Friday, November 22nd, 2019
I woke up thinking I just stepped into a Hitchcock film as 40+ crows squawked and flew overhead. A hawk and owl chimed in on occasion, probably annoyed by the racket they were making. They had all dispersed from their meeting place before I finished packing.
Fortunately the trail wasn’t flooded as we walked around many large ponds. It was a lovely morning passing through Hopkins Prairie, which was less of a prairie and more of a marsh.
When we reached Hidden Pond, an older guy with a walking stick appeared.
“Hello. Are you guys hiking the trail?”
“Yeah, we see it over there.” We realized we went in the wrong direction around the pond and were in the process of correcting ourselves when we spotted the orange blaze.
“I was just swimming in the buff before I saw you guys and decided to put some pants on. You should come over this way,” he said while pointing away from the pond, “there’s a nice view over here.”
Normally these circumstances would be sketchy and a bit creepy, but we could tell he was just a guy who has spent a good deal of his life on trail. His name was John, trail name: Wet Dog. He was 69 years old, but looked much younger. I suppose all of his hiking and biking over the years has slowed down the aging process. We talked about the trails we’ve hiked and he told us that he has been there for about 3 weeks now, just enjoying nature in one of his favorite Florida Trail sections.
When we hiked on, we heard, on two separate occasions bears busting through the brush. The first time this happened, we heard it, stopped walking, realized the silence meant he was watching us and waiting for us to move, then he took off after we took our next step. I don’t mind bears when I’m on my feet, when I’m trapped in a bivy, that’s another story, however we were a little nervous about him knocking us over.
The section that followed was really poorly maintained. The blazes were faded or non-existent, and we had to bushwhack through the overgrowth. Then it opened up to a sandy trail which made us feel like we were approaching the shore.
The closer and closer we got to the road, the hungrier we got. We caught a hitch with a guy named Ray who was nice enough to go out of his way to drop us off in Astor. We walked to a restaurant called Sparky’s Place which had some super delicious food! We waddled out of there to stop by the post office to pick up a package, then struggled to resupply on a full stomach at Dollar General.
I had been in touch with Arash, a hiker who we’ve been unintentionally stalking all year. We met him in February when we were heading southbound on the first stretch of the Florida Trail. He was heading in the other direction attempting a speed record, or FKT (Fastest Known Time). We would see him later in May when we were finishing our Arizona Trail thru hike, then again in September on our first day of our Long Trail thru hike in Vermont. He’s a Florida native and came out to visit us!
After a safety meeting, he dropped us back off on the trail, and we began our night hike. We stopped when we reached a flat area. It looked like there were headlamps shining across the water, so we didn’t want to spook anyone else camping by creeping up on them in the dark. You could hear the peeping of the frogs across the water, and I must have been really tired because I slept well until midnight. That was when a large animal came stomping towards my head. Frisbee sat up and yelled, scaring it away while I struggled to unzip my bivy. We got up and put on our headlamps to investigate. We originally thought it was a bear, but only saw deer prints and didn’t see any fresh bear scat for the past several miles. We went back to sleep and there were no more bumps in the night.
23.5 miles (37.8 km)
Jump Ahead to Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 7
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