Friday, January 4, 2008

Stealth Camping

Before I start off, it appears I've accidentally mailed off an e-mail meant for my mom to this Blogger address. Sorry about that, but I can't delete it until I get on a computer. In the meantime, please do NOT send me loads of strawberry leather or any other goodies for that matter. I have to carry everything I get on my back, so I need to be frugal with what I carry.

I ended yesterday with my arrival in Marathon, immediately after completing the Seven Mile Bridge. I stopped there because my PocketMail device limits me to 6,000 characters per e-mail, and I reached that limit. =)

At the Marathon end of the bridge is a trailhead for people to check out the old historic Seven Mile Bridge, built between 1914 and 1918, if I remember correctly. It was built for trains, and in 1935 converted for use by the automobile. Finally, in 1982, the bridge was abandoned for the newer, flashier one I just walked across. The old bridge does go out to Pigeon Key, but stops at a break in the bridge. I heard rumors they blew up a section of this bridge in the climatic ending of the movie True Lies, but I'm not 100% sure THIS was the bridge they blew up. There's a number of abandoned bridges they could have blown up. =) Supposedly, the locals wanted to blow it up anyhow to allow tall boats to go through, so they partnered up with Hollywood who paid to blow it up for the right to film the excitement. Everyone was happy, except for me who had to walk across the new bridge instead of the old one.

At the trailhead, tourists were everywhere, and I threw myself to the ground, groaning perhaps a bit more than necessary as I took my pack off my back. I hoped to gain sympathy and impress people with my walk across the Seven Mile Bridge, then score some trail magic. Nobody even gave me a glance, though. Obviously, they've never heard of such a concept.

After resting, I picked up my pack and headed into town. I found a library, where I got on the Internet for 30 minutes, then walked over to Wendy's for lunch.

The lady taking my order asked about the 'ski pole,' so I explained I was walking from Key West to Georgia. Her cute Peruvian eyes practically fell out. (She told me she was from Peru later in the conversation.) I also asked if she would fill up my Platypus, which she happily obliged.

After finishing my meal, I wrote my adventures about crossing the bridge and looked into lightening my load. An older gentleman, by himself, took a seat near mine in the sun, commenting how wonderful it was to finally be warm. He was a retired school teacher, on a one-month tour around the area riding around on a motorcycle. Goes by the name Richard. Large, Santa Claus kind of belly, with gray hair and a beard. Not the normal biker look.

We chatted a bit, as I ripped up one of my guide books for the Florida Trail into five different sections. "I'm mailing these other ones to my mom," I said, point to the pile of papers, "so she can mail them to me when they're needed."

Richard told me it's his dream to ride his motorcycle along the crest of the continential divide, or at least as close to it possible. I nodded and said I'd probably hike the Continential Divide Trail someday myself--perhaps we'll cross paths again.

I left Wendy's and used the phone outside to mail off, "I'll Cross That Bridge When I Get To It," then I headed across the street to the post office to mail the disected book back to my mom.

I dallied around some more, killing time at the grocery store stocking up on more snacks and a Reader's Digest, the perfect size to carry around on one's back all day. Read a couple of articles in it before I continued hiking again just after dusk.

Originally, I planned to hike somewhere between MM60 and MM67, about 10 to 17 miles outside of Marathon. That changed, however, when I reached Curry Hammock State Park just short of MM60. A small bike trail followed along near Highway 1--a real joy to begin with whenever you can avoid hiking on a road with cars--but then a small line of trees sprouted up between me and the road. It blocked the wind, and even protected me from the cars on the road. It was the perfect place to sleep.

I suspect every place I've camped so far is illegal, though technically speaking I haven't seen any signs prohibiting it either. Mostly a matter of 'nobody would camp here' type of location, so they didn't put up a sign. It's almost surely illegal, though, so I stop at night in the dark, and am on the trail again in the morning before the sun is. I would deliberately avoid using my flashlight if cars were around. First, their headlights lit up the area well enough when they were around. Second, I didn't want to draw any passing cops to my attention.

This location, however, had it all. Ample room to lay out flat. So well protected from the wind, there's not at all. And a solid wall of trees between me and the Highway 1.

I type this in camp now, by the light of my flashlight, without worrying about a cop getting me up. Anyone walking along the Florida Keys Oversea Heritage Trail--the official name of the trail between Key West and Key Largo (at least the part that's done)--will be able to see me, but it's unlikely anyone is out this late. I'll wake up early, though, since there will likely be folks riding their bikes through shortly after sunrise.

Stealth camping also means that you don't leave any trace of your campsite. It's as if you never camped at all.

Without the windchill factor in play, it feels about 30 degrees warmer tonight than it did last night.

I examined France, which needed another lancing. Looks like another blister is starting to form--we'll call it Germany, since it's right next to France. Blisters have a funny habit of multiplying. Probably because when you get one, you start walking differently, favoring the blister, but in doing so, you cause new blisters. Before you know it, one foot is covered with blisters.

Turns out, there's a third blister on the top of my big toe on the left foot. It doesn't hurt at all, and I only disovered it when I was massasing my foot. Let's call it Honduras, which is in another hemisphere from France and Germany, and most people can't even find it on a map. =)

So long as I don't get an Iraq blister, I should be okay. ;o)


Anonymous said...

You're so funny Ryan. I love reading your stories! Its good to know you are doing well.

♥ Lady Lilac

Anonymous said...

Hey Ryan! Thanks for letting us all share your trip! I am mightily impressed and need this vicarious adventure! (not that raising kids and being an nurse isn't adventure enough, but still...) Do you need me to send you any extra sunscreen for that nice shiny head of yours? :) How is Amanda holding up without you? Hugs to her as well!

Anonymous said...

Ha! Funny thing about that fruit leather...go ahead and share it with any of the homeless you are sure to meet as you go through Homestead. It's always good to make friends! =)

Anonymous said...

There is a common belief that what you want while hiking is the thickest, cushiest socks you can find. My brother eventually discovered this is fallacy, however. Thick socks allow your foot to shift around inside the boot, and it's this shifting that causes the blisters. What you want is a thin sock, something that allows you to lace up the boot tight so it won't move around on the foot.

-- Kirbert

Unknown said...

Dear Ryan

I've been keeping up with your journey so far and enjoy reading about your adventures. Would you mind if I mapped your hike along the way, so that others can follow along too?

Sugarskull said...

"Hey baby, can I get you to fill my platypus?". Trail pickup lines. I love your blog. :)

midlandtrailblazer said...

well, if you do develop an iraq blister, hubby is in the national guard and can take care of it for you.

Anonymous said...

I thought there was a LB in Curry Hammