Monday, February 4, 2008

The Long, Long, LONG Hike Continues....

I decided to pull a 30 mile day. I'd never done 30 miles of hiking in a single day, not even on the Appalachian Trail, but if there was ever a time or place for it, this was it. I had a flat, easy road to walk that was far nicer to walk at night than under the brutal sun. It almost 10:00 at night now, but I felt sure I could push on at least another hour.

So onward I walked. My feet screamed to stop. I yawned with exhaustion. But I kept going, knowing every step I took that night was still better than a step under the brutal light of day.

I figured I passed the 30-mile mark around 10:45 in the evening, but I didn't have a convenient landmark to figure out exactly where 30 miles was, and on I kept hiking.

I didn't need a flashlight, even though the moon wasn't up. The horizon glowed from the lights of Orlando and Cape Canaveral, lighting up the clouds overhead and lighting my way through the darkness.

Shortly after 11:00, I was pratically falling asleep and could barely keep my eyes open anymore, and I crashed on the side of the road after hiking what I estimated to be 31 miles. My data book described a highway bridge over Taylor Creek at 31.6 miles, and I hoped to reach that so I had a definitive landmark to judge my distance, but I was too tired. I was certain I passed the 30-mile mark, in any case, which was an amazing feat for my feet! =)

There was nothing stealthy about my camp this night. The shoulder of the road sloped down into a ditch, then came back up the other side where it flattened out, and I threw out my ground sheet on the flat area, safe from cars on the the other side of the ditch.

But within clear view of absolutely any and every car that drove past. In the dark, people might not notice me sleeping there, but as soon as the sun started to rise, every single person driving by would have to be blind as a bat not to see me camping on the side of the road.

I didn't care anymore, though. I was tired.

I tried to sleep, but every minute or so, a sharp pain would flash from one of my toes and up my leg, and I found it ironic that my feet actually hurt more now that I stopped than when I was walking! I couldn't fall asleep because of those shooting pains, though, and finally remembered I carried Advil. Vitamin I. That's what I needed.

I popped two tablets, hoping it also caused drowsiness, and almost immediately fell into a deep sleep. My day was finally over.

The next morning, I woke up early. Not just because the sun woke me up, but traffic on the road started to pick up as well. I wondered what everyone driving by thought when they saw me. Did they think I was a dead body? A homeless person sleeping on the side of the road? I can't imagine anyone's first thought was I had hiked there from Key West.

I ate breakfast, then as I sat there brushing my teeth, a truck pulled over and drove down to the ditch that I was on the other side of. Uh-oh.

A man in a black uniform stepped out of truck, and I waved at him with my left hand has my right hand continued brushing my teeth.

If you've ever been stopped by a cop while brushing your teeth, you'd realize what a ridiculous and embarrassing position to be found in. It's kind of like getting caught with your pants down (and thank GOD he didn't stop while I was changing my pants!)

He asked me if everything was alright since it wasn't normal to see people sleeping on the side of the road like that--not in this area, at least. So I told him about my thru-hike. He didn't seem to even know the trail existed, and I pulled out my maps showing it's path across the state, and particularly in the area we were at now.

"But it's a 30-mile road walk here, and there isn't anywhere to camp," I explained.

"Not a problem," he said, "I just wanted to make sure everything was okay. You're lucky you're doing this now and not during the summer. The mosquitoes then could carry a man away!"

"It isn't by accident I'm here this time of year," I assured him. =)

"So do you have any criminal history in Florida?" he asked.

I answered no, but the question amused me. Does that mean if I had murder rap in Georgia, he wouldn't care?

"Do you have any identification?"

I pulled out my driver's license, and he told me to continue brushing my teeth while he checked it out.

I finished brushing, and a couple of minutes later he returned with my license and wished me luck on the hike. I told him about the two girls hiking behind me--I guessed they were probably 10 or 15 miles behind me (assuming they didn't hike through the dark like I did), and they were likely camped in a well-exposed location like myself. They were also thru-hikers, though, and that's why they're out there as well. Just in case he spotted him later in the morning, he'd know what was going on.

"Have you been bothered by other policemen?" he asked.

"Nope, you'd be the first," I said. =) Then I explained that usually, I'm better hidden than I was this morning, camped deep in the woods. On a 30-mile road walk, though, this road walk in particular, there wasn't much of anywhere I could hide to camp.

The officer left, and I finished breaking camp and continued my hike.

My feet, you might be surprised, felt just fine. Sore, as usual, but nothing out of the ordinary. No additional pain relievers beyond that which I used to help me fall asleep.

I didn't hike for five minutes before I reached a highway bridge across Taylor Creek. Probably camped about 0.1 miles before reaching that landmark, which I thought was still a half mile or more away. The landmark would have meant I hiked 31.6 miles the day before, but seeing as I camped so close to it, I figure I did 31.5 miles. What a workout!

I continued the rest of the road walk the next morning. CR 532 turned into SR 520, a four-lane highway. The trail ducked under SR 528 (the Beeline Expressway), where I stopped to rest in the shade under the overpass. I wondered if a policeman might stop to talk to me, thinking I was setting up residence under the overpass, but none did.

The road walk continued on Yates Road, a small road with virtually no traffic, through a residenial neighborhood, and FINALLY ended my roadwalk at Tosohatchee Reserve.

I'd only done about a dozen miles so far, however, so I continued on, planning to camp within a few miles of the town named Christmas by nightfall.

The forest had its nice area, but I was terribly disappointed when, for the first time since Big Cypress, I had to walk through long sections of water. The water never passed my ankles, but I had hoped the last of my water walking was over. I knew it probably was not, but I hoped.

So I ended the day with wet, soggy feet.


Anonymous said...

wet, soggy sore feet. i don't know how you could have slept there in the open. tired or not i don't think i could have slept there with everyone going by seeing me there. maybe someone called the officer wondering about you.........dead or not........

i am so proud of you and happy for you. keep up the great work. can't wait for the next chapter.


Anonymous said...

well there tortuga,
not sure if you got to hear about the grizzly details of the hiker in Georgia just as you were leaving...but I suspect that police are a bit more careful checking out the hiker types.At least the perpretrator of those is behind bars now...
That might be his line of questioning.
take care,

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I think it's interesting that the police asked you if other polices had *bothered* you...and didn't use the word *questioned*.
That shows that he at least was polite and believed you to be honest and law abiding.

I really think it's unfortunate that so much of the FTA takes hikers along highways...and even expressways.

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers