Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 21

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

There was rain in the forecast. Like, a LOT of rain! Sadly we were not in the financial situation for another zero day, so after a good deal of lounging around and several rounds of the breakfast buffet, we got moving. You might be a long distance hiker if you’ve been eating all morning, but still find room in your bottomless stomach to fit in donuts and more coffee! We just couldn’t pass up Dunkin Donuts.

After we got our fill, we stood out front, dancing with our thumbs out, hoping to get a hitch back to where we left off. It took some time, but eventually a couple named Gary and Shanon picked us up. Gary was retired from the military and they were both Richmond, Virginia natives who moved to warmer weather in Florida as many retirees do. They dropped us off and we would walk on Route 78 until we crossed the Kissimmee River into Glades County.

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We walked on the road a little too far and missed our turn off on the dike, so we had to backtrack about a quarter of a mile to get to where we needed to be. It was incredibly humid out. You could tell that rain was coming soon. It was gonna be a hot and muggy walk on the dike. We passed trailer parks, cow fields, and construction sites before we crossed over another bridge and returned to the dike. We took a short break at Indian Prairie campsite, and got to fill up on water. Some kind soul had left a water cache there. Then it was back to it! Dike walking is not the most thrilling. It’s incredibly monotonous. There’s little change in scenery and the terrain remains the same throughout as well. We’d get our excitement soon enough!

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Storm clouds began to form as we enjoyed the surreal glow of the sun going down on the horizon ahead of us. I could hear boats motoring around to our left on the lake, but couldn’t see them through the marsh. I could see and hear the traffic flowing in the distance to the right of us. Our heads were surrounded by a cloud of gnats and then the sky unleashed its fury. The dike flooded and we were now walking in ankle deep water.

When times get tough, sometimes you need to create your own fun or find something enjoyable through the hardship. I was finding amusement through a bunny rabbit that would appear and reappear in the darkness. I’d see the glow of his eyes before I got too close, then he would take off running, up the dike until we met again, and again, and again. It had me giggling and helped me keep a positive head, at least for a little while. We still had 1.5 miles until we reached the next town, if you’d even call it that.

Lakeport, at least the section of it that we were kicked out on, consisted of a convenience store, a lodge, a pub, an RV park, and a laundromat. The sky was still dumping on us as we found shelter under the awning of the Big Water Bait and Tackle Convenience Store. Sadly, the awning was not sufficient in keeping us dry. The wind was blowing the rain right under it and sopping wet we remained. We went inside to be met with a very scared cashier. The lady didn’t seem to know what to think about us. We just wanted to stand inside for a minute to warm up and dry off. We heard they had hot sandwiches, but we had gotten there a little too late. Also unfortunate for us, she was in the process of closing. A customer that was already inside had just bought a bag of ice.

“I’ll have to unlock the ice for you.”

“I can unlock it for you if you’d like, that way you don’t get drenched,” Frisbee offered.

She clearly didn’t trust us and made up a story, stating it was tricky to unlock and that she’d take care of it. I’m pretty sure she suspected we were homeless and preparing to rob the store. We could tell she was very uncomfortable by our presence so we left. The guide mentioned that the owners of the store were very welcoming of Florida trail hikers. I suppose she wasn’t in the know. We wandered over to the pub to see if we could grab something to eat there. It was closed. We went inside the laundromat next door and Frisbee asked the lady doing laundry inside if she knew why the pub was closed when their hours stated otherwise.

“Oh, they closed early for a holiday party, I think. I saw them all dressed up out front before they took off.”

Bummer. The laundromat was apparently owned by the same people who owned the pub, so we decided to hide out inside for a while. We debated staying there for the night. It was dry and warm. We were absolutely drenched and miserable. I was not thrilled about another night with no sleep. I hardly caught up on sleep after staying up 24 hours in Okeechobee before our hotel stay. After browsing through some magazines, the rain stopped. Given our state of soaked, we decided to walk to the Lakeport Lodge just to see how much it cost, agreeing that if it was over a certain sum of money that we would turn around and try to sleep in the laundromat instead. It was just under budget, so we got ourselves a room!

The motel room more closely resembled a small apartment. It was weird. The living room had a cot, a recliner, a gun rack on the wall, and the TV was from the 90’s. The decor was tacky and the place reeked of cigarettes, but it was dry and warm, so I couldn’t complain! We hung up our clothes to dry and walked around in bath towels the remainder of the night, listening to our neighbors who I’m pretty were drinking and/or smoking meth all night long as a baby cried for attention. We’ve stayed in grungier places and with worse neighbors, I suppose!


18.4 miles (29.6 km)


Jump Ahead to Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 22

Jump Back to Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 20

or

Start from The Beginning

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