I also developed pretty bad tendinitis in my right foot/leg, so that was painful.

At the end of the day I had about a mile walk from the trail back to the Visitor Center on a connecting path. Just as I started down it I saw a mama bear and cubs right on the path! YIKES! They were pretty far down from me, and I stopped in my tracks. I tried talking really loudly, hoping they'd run into the woods, but they didn't. I don't know if they couldn't hear/smell me or what, but they stayed there the longest time. The storm was brewing, my leg was killing me and I just wanted to get to my car. But it was past those bears.

I called Ten-Miler, and she said to call 911. Ha! Can you imagine that call? "Hi. I'm hiking in the woods and see some bears. Can you rescue me?" I called the Visitor Center, in case someone could come down the road in an ATV to scare the bears/fetch me, but no one answered. They must have closed at 4 or 4:30, and it was 4:50. Luckily at some point the bears finally sauntered back into the woods. I made Ten-Miler stay on the line with me, and I talked to her in the loudest voice I could as I walked past that area. Luckily, they were gone. PHEW.

Back at the Best Western, they hadn't cleaned my room AGAIN. I told the woman at the desk (same as last night -- Snowey is her name!) and she just said sorry, the housekeepers had all gone home for the day. No fun, when my bathroom is full of dirt and sand and grime. I also have to note that they had no coffee cream this morning -- yet there is a convenience store right next door. I think they could have gotten some there in a pinch until their regular shipment came in. I do not recommend staying here! 

And so ends my second stint on the Florida Trail. Great memories, beautiful scenery, wonderful people (except for Snowey).


Day 26/14: West of I-10 to Long Suffering Road

April 2, 2017

I started my hike at a T intersection in the middle of a long road walk. Interestingly, I parked in front of a home that had a fully functioning Pepsi machine out in front, near the road. Alas I didn't try it, as I'd just finished my coffee and it was a bit cool this morning. Not for long, though.

The temperatures quickly climbed into the 90s. Luckily there were a lot of clouds in the morning, so my road hike wasn't too bad. I hit the Aucilla River area (trails) a little before noon. That's when the sun came out, but by then I was tucked in the woods.

The Aucilla River trails were wonderful, frustrating, exciting and challenging. The first few miles were scrubby and I thought the area would be a bust. But then then trails led you alongside the river for miles. It was just gorgeous. At various points there were access points to the river for cars, and several groups of people were enjoying the river. One was a group of young people swimming and drinking beer. They had thrown their beer cans all over. I hope they picked them up later, but I doubt it as I saw a lot of litter around these car-access areas.

During the last few hours on the trail, things got dicy. It looks like maybe Hurricane Matthew hit here; there were a ton of downed trees, hard-to-spot blazes, various woodsy detritus, etc. I went off-course a bit and made it to my rendezvous point with Trail Angel Linda Patton a bit late. Oh well, that sometimes happens.

Linda was very sweet. She brought me ice water, a fridge magnet that says "I'd rather be hiking" and later listed my book on some hiking website.

Back at my digs in the Best Western, I discovered the maids had forgotten my room. It was filthy from last night's shower/soaking, not to mention there were food crumbs (I typically eat dinner in my room), an unmade bed, etc. They said a maid didn't show up, and offered to give me clean towels. Uh, no. My tub is filled with dirt from yesterday! Eventually someone cleaned it, but in a half-ass way.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Day 25/13: I-10 to West of I-10

April 1, 2017

Today's schedule called for 25.5 miles along county roads just south of I-10, heading west. I had no shuttle again today, so I did an out-and-back of 12.75 miles on those roads. 

I hadn't checked the weather, other than knowing it was going to be 90 today. So I started out in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Well, it was 50 degrees and shady at 8 a.m., and I froze my buns off for the first hour. But the temps rose 10 degrees every hour until hitting 90, so I was fine by 9 a.m. and frying by the afternoon, despite sunscreen and a sun umbrella.

Nothing too notable happened today, other than meeting some cattle and two dogs that were pretty friendly.


Day 24/12: Suwannee River State Park to I-10

March 31, 2017

I had no shuttle today, but that was O.K. The day called for about 12 miles of trail, then another 12 on roads. Since the road walks are spots where they're hoping to buy/build trail in the future, they're not crucial to see/walk like the trail segments. So I went out and back on the trail for my required 24 miles today, which enabled me to skip the road-walk (part of which was a busy highway) and still walk the required miles.

The morning was cloudy and cool, and the trail was lovely. It got sunny and warm later. At one point I ran into a man and his dog. He had just opened a beer. His dog was 16, born on 9/11, and had just come back from a great visit with the vet. So the owner was very happy to know his dog should have more time on earth. After he told me his story, I kept thinking that I can't believe 9/11 was 16 years ago! Seems like maybe just 5 or 10 at the most.

The last part of the trail had some unpleasant spots, mainly two sections of hiking on -- well, I'm not sure what to call it. I guess it's Florida's dirt, but it's some odd, gray, sandy-dirtish substance that's really hard to walk on. It's lumpy and bumpy and not as soft as sand, but not firm like black dirt in Wisconsin. I've got a photo below.

Can't believe just two more days of hiking before it's time to head home.