Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Night With the Animals

I left Dairy Queen, sent off my e-mail from the nearby Circle K, then hiked into the dark. Almost immediately, a small sprinkle started, and I pulled out my umbrella as a precaution. I also reminded the sky that the weather forecast did NOT suggest a slight chance of rain as the previous night did.

I suppose just to spite me, God made the rains come down in torrents. It was time to actually use the umbrella.

This did not go over well with me, naturally. My pants and shoes were getting soaked--not really a big deal since I had a spare pants and shoes were meant to get wet, but inconvenient.

Originally, I planned to stop at the first good place I could find to camp. Now I altered the plan. The term 'good place' to camp came to mean under cover from the rain, such as a bridge, severely limiting options. A hotel, perhaps?

A walked past several hotels already, and noticed that many of them had no vacanies. It was the weekend, but late on a Saturday night, maybe someone would be desparate to fill a room, even on the cheap.

The first hotel, I went to the office and buzzed the buzzer. An older woman, wrapped in a blanket, stumbled into view, and I asked her how much a room was. $88, she answered, and $90 something with tax.

Woah, not a chance! I had passed two hotels earlier with prices in the $60 range, and while I knew the keys were expensive, I wasn't going to pay nearly a hundred bucks for a night for a room just for myself. Especially when I could camp for free!

I apologized for disturbing her and walked off. Then I started to get mad at myself. Why shoud I apologize? If she just posted the rates somewhere, I wouldn't have had to disturb her. If she was the least bit thoughtful, she would have posted them at the entrance so I could have saved myself the useless walk to the office. She should be apologizing to me!

I'm not very fond of hotels that don't like being upfront about their prices. You know they hide them deliberately to make comparison shopping harder. Suddenly, I was glad I didn't get a room.

I continued to walk in the darkness, and the rain eventually stopped. I walked for another hour or so, and stars started to come out. Maybe that was the last of the rain for the night?

I passed by a large pipe in the center divider for Highway 1, about three or four feet in diameter, and considered sleeping inside of it. I'd be well protected from rain! And how many people can brag that they spent the night in the center divider of Highway 1?

I crossed to the pipe section then saw that each end was covered. Unless I wanted to rip them off and leave undisputable proof of my presense, the pipes would not work. Bummer.

The walking continued. I finally gave up on bridges and hotels, and settled for a small area behind a concrete telephone pole. It was fairly well hidden from the road, but that's about the main thing to brag about. A few stars still twinkled, so I decided not to set up my tarp, but I kept it nearby.... just in case....

During the night, a fat mist developedd, like rain, and decided to set up the tarp after all. Just in case. I looped the rope at one end around the telephone poll itself, and the other end around a stout tree at my feet. Then tied the corners to surrounding trees and crawled back into bed.

It never rained hard enough to justify putting up the tarp, but it gave me that extra bit of security.

I needed security too, because I knew I was not alone. I heard animals scurrying about, and I worried they were after my food. I didn't have a god way to keep critters at bay, except to sleep on my stuff and hope my presence kept them away.

At sunrise, I took down the tarp, and noticed a small raisen at the edge of my pack, which I used as a leg rest overnight. It looked like a raisen from my bag of GORP, and it was. Something, at some point during he night, ate through the mesh of my backpack, a handkerchief, and a ZipLock bag to get to the GORP. It looks like whatever it was struck a raisen and disliked it so much, spit it out then and there and went home. My food, saved by a raisen.

I packed up camp, stopping at a gas station with a McDonalds express for a quick breakfast. I waved to an older guy sitting at a table as I walked in, and he stared at me but did nothing. It was a bit unnerving. I don't trust anyone who won't wave back to anyone. I took my food to go.

I stopped at the Florida Bay Outfitters because my guidebook suggested I stop in and say HI! It seemed odd that they'd pick out this one location for such a task, so I thought I'd drop in and find out why.

It seems that the place is owned (or was owned?) by a former AT thru-hiker, and there was a hiker register for me to sign! Wooo-who! My first on the trip! =) Nobody had logged into it for over six months now, and I recognized a couple of names from people I read about before which was fun. Kind of like being on the old AT.

I picked up some light reading material there, a book called Up Shit Creek, and I'll tell you all about it just as soon as I read it. =)

After leaving the outfitters, I watched another guy get pulled over by a cop. Seems like I've seen a dozen people get pulled over at this point. If I were driving through the keys, I definitely WOULD NOT SPEED!

While walking towards the pulled over vehicle, a second cop went tearing past me in what looked like a dune buggy. I didn't know they drove around these parts in buggies too! The two cops conversed a bit, then the buggie cop moved on to do whatever it was he was to do.

And finally, I stopped at Winn-Dixie to resupply snacks and get some lunch. A beautiful girl from Brazil made my classic American sandwich, and I'm not sure she did it right since it's absolutely enormous and barely fits in the container it was meant for. Tastes plenty good, though, so I can't complain.

And that's where I'm at now, MM106, just where Highway 1 turns north out of the keys. I've decided to walk the long way out, NOT on busy Highway 101. It'll add 10 or 15 miles to the hike, but I'm told its much quieter and far more scenic than Highway 1. And anyhow, I've driven through on Highway 1 three times now. It's time to see something new. =)

A couple of people have asked if I'll be reporting in this regularly for the entire trail. In a word, no. The keys are heavily populated so I have plenty of phones to access, but once I get on a trail instead of this road walking, phones will be much more scarce, and so will I. I hope to report in at least two or three times each week, but no promises. Daily updates will not continue outside of the keys, in any case.

Happy trails!


Anonymous said...

Well congrats on getting through the Keys and good luck on the next part of your journey.

Jaxx (who is right now stuck in O'Hare trying to get to Portland, OR and Pasco, WA) *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Ryan your reports have really encouraged me to try some *real* hiking again. Nothing too big to start with, maybe just a week on the trail. I'm too old for much more :-(

I'll miss your daily updates. said...

Nice talking to you at Dairy Queen. You are an inspiration to our kids, they will be following your quest, I hope you are able to continue to post. Look us up if you need any assistance around Big Cypress.

automan01440 said...

Good luck on your hike.


Anonymous said...

You didn't hear about those rats in the Keys? lol

Anonymous said...

thanks for the updates. keep warm and dry. nothing today about your feet and blisters, hope that means they are getting better.

take care,

midlandtrailblazer said...

hurray for the raisin! oh my, what will i do for my daily blog fix when you drop off into the wilderness?

Anonymous said...

I hope your feet are feeling better. You didn't mention them this time. Try to stay warm and dry and good luck through the trails. I'm really going to miss your updates! Congratulations on your hike thus far!

♥ Lady Lilac

Anonymous said...

Ryan... I've been looking at the sat. images on google maps... where in gods green earth would you camp on Card Sound Road besides IN the road?
not that i doubt you can do it, but to make it all the way from crocodile lake to card sound road then up across the sound then back up to meet Hwy 1, is a MAJOR trek for one day. There is no FIRMA to the terra down there!! Be careful!

Trailtracker said...

Saved by a raisin! That's awesome. I hope your wet shoes and socks dried out. You're really making some great time and mileagle---keep up the great job and we will all be waiting for any and all posts when you can!

Debbie St.Amand said...

There were definitely more police officers stopping people this trip than I've ever seen in the Keys before!

And I'm glad you mentioned the book you bought, because it's clearly visible in the picture I posted on AQ!


Anonymous said...

Dear Ryan:
Please excuse my complete ignorance of camping (I have only camped once), why don't you have a tent? Is a small tent too heavy to carry on long hikes? Thank you for posting your daily adventures.

Anonymous said...

We will miss the daily adventure, so be sure to make the less frequent blogs just as spicy! Beware of all the night creatures. Some are NOT afraid of raisins. Is there space in your sleeping bag to keep your pack? Maybe as a pillow for your knees!?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the daily fix Ryan:)

I hope your adventures continue safely.

Glad to hear the rasin stopped the critter. It would have stopped me too. I prefer dry cranberries:)

I hope France and Germany are doing better:)


Anonymous said...

Maybe you can tie your pack to a tree? I've really enjoyed your trail news and will also sorely miss the daily updates. How will we get the blow by blow with the character limitations in your pocket email. Keep safe and keep updating whenever you can.


Suzi - On the Go! said...

Ryan love the haircut...always did love Bald men..give me a call if you need anything in Florida...Suzi