Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Okeechobee

The next morning, Mountain Laurel and Mosey started stirring early, and we all complained about the darkness coming too early at night and leaving too late in the morning. It's hard to get a full day of hiking in when it's light out for all of about 10 hours per day. In the keys and on the dike, walking at night was easy so that's how I got a full day's hike in, but January does not provide a lot of sunlight even in Florida. At least the days are getting longer, though.

Mosey pointed at my shoes. "Those did NOT go through the Big Cypress," she told me.

Indeed, they did not, then proceeded to tell the sad, heart-wrenching story of shoe-sucking mud and the final demise of my Costco shoes.

I asked about their plan around the Seminole reservation, and they started hiking from the north end of going south on December 31st, just before it was officially closed to hikers. (Hikers who STARTED through by December 31st were allowed to continue through in January--no hikes were allowed to start through the reservation in January, however.)

So they hiked south to Loop Road, then got a ride to the north end of the reservation and continued north where I caught up to them.

They left to the trail while I finished packing my stuff and followed behind a short while later, catching up to them at Okee-Tantie Recreation Area.

At this point, our paths would temporarily split. I needed to go into the city of Okeechobee for a mail drop which included a much needed map further up the trail, and to resupply since it would be the last major place to resupply for quite some time.

In hindsight, Okeechobee wasn't a good place for a maildrop, being located about five miles off from the trail.

I tried calling two different trail angels that lived in Okeechobee, from a list provided by the FTA, hoping one of them could give me a ride into town avoiding the five-mile hike. Doug (who posted a comment on this blog several days ago) didn't answer, and Tommy did answer, but was at work and wouldn't be able to help until he got off at about 5:00 in the afternoon.

Drats, a five-mile hike into town it would be, then. (Only later, much later, did I realize that my guidebook included the number for a taxi service. Doah!)

That said, it was still another three-mile hike along the dike, and I got a couple of views of the big lake that supposedly was out there the last three days. I even saw two alligators on that section, the first I'd seen since Loop Road.

I stopped by the library to get on the Internet, but they wanted to CHARGE me for using it! I never heard of a library charging for Internet access, and with no pressing reason to get online, turned them down and continued on.

I stopped at Dairy Queen for a large strawberry shake--oh so good--then picked up my mail drop at the post office. Annoyingly, the post office had no pens available for writing addresses or filling out forms, and several groups of people had banded together to share a coveted pen. A library that charges for Internet access, and a post office with no public pens? What kind of bizarro world had I entered?

I resupplied snacks and food at the Wal-Mart on the way out of town, pushing my pack through the store in a shopping cart. I didn't use a shopping cart to cross those fishing bridges in the keys, but I use them all the time in grocery stores!

Then it was back to the trail for me. It was still too early to call Tommy for a ride out of town, but I did like the canal walk into town and figured I'd walk out again. Not like I'm in a rush or anything. =)

I walked back along the canal, then crossed SR 78 where the trail peeled off to the north.

The sun had set at this point, and I started keeping my eyes open for a place to camp.

The trail followed alongside the Kissimmee River, lit up along its length by strange boats that looked vaguely like spaceships resting in the water, each one casting off enough light to light up a small city. I imagined the lights were meant to draw fish or some other critter in the water, but I don't know what they were after.

Then what did my wandering eye did see? A flicker and then a gleam of light! I sprung to my saddle... err, sorry, that's a line from Paul Revere's Ride. I did not spring to my saddle because I did not have one, but a did see a flicker and them a gleam of light.

Getting closer, I smelled smoke. A campfire!

Closer still, I saw several fires burning, one rather large that looked more like a bonfire than a simple campfire, and I reconsidered introducing myself. I didn't know who these people were, but they seemed more like partiers than I cared to dwell with. They could have been Boy Scouts for all I knew, but I had a bad vibe coming from them and decided to pass them by.

A few miles up the Kissimmee River, a felt a few drops of water hit me. The start of something more? Rather than risk getting caught in a rainstorm in the middle of the night, I set up camp right there off the side of the road.

I found a soft, grassy patch, threw out my things, then rigged the tarp over me. I didn't have a tree or anything to prop up the tarp, so I weighted down the corners with water bottles and heavy objects, and threw them beyond the edge of my ground sheet. No puddles will form on me this night, I thought confidently!

The set up did work better than the last time I threw my tarp over me, but it still wasn't comfortable when the rain finally did come down in earnest.

Fortunately, it only lasted an hour or so before the rain stopped, and the rest of the night went by without much of anything to note. Just the occasional truck with a boat driving by, its headlamps piercing the fog then fadding away. The people driving it probably never even noticed me sleeping there on the side of the road.

6 comments:

Buttercup said...

LOL!! Pay for a cab, but not computer time??!! I guess we must have our priorities.
Buttercup (who is totally enjoying your adventure)

Anonymous said...

I had to pay for library internet in Willows, CA, and in Huntington Beach, CA. In HB, it actually costs something like $25/year for a library card. I couldn't believe it! Can't wait for your next update!!

CLoveR

Cocoahikers (Stitches) said...

I have really enjoyed reading about the trip. Stay safe, weare praying for you

Anonymous said...

until you mentioned if cars going by saw you...i had a picture of you farther off the side of the road......now i see this "street urchin" sleeping on the very side of the road where the grassy area starts..............our great green bum......i mean great green through hiker........;J

stay safe,

condo

Al said...

If you need any help in the Lakeland area, give me a shout.

chiefal 863 409 8469 (cell)

Anonymous said...

I can relate. I lived in Okeechobee and it is definately a strange place. Keep safe! Kris