Monday, January 7, 2008

Crocodile Lake

On my way out of Key Largo, a car came out of nowhere, running up onto the shoulder, with people hanging out the window waving cheerfully. It was DebBee and family, to kidnap me off the trail for lunch. Alas, lunch was long over--they weren't able to find me while driving into town. (I was probably stuffing that huge sandwich down my throat, or laid out in the shade in front of Winn-Dixie digesting it.)

It was really nice to see some familiar faces. =) While catching up, a random person walking by, Carlos, stopped long enough to see what was up, and was full of stories of other people he's seen walking, bicycling, and even skateboarding through the keys.

We all said our goodbyes, and I continued on. Highway 1 veered off to the left, but I decided to take the road less traveled, Card Sound Rd, and continued straight.

Traffic immediately went down dramatically, but the road was still busier than I would have expected. Tall trees grew high on both sides of the trail, limiting visibility to what was immediately in front of or behind me along the road.

According to my map, there was 13 miles from the intersection with Highway 1 and where the road came to an intersection and started heading north again, and I didn't think I'd make it quite that far. The Mile Markers meant nothing anymore, but new markers labeled C-x (with the mile number replacing x) allowed me to track my progress--about three miles per hour without stops. I tried to take stops no more than once every hour, but by mile 6, I was getting pretty worn.

It was dark, and I took out my headlamp to light the way. There were no longer street lights to light the way. At one point, I saw ominous glowing eyes in the trees on my left. I don't know what was attached to them, but my headlamp reflected from those creepy eyes that watched me like they were mirrors. The eyes were small and low to the ground, so I figured it was probably a chipmunk or squirrel, but who knows? It scurried away as I got closer, but it was a reminder. The forest is always watching. Always.

Then I found a dollar bill--a pleasant surprise sitting right there in the grass I was walking through.

By mile 8, I was ready to call it a night. My feet were screaming at me to stop, and a closer look at my map showed an abundance of water once the road turned north and I figured it might be hard to find a place to camp them.

Except a strange thing happened. I reached a stop light, blinking red in the darkness, and it was the intersection to turn north. Miami, turn left, the sign said.

Not sure what happened, but it was a VERY nice surprise to find myself four miles ahead of where I was supposed to be.

I turned north, and immediately started scanning for places to camp. Definitely no reason to keep going anymore this night!

The roads come to a three way stop, and the fourth direction south had a chain link fence surrounding what looked like a temporary building used during construction projects. I crossed the street to poke around, just as a car blazed through the stop light like it wasn't even there. As soon as I realized the car wasn't slowing down, I *moved* across the street, and cursed the car as it blew through the stop at probably 50 mph, missing me by mere seconds.

Humans really are the most dangerous creatures I'll likely come across on this hike.

I didn't find any good place to camp, and worried workers might arrive there in the morning anyhow, and continued north keeping my eyes peeled.

About a fifth of a mile from the intersection, I squeezed past a telephone pole to see what was available behind it and found a remarkably large, flat open space. Perfect!

I threw out my ground sheet and couldn't help but notice the large lake opposite the road. It was called Crocodile Lake, and it seemed like a bad idea to camp alongside a lake with such a name, but what else could I do?

For the first time, I *knew* without a shadow of a doubt I was camping illegally since I deliberately ignored the sign on the telephone pole warning that nobody was allowed beyond it for any reason. Probably because some previous campers were eaten by crocks, I thought cynically. =)

The night was warm and the skies were clear, so I wore nothing heavier than my camp shirt, and even then only to help keep the bugs off. They had grown in numbers since my previous campsites. They weren't BAD, but definitely getting worse.

As I settled into bed, a heard a large splash in the lake. Something big was obviously lumbering around, and I just knew it was a crocodile. What else could it be? It was named Crocodile Lake! It might have been a bird, I suppose, but why would they play in a body of water known for its crocodiles?

I slept a couple of hours rather peacefully considering the traffic and crocs, enjoying the open sky whenever I woke up and opened my eyes, until one time dark, ominous clouds were rolling in. It wasn't rainy, but I didn't want to take a chance and set up my tarp between a couple of scraggly trees and moved underneath it for the rest of the night.


Stacy Christian said...

Hey! Now that's just not nice--leaving us hanging, wondering whether you made it safely through the night. Not nice at all!

Anonymous said...

Helps me to get up the nerve to walk the 65 mile north south trail through land between the lakes. Or rather to get the nerve to ask my wife if I can go...

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I used to be terrified of a bridge on Card Sound Road. It goes up very high and gives a great view of the area. But I never looked until I was a lot older. I've been wondering if there is a walking lane on that bridge. I also used to be fascinated with the houses/house boats along Card Sound Road after that bridge.
We are praying you make it through the night at Crocodile Lake alive.

't' of

Anonymous said...

I can't believe he actually camped by Crocodile Lake, he is extremely brave!!!

Anonymous said...

I found myself reading faster and faster to see if you made it. DUH. You sent out the post. Amazing as always.


Trailtracker said...

I thought all of you guys were just joking on the boards each time you chatted about how many Crocodiles there were in Florida?! Guess not?! I hope you packed your Crocodile-OFF and sprayed some on! Be safe! You are starting to worry us! =)

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess if a croc did get Ryan, he could have sent this from the er or something one handed. Just Kidding Ryan.

I never would have been able to sleep a wink by a lake called Crocadile Lake. No way not gonna happen.

Thank You for letting us live vicariously through your blogs:)


Anonymous said...

I am going to have to get a prescription for nerve pills before I read any more posts. Ryan, please, please, please be careful.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Ryan!
Did you get those ham-flavored socks I sent you?

"What shall we do tonight, Brain?"

Anonymous said...

"At one point, I saw ominous glowing eyes in the trees on my left"
and the other day you saw glowing lights..........seems to be a theme. one i like much more than the croc lake idea and the thought the other night of if there would be crocs around....
and i thought bears would be a scarey thought.......
not really sure which is worse, but somehow i think it is the crocs.
keep moving soon you will be out of croc areas.

and hey you had some trail magic as well.

good night or morning depending on when you read this next.


Anonymous said...

After reading down to the bottom of the page I found a google ad for Ambien. Exactly what you need for a good night's sleep on the banks of crocodile infested lakes, Ryan! That, and a tarp.
Enjoying your stories a lot- keep up the good work! (and the good walking!)

Anonymous said...

Ditto to what lil miss TT said...and it's not kidnapping if you go willingly...
be safe...BR1

midlandtrailblazer said...

crocodile lake? i think that thought alone would give me enough adrenaline to move on to a safer campsite....

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna get nerve pills too. My heart was pounding. Good grief! Stay safe, Ryan!!

♥ Lady Lilac

Anonymous said...

Hey Ryan - I've not been able to get out here and read your entries for a few days. I just got caught up. I'm glad to hear you're still alive and kickin! Thank you very much for letting all of us share in your adventure - I really enjoy reading what you're up to. Be safe!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Wow! Such an exciting trip!

I had no idea I'd be sitting here all night getting caught up on your Florida thru hike.

Your life is so full of adventure!

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers