Thursday, November 21st, 2019
We got a late start. We weren’t planning on hiking a huge day, so we were in no rush. An owl swooped over our heads before we approached the first split of the Florida Trail, well, at least from the southbound direction.
There are two splits that you come across during a Florida Trail thru hike; the one we faced was the western corridor junction. We could continue east, the path most traveled, or we could venture to the west which takes you away from Orlando. In February, we planned on taking the western route. It was closer to Tampa, and therefore, closer to Frisbee’s parents who were picking us up to visit them before we flew out to hike the Arizona Trail. We didn’t end up making it that far, and what a relief! We heard stories of people nearly drowning in the high flood waters and about the miles upon miles of bushwhacking through poorly maintained trails. We opted for the less scenic, but more popular and less disheveled route around Orlando. The next split won’t be until we reach Lake Okeechobee.
Shortly after the junction, we stopped by the popular Florida Trail attraction, the 88 Store. The bartender was really nice. She offered us coffee and had brought donuts to hand out to us and her morning regulars. We sat quietly at the bar with the old men who showed up for their morning cup of joe. They chain smoked as we browsed through the trail register, occasionally spotting familiar names. We had already laid out our gear on the side of the building in the sun to dry as time ticked away.
The drinking crowd slowly crept in. We would’ve been a part of it a few years back. We also would’ve stayed the night. Two section hikers popped out of the woods who told Frisbee that they had hiked the Appalachian Trail. They weren’t the social type though. Frisbee invited them to sit with us on the deck, but they hid on the side of the building, smoking cigarettes before loading up theirs truck which was parked in the lot.
The bartender told us earlier that the BBQ joint across the street had relocated, so there was no longer food served there, but then she surprised us when a delivery of hot French fries were brought there. After about 4 hours, we left around 3 pm to continue our journey.
We heard several bears busting through the shrubbery around us, saw an owl and a bunch of weird insects. I also got a massive spider web to the face. As the web engulfed the entirety of my head, I jumped back, spitting and groaning in disgust. Frisbee translated my reaction to mean a snake was on trail, and about bolted in the other direction until I got enough web out of my mouth to explain what had happened.
The guide had mentioned a high water route ahead, so we knew a flooded trail was a possibility. Instead of hiking further, we stopped at the Salt Springs Junction, which was a flat area with a bench. We looked and smelled like trash bags, and after seeing and hearing so many bears, we anticipated chasing one off in the middle of the night. We got lucky.
16.6 miles (26.7 km)
Jump Ahead to Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 6
Jump Back to Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 4
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