Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Loop Road

It's called Loop Road, but it seems to me like it would be better called the Parallel Road, since it basically parallels Highway 41 for quite some distance.

I camped a couple of miles short of it, but reached the turnoff within an hour or walking. Right there at the turn, there was a picnic table and a bunch of information for hunters and permits. I stopped to eat breakfast at the picnic table, and kept a particularly close eye on my food when I spotted an otter crossing the road. It was an ugly little thing, I'll say that for it. Perhaps in the water they seem cute and cuddly, but on land, they look like miniature monsters, the kind that hides under beds.

I was honing in on the start of the Florida Trail. The Loop Road would be my last road walk, intersecting with the Florida Trail about 2/3rds down the road.

The walk went quickly, first passing by houses of the local Native Americans, then the road became rougher when it left civilization behind.

Along the way, I spotted several alligators, lurking in the canal parallel to the road. It pleased me greatly when they jumped into the water and swam away as I got closer. I'm always happy when large, carnivorous animals that could eat me in several bites show how shy they really are.

I stopped for lunch at a campsite, a free campground with 10 numbered sites and a porta-potty for bathroom activities. A few motorhomes and RVs filled up some spots.

I threw out my things under the shade of a tree, and introduced myself to an older gentleman next to his RV who seemed to watch me with curiosity.

Alas, I've forgotten his name, which is a shame because he ended up being a wealth of trail magic! He lived in Indiana and came south for warmer climates.

We only chatted a few minutes before I excused myself to take a nap. It was warm and hot out, and I didn't get much sleep the night before, and a nap seemed like the perfect thing.

I laid out and went to sleep.

I slept nearly two hours before rising to make lunch. A few others entered the campground during my nap, most of the on bicycles after a morning ride.

I picked up my lunch gear and walked over to Mr. Indiana figuring he'd enjoy seeing my soda can stove in action.

"You can use my stove," he offered.

I passed on the offer--the soda can stove worked well enough, and frankly, I enjoy using it. =)

He also offered to fill up my water bottles with fresh, clear Indiana water, which I gladly accepted. While I had the materials to get safe drinking water from the canals, I didn't have anything to actually make the water GOOD. The longer I could avoid natural canal water, the better.

He also offered me a cold soda and a huge bar of dark chocolate, both of which I accepted. I had my doubts about the chocolate--melting all over everything--and ate it in its entirety as soon as I left the campground. I enjoyed the cold Pepsi in camp so I could leave the can behind.

We chatted for a couple of hours, as other folks from the campground dropped by to say hi as well. All-in-all, it was a real friendly group of people.

But as all good things must come to and end, this was no exception. I headed down the road, eating dark chocolate along the way.

The road eventually turned to gravel, and cars became a genuine rarity for the first time on my hike.

An occasional tourist drove by, but it was a nice, peaceful walk. A woman from Naples showing a young couple from Germany the 'old Florida' (as she described it) seemed fascinated by my journey, and gave me a small bottle of water to my arsenal.

She also told me to take care of myself, but that she would watch the news for any reports of missing hikers so she could tell rescuers where to find me. =)

Near sunset, I reached it. A small kiosk on the side of the road, with a bright orange blaze on it. The southern terminus of the Florida Trail.

I yelled into the sky, trimumpantly. My road walk was over. I would now be following a trail. I high-fived the orange blaze, slapping it with a solid thud. Let the games begin!

The trail enters into an area known as Big Cypress, known for waist-deep waters and slow slogging. With more than three miles to the first campsite, I decided to stay put for the night. I laid out my ground sheet at the base of the kiosk, made a quick dinner, then typed up adventures. So much to write about.....

Allow us to help those in need, sell back your spare PocketMail and make some extra pocket money.


Anonymous said...

Gotta love that Hoosier Hospitality!

Anonymous said...

“I don’t know what it is about Hoosiers. But wherever you go there is always a Hoosier doing something very important there.” ~Kurt Vonnegut

Anonymous said...

........So much to write about.....
and you leave us hanging..........
yeah you walked, talked, slept, ate, walked, slept...........and???
come back oh come back we want more :J :J :J :J........glowing eyes want to know.


Anonymous said...

Ryan, have you heard any update on the reservation passage? Do you think you're on schedule to arrive the 22nd? Especially with those long days of hiking you've done.

Trailtracker said...

Congrats on getting to orange blazes and scoring on the huge bar of dark chocolate! Sounds like life is good!

jjjaker said...

I love that you are meeting all these colorful characters along the way. It so adds to the journey. Nice to know they are ready to report where you have been if you end up missing....I guess. ;P
Angela of JJJAKER

Unknown said...

Thanks for the updates Ryan.

Click here for an updated map (should be wide enough view to last more than a week)

BNL BaliGrl said...

Good to hear from you Ryan! I'm enjoying reading the updates. I'm sorry that they won't be as frequent any more.

I hope Big Cypress isn't toooooo wet tomorrow!

If anyone is interested, I found this link about the Florida Trail...

midlandtrailblazer said...

my grandparents used to vacation at naples and owned property there at one time. maybe that is what is meant by "old florida"?

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Mmmm! Dark chocolate and a cold pepsi. Love them Trail Angels with their Trail Magic!

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers