Saturday, December 14th, 2019
I was a little bummed that we didn’t get to say goodbye to Tiffany. It was nice hanging out with another hiker for a change. The Florida Trail is a lot lonelier than our first big hike on the Appalachian Trail. Fortunately I’ve got Frisbee with me the whole way through.
As I was packing up, I alerted Frisbee that there was a cop car parked next to the pavilion. We weren’t exactly supposed to be sleeping at the park, but we didn’t want to pass by the roof of the pavilion in case it rained, nor did we want to miss out on hydrating as much as possible first thing in the morning at the nearby water fountain. We packed up and wandered over to the pavilion, but no one got out of the car. I guess we were in the clear! She didn’t seem too concerned about us.
Tiffany had told us yesterday about people who had to get rescued out of Big Cypress National Preserve due to dehydration. Big Cypress is known for its swamp, but apparently we were hitting it during a drought, something that I was happy and not so happy about. He told us that there are cypress domes that we can look for if we run into an emergency situation where we needed water. I wasn’t exactly sure what a cypress dome was, but I made a mental note to look into it later.
We ate breakfast under the pavilion, then walked to the bathrooms to fill up on water at the fountain. It was time to hydrate as much as we could. There wan’t going to be any water sources for a while!
Then we crossed Highway 27 to Miami Canal Road. We saw a train pass by ahead as we walked by a port-o-potty business and a tiny run down post office with bars on the windows. It looked like whoever ran the post office also lived there. We passed a guy fishing off of the railroad bridge and heard farm equipment in the distance as we walked by fields of sugar cane.
A couple tractor trailers passed us before we turned off onto Roger Road. We took a short break by another set of railroad tracks and watched more people fishing nearby. I hope they weren’t planning on eating what they caught! I’ve heard a lot of stories from the locals about the polluted water due to the runoff from the sugar cane industry. We walked further through the fields and took an early lunch break before leaving the road and walking through tall weeds. Rain was coming. We could see the storm cloud ahead and the wind was beginning to pick up.
As we walked along the overgrown levee, the rain started. The wind made it very difficult to put on our ponchos, a purchase we recently made since the rain water pours down our backs and onto our shorts. We put the ponchos on and Frisbee suggested we put our rain jackets on overtop, which turned out to be very helpful. It gave us protection when our rain jackets soaked through and covered our butts, literally, so we wouldn’t feel like we just jumped into a swimming pool. I don’t care what anyone says, there’s no such thing as a perfect rain jacket. It either doesn’t hold up in torrential downpours or it’s so unbreathable that you’re sweating too much to render the rain jacket pointless. You’re going to get wet no matter what! We weren’t in a torrential downpour, but the layering seemed to be beneficial.
The rain didn’t last long, but the misery continued as we were stabbed by sharp seeds that blanketed our socks. I was in a sour mood. We decided to take a break at the wayside at County Road 835 ahead.
As we approached the area, we saw a car backed up to the gate and two people walking down the ravine and back to their trunk. As we got closer, we realized that they were dropping off water caches down the hill. We were all excited to meet one another, although I think we were more thrilled to see them! We had a real dry stretch ahead and they gave us the opportunity to hydrate! They also shared some snack with us, some “Christmas cake” and a soft pretzel.
Their names were Lotta who’s from Sweden, and Ari from Boca Raton, Florida, although he used to be a Marylander like us. They both had hiked through Big Cypress and decided to drop water caches for other hikers after they found themselves dehydrated on their way through. Ari was doing a section of the Florida Trail and Lotta is doing the whole thing. She told us that she was going to meet up and hike with Tiffany the rest of the way through. We just met Tiffany yesterday and didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, but she said she’d relay the message for us. They had more caches to drop and we had more hiking to do, so we thanked them for their generosity and went our separate ways.
We continue along the levee and waved to cars as they drove by on the road below us. When we took a short break to eat at a pull off next to the sugar cane field, we’d see Lotta and Ari again on their way back. They handed us a bottle of coconut water before they left us.
There was a nice sunset to enjoy before we continued hiking into the night. We would see the occasional glow of gator eyes in the water below, of rabbit eyes as they hopped ahead of us, and that of the fireflies that surrounded us.
We eventually arrived at camp at the STA (Stormwater Treatment Area) 5/6 parking area. There was a pit toilet there, and we discovered that another hiker had locked himself inside one of them for the night. As much as we hated to mosquitoes and all of the bird poop that covered the picnic tables under the pavilion, the remaining bathroom was too dirty to sleep in. We brushed the bird poop aside, and hoped that we didn’t get droppings on us in the middle of the night. The guy hiding in the toilet was too scared of us to come out and say hello, so we set up our bivies and fell asleep.
28.8 miles (46.3 km)
Jump Ahead to Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 26
Jump Back to Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 24
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