Friday, January 18, 2008

Dike Walking

Due to proper treaties not getting signed or some much nonsense, I'm not allowed to hike through the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. Thus, after a day of rest and resupplies (including new shoes from my favorite shoe store--Payless!)

Speaking of shoes... I had considered duct tape on those old shoes, but the shoes were so wet and muddy, I judged that it wouldn't last a mile before the swamp sucked it right off the shoes (or what was left of them). I've done shoe repairs with duct tape before, and that's not something duct tape is good for.

And a lot of people laugh at my cheap shoes, usually acquired at Payless, and outlet stores, or in the case of those old shoes that are now resting in peace, I paid $15 for them at Costco.

I don't blame them for blisters or foot pains, however, despite their cheapness. I've seen hikers wearing the most expensive, top-of-the-line shoes in more misery than my cheap, lightweight shoes, and I've seen no evidence that price or quality has anything to do with comfort.

However, lightweight shoes are a LOT easier to break in, and they dry out much faster than heavier shoes will.

Additionally, cheap shoes are disposible shoes. When they have problems, I have no qualms about throwing them away and replacing them as often as necessary. Expensive shoes, on the the other hand, I'd want to get my money's worth, and I'd likely keep them long after they should have been replaced.

I'd rather go through two or three cheap sets of shoes than one expensive pair.

All the suggestions and advice people have provided I find rather amusing. How to treat blisters, shoes to use, duct tape, etc. There is no miracle cure for long-distance hiking.

I've seen a lot of things on the Appalachian Trail, and everyone has their own unique way of doing things. There's no one right way to do something (although there ARE wrong way to do things!), and there's absolutely no way to avoid pain.

If you're going to hike 17+ miles per day, you're going to hurt. Nothing will prevent that. Not one person who has ever completed a thru-hike has done so without sore feet. It will hurt. If it were easy, it wouldn't be nearly as fun.

As for how I treat blisters--I do carry moleskin, although I haven't used any as of yet. I haven't found it very effective around my toes, and in the past it has made things worse. I think it's mostly an issue of wrapping a flat surface around short, rounded toes. It gets lumpy and ends up causing me problems.

So why carry moleskin? Because I have found it *enormously* useful on other parts of my foot--such as the back of my ankle where new shoes often chaff badly. It works well on most of my foot--just not the toes. Alas, so far, those are the only places blisters have formed.

Popping blisters helps, and I try to avoid getting them infected by using a lighter on the end of my safety pin before lancing one. (The water walk in Big Cypress probably wasn't good in that respect, but so far none of them appear to be infected!)

All-in-all, I'm doing pretty well. My feet do hurt, but that was expected and there's no avoiding it. The rest of my body is surprisingly pain free. After two weeks on the AT, every muscle in my body was sore, but I think the lack of hills is helping me this time. Going down steep hills is tough on the knees, and going up them is tough on the muscles. Flat walking is relatively pain free--except for the feet, of course.

The blister problem will eventually go away completely as my feet harden. On the AT, it took about six weeks before I felt they were in top shape, and I've only been in Florida for two weeks now. On the AT, the peak pain was probably about three or four weeks into the hike. I still have a lot of pain left to suffer. =)

So why do I do this? I suppose it doesn't sound like fun most of the time. There's not one reason I can give. I like the challenge--pushing myself to the limit. I like seeing new places, and I like the time to myself. I like seeing things that most people never get the opportunity to see. (Yes, the inside of the snake's mouth was white!) I got to watch the most beautiful sunrise this morning, and I'd never seen sugar cane being burned before. It's all new and interesting to me.

But I digress.....

On the morning of the 15th, DebBee drove me out to John Stretch Park in the bustling town of Lake Harbor. I skipped perhaps five days worth of hiking, including the Seminole reservation, all of which I'll have to double-back to complete later on.

John Stretch Park is located near the southern end of Lake Okeechobee, and the Florida Trail splits allowing me to choose which side of the lake to hike. I picked the west side since it is slightly shorter and supposedly more remote and more scenic than the eastern side.

The trail splits at John Stretch Park, then follows along the top of the dike that surrounds the lake. Most of it is a paved bicycle path, although maintenance vehicles can also drive on it.

