Sunday, March 10th, 2019
We’d lose an hour due to daylight savings time, but still got up with the sun. We’d also find out why all the stray cats had been staring at us all night once we broke down camp. After noticing a number of land mines, we’d realize that we set up our tents in a giant stray cat litter box! Fortunately there was no cat poop on our gear or under our shoes. We got lucky.
It was breakfast time and Frisbee found out there was a Hardee’s about a mile away, so the three of us headed there to eat. Afterwards, Double Check hiked on as we made a pit stop at Dollar General to grab a small resupply.
I pushed a cart around, mainly to hold my pack so I wouldn’t be knocking stuff off of the shelves, and Frisbee was walking around grabbing snacks before tracking me down and tossing them in the cart. He stepped outside to call his parents as I continued shopping.
Apparently the cashier thought Frisbee stole the Snicker’s bars that he had tossed in my cart. He ran outside throwing accusations at him. After Frisbee got off the phone, he returned inside to give a few words of wisdom to the cashier about falsely accusing customers. Frisbee had been warned in past retail jobs that you must be absolutely certain that someone had stolen something once a customer leaves the store or else you’d risk a personal lawsuit. The guy apologized and was visibly shaken when I checked out. Frisbee was pissed, but we aren’t the type to sue, at least not over something on that level.
We were back on the trail, which was a long bike path through residential neighborhoods, swamps, and woods.
The terrain would change very little. The bike path turned into highway, then to a forest road, then to small dirt pathways.
We caught up with Double Check, and a local offered to share his spigot with us. After swamp water had clogged up our filters, we took him up on his offer! We searched for gators on the side of the trail with no luck. The only wildlife I was able to locate was a large frog.
Before calling it a day, we passed a trailer where a little girl lived. She ran out front waving to us, yelling to another girl, “Look! Hikers!” We stayed the night about a mile further at an unmarked flat area in the pine forest. Double Check would catch up once we pitched the tent, and did the same.
A man who had driven passed us on an ATV earlier on, drove by again and stopped to chat. He was one of the owners of the forest property which had ATV trails available for the hunters licensed to use it. He was monitoring the area for unauthorized users, and told us he carries a hacksaw around with him to block the trails that were illegally blazed by others on 4-wheelers. He told us that the owners of the land could be liable if unwarranted people, usually teenagers on ATVs, got injured on the property. He also shared stories with us about his hunting trips, warned us about wild hogs which were the only wild animal that frightened him, and mentioned he never travels through the forest without water after an incident where he and a few others found themselves lost in the woods of Tennessee for over 12 hours while on vacation. It was nice talking to him. It’s always a pleasure exchanging stories with locals when we hike.
We’d continue talking amongst ourselves, sharing trail stories with Double Check, and discussing music and musicians we enjoyed as it got dark.
As I settled in for the night, I heard something smack the tent. A small frog leapt on the outside of the tent right above my head. He’d stay there for a while and sang me to sleep.
14.6 miles (23.5 km)
Monday, March 11th, 2019
Frisbee and I would have a nightly visitor that kept sniffing around our tent. We suspected it was an armadillo. Other sounds through the night would include trains traveling along the tracks nearby, and the roosters crowing from the neighborhood a short distance away.
Today was our last hiking day on the Florida Trail until our return in the winter. As I mentioned before, this adventure was a spontaneous one. We only planned to test the waters of the Florida Trail, no pun intended, and we were glad we did. After hearing so much negativity about this trail and having such low expectations, it was gratifying to find out what a gem this trail truly is. It most certainly was wet and swampy as expected, but it was far more challenging and much less monotonous than anticipated.
Our hike would only be 5 miles into the tiny town of Hamilton, and the terrain would not change much from the day prior. We arrived at the Sunoco gas station where we grabbed coffee, and waited. My in-laws would be taking us to “the all inclusive resort” as we joked, which was their new apartment complex in Tampa for the next several days before our flight to Tucson, Arizona for our “planned” adventure. Stay tuned!
5.0 miles (8.0 km)
Total Florida Trail Mileage (…so far):
540.8 miles (870.3 km)