Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Brutal Heat

The next morning started with a steamy layer of fog, the trail following alongside a dike keeping the Kissimmee River in its place.

The fog burned off after a couple of hours, though, and the heat became brutal when the trail left the dike and followed roads for much of the day, including a 5.6-mile hike along CR 599.

At the turn in the road, I noticed railroad tracks running by, and could follow it up my map about four miles where the trail crossed the tracks, and another eight or nine miles where the trail followed immediately parallel to the track. It seemed almost too easy to jump off the road and follow the railroad tracks instead. It's illegal, of course, to walk along the railroad tracks, but it had to be nicer than walking on the road which appeared to be a lot of coming up, and it was shorter since they tend to run trains in straight lines, geography be damned.

But I didn't. That wasn't the route of the Florida Trail, and for better or worse, I was following the Florida Trail.

The paved road ended at Platts Bluff Boat Launch, where I stopped for a much needed lunch break. I threw out my things under a bunch of beautiful, large live oaks, and made a bean and rice burrito (three of them, in fact) while watching the going ons around me.

Parks are always a fun place to people watch. People are always so happy and friendly, glad to be away from work. There was one apparently drunken family who had a horse dragging them around on a cart, trying hard not to fall off.

And there was another couple I couldn't help but overhear since the woman yelled, "You're the goddamned laziest asshole I've ever met!" and "And that's the only reason you even got me out of that bar last night."

Just wish the man would have spoken louder so I could hear his side of the conversation as well.

Another beautiful day at the park. =)

I rested for a couple of hours, and headed north of a dirt road a short ways, glad for the dirt since it meant less traffic racing by at high velocities, then climbed over a style into a bunch of cattle.

I begged for the road walking to end, but the cattle walk was not an improvement, since I had to keep a VERY close eye on where I placed each footstep, and looking at a bunch of cow crap isn't really very scenic to me.

Through the ranch, the trail seemed to zigzag in every random direction, and I wondered why the heck the folks making it had a problem with straight lines. It wasn't long before I started mumbling things like, "I'd really like to smack someone at the FTA right now." Didn't even matter who--I just felt someone needed a smacking. The ranch had a few places where the trees grew and provided shade, but most of it stayed under the heat of the brutal sun.

Until I reached Yates Marsh Trailhead, and the trail went back to road walking, this time on Lofton Road for the next 5.2 miles.

It was not a fun day of walking. Roads and cattle. Not fun.

Lofton Road intersected with US 98 for nearly a mile, before ducking back into cow pastures.

I had to stop once the trail went back into the ranch land, however. It was getting too dark to continue, even though I would have liked to put a few more miles on the trail. I needed good visibility, both to avoid stepping in the cow paddies and to follow the orange blazes. Any semblance of a trail was long oblivated by the cows running loose, so being able to find and follow the next blaze was critical.

My day of hiking had come to an end, and not at a good place. On one side of the fence, loud traffic from US 98, and on the other side, cow dung all over the place. What's a hiker to do?

I choose the cow dung, finding a nook that appeared to be dung free, threw out my ground sheet and tried to go to sleep in that stiffling heat.

Until I heard a noice, looked up, and saw something watching me. I picked up my headlamp and shined it at my visitor--a possum. Who didn't seem to have a great deal of respect for me.

Damn. There were no rocks around to throw at him and scare him off--what I really wanted to do--so I took a branch laying on the ground nearby and started breaking it up into smaller pieces that I could throw. The possem left as soon as I started breaking the branch, but I kept the pieces nearby the rest of the night--just in case.

Later in the night, I heard a rumble and flash of light--a lightning storm. Normally, I love a good thunderstorm, but it seems in my experience that it often results in rain storms which I did not want since I had not set up a tarp. I took out the tarp and threw it over myself--just in case.

Then it started to rain. Big fat rain, by the buckets, and the temperature dropped from a stiffling heat to a brutal cold.

I spent the rest of that miserable night--my worst on the trail so far--shivering, wet, and cold surrounded by cow crap. The night could not end fast enough in my book.


Anonymous said...

suvivor man ain't got nuttin on ya! :) ;) T

Anonymous said...

Glad it's you and not me! :D I hope it stays cooler for you.

Debbie St.Amand said...

This is why I wake up every morning, grateful that I'm not waking up in your position!


Anonymous said...

the sights and smells of being on the trail.......then add lots of rain and run off of the cow pies.....sure hope you were not in a puddle when you woke up....nor that you smelled like a cow pie field........

you are one brave trail poke.


Anonymous said...

Sorry we didn't connect in Okeechobee...I did meet up with Mountain Laurel and Mosey on SR 70 and gave them a ride to the campground. They told me you went to the PO but by this time it was 4 and you had already gone. I tried to email you but I'm just to old to get it to fly...Good Luck...better trail conditions are on the way.

Anonymous said...

That stinks you had a rough day/night. Here's hoping for better days to come! Stay dry, safe, and remember this is supposed to be fun...

♥ Lady Lilac

Anonymous said...

just want to say hello from woodside dr. enjoying your log. i t is wet in slo.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, that was the worst of it for awhile...


Anonymous said...



Say a prayer and watch your step!

Anonymous said...

"shivering, wet, and cold surrounded by cow crap" this is the line I'm going to remember the next time I think I'm having a bad day!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Whoooeee! The life of a thru hiker sure isn't a glamorous one.