The dike was built after communities around the lake were heavily water damaged by a hurricane in the 1920s, and some folks go for the annual "Big-O" Hike around the lake each Thanksgiving--a 109-mile loop.

The climb to the top of the dike was also the steepest, longest climb of my hike so far! Of course, Florida is flat, so if you find yourself hiking uphill, you know it's a man-made structure.

DebBee took some pictures of me with my new shoes on the blustery top. Oddly, I didn't see the lake. It looked like a canal on the far side of the dike, with land as far as the eye could see.

What happened to the lake?

Then we parted ways and I started hiking westward around the lake.

The turkey vultures circled by the hundreds for the next several miles. I'd never seen so many together before! Ugly little things. And the wind at the top howled.

Highway 27 followed alongside the west side of the dike, and I hiked with a nice bird's eye view of traffic on one side, and the lake (which did finally make a brief appearance) on the other.

After ten miles or so, the trail left the dike to enter the town of Clewiston. Not because they wanted the trail in Clewiston, but it was the only way around a canal entering the lake without getting wet--using the Highway 27 bridge across the canal.

I stopped at the Clewistown Inn briefly at admire the Everglades Lounge, with a mural painted 360 degrees around the room from the 1940s. Very cool place! But I wanted food, not a drink, so I headed back and stopped at Hungry Howies Pizza for dinner. Very good stuff, there. *nodding* It seemed to be a hangout place where all teenaged-mothers brought their young.

Then I wandered back to the trail and on the dike to continue hiking.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure you know that Florida's not completely flat, right? It sure as heck is where you are, but there are several ridges that splash across the middle and top of the state. When you get up this way, there are more elevation changes that are not man made - and they are beautiful! You have so much to look forward to! =)

Anonymous said...

"It seemed to be a hangout place where all teenaged-mothers brought their young."


Anonymous said...

Hi Ryan,
I think if I were gonna write a book about my travels through Florida's Trail, even though my feet were important to me!!, I think I would limit just how much I spoke of it. Ho....hum....sigh..hee hee, Google made good use of it though.
Tee hee, Sorry. Just had to comment.
Okie Dog, let the flak begin.

Mandy said...

A Cottonmouth Water Moccasin, huh? Venomous AND Aggressive . . . Be careful out there!

Anonymous said...

Hey, Ryan, I am in Tacoma following your trip. Great stuff! I guess there are the people who understand and the others who ask, "Why?". One time I rode my bicycle from Tacoma to Maine and down the East Coast and I found that most people who asked me about the trip really just wanted to tell me about their son or friend or neighbor's cousin's nephew who rode farther, but it was a good way to meet people!
Next time you lie down for a nap behind a dumpster just remember that there are people like me who only WISH we could be cold, wet, and lying behind a dumpster. Weird, huh?

Laughing Gravy, Centralia WA

Sugarskull said...

I grew up in Virginia and we always used to get cottonmouths/water moccasins (there always seemed to be debate about their name) in our back yard. *shudder* Stay away from those guys!

Anonymous said...

Oh, my! There's that talk of slittery critters again! Do you have anti-venom... just in case you need it?

Be safe! Kiddy Writer

Anonymous said...

You said the blisters subside after about 6 weeks. What about the aching feet??? After the 3Day/60 mile hike for breast cancer I recently did, I thought my feet would never be normal again!! (not that they were normal before)But I still remember the pain!

Mark said...

I've purposefully not posted, just observed your adventure, but I'm sorry. Hungry Howies is home to me. It was my first job! I rode my skateboard to work, long, sloping bangs in my face the whole way. I have many good memories, none which consist of my to and fro Hungry Howies (skateboards are a *b* on the push leg) but HH is home to me. Thanks Ryan for the mems.

Anonymous said...

"Additionally, cheap shoes are disposible shoes. When they have problems, I have no qualms about throwing them away and replacing them as often as necessary."

......which in your mind would be once the tonques fall out, the shoelaces are worn, broken & tied together, and the soles have disappeared. Payless, you cheapster you. Push on.......

DC Stones

midlandtrailblazer said...

yummy. i've never heard turkey vultures described as "little" before....