For me, the monotony of the hike has set in. That's not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing, but what it feels like, in a lot of ways, is a job.
I wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, and get ready for my day job. It's a little bit different that when I worked at Intel. Here, I used powdered milk instead of the real stuff in my cereal. Here, I have to make my bed every morning (stuffing it into its stuff sack) while I rarely did that when working at Intel. The biggest difference, of course, is that I don't take a shower out here. Not like my collegues on the trail care how I smell.
It's all routine for me, though. As is striking out on the trail and putting in the miles. That's the actual work I put in. I take short breaks and a lunch break, just like in the office. Meetings, fortunately, aren't a problem out here. They do happen, sort of, when we trade notes with a hiker coming from the opposite direction or compare notes when we came from the same direction.
Today, I felt like I've reached a peak. It's all about putting in miles, and the quicker I can crank them out, the quicker I can go home. I don't much care about the job anymore as I do about just getting it done and over with.
Not that I feel like the job is a bad one--just that it doesn't hold much interest for me.
Usually, at the end of the day, I write up a little summary about what happened along the way, and if not much happened, I write a lot of fluff. Like today. =)
It's a job. Better than most, perhaps not as good as some, but I chose it and I'll see it through. Make the best of things as I muddle my way through.
So what did happen today? Glad you asked. It did not rain overnight, so I made excellent time hiking along the logging roads from the get go. It's remarkable to me that I often hike 25 miles a day now considering that the sun sets at 6:22 the last time I checked. I try to get my hiking done by around 6:00 at the latest. I'm quite thrilled when I finish before that. Like I'm taking off work early. =)
Today I think I did about 24 miles of hiking and finished just after 5:00. It amazes me that I can hike so far so quickly.
The logging roads are perfect for long days, though. They're quick and easy to hike on, there's almost nothing that's particularly scenic to make you want to slow down and smell the proverbial roses. Nope, just walk. It's all there is to do.
Near 1:00, I passed an older gentleman, and by older, I mean somewhere in the neighborhood of 70, hiking by himself south on the trail.
He had just been dropped off and seemed happy to meet me, but said he didn't want to bother me since I probably wanted to continue my hike.
Which is true to an extent, but I was very curious about the man. I got the impression that he's trying to section hike the entire trail. This day, he said, he only planned to do about eight miles to US 19-27. Which was strange, because I spent the night near there and had hiked about 16 miles already when I crossed paths with him. He either knew a shortcut or he was stopping before then.
I was a bit worried about him. He seemed strong enough, but he carried no backpack or water bottle of any kind. Even for an eight mile hike, I'd want a small water bottle. He won't die of thirst out here--plenty of water sources to drink from along the way, but why use them if you don't have to?
At least the folks in the black SUV that just dropped him off and knew where he was and where he was meant to be going. If he doesn't show up later in the afternoon where he's supposed to be, help will be on its way quickly.
And late in the afternoon, I finally left the logging roads. After something like 50 miles of them, I finally got back to a real trail along the Aucilla River. It was positively scenic, and my pace faltered. I kept pausing to admire the view. It had been days since I last did that. =)
I reached a campsite soon after that, and stopped for nearly an hour eating snacks and watching the water go by. Large oak trees leaned out high over the water, and impressive cypresses grew along the edges. The water here was shallow, so it moved quickly and rippled like every good creek should.
Even though it was only a little after 2:00, I seriously contemplated spending the night there and calling it a day. I liked the campsite that much. But alas, I decided to push on another six miles to the next campsite instead, but which should still get me in for the day at a respectibly early 5:00.
And that's where I'm at now. It's a beautiful sight, even before I picked up the empty beer can that had littered it. I set up my tarp near the edge of a steep slope going into the river which has a wonderful view of the river. Magical!
I still liked the other campsite better, however, because you could hear the water there. The river is wider and deeper at this location, and the only time I hear it is when a turtle (or something) jumps into or out of the water.
Anyhow, I'm rather happy along this river. It's not as large as the Suwannee, but it has ten times the charm. Unfortunately, roads are close by and I could hear several cars and trucks filled with people on the hike out. Not far enough from civilization, but at least tonight I seem to have the river to myself and feel like I'm in a wilderness.
Shoes are holding steady. For food, I'm definitely running low. Tomorrow I will be finishing my last breakfast and dinner. I have enough snacks to stretch out for two days when I hope to reach St. Marks.
Fortuntely, it looks like there is a small place along the trail tomorrow where I should be able to get some short-term resupplies. I figure if I can find something for one breakfast and perhaps a hearty lunch tomorrow, I'll be good through St. Marks.
I'm expecting a long day at the office tomorrow--as much as 24 miles--so I need to get going and get my rest. For that many miles, I'll be needing as early start as possible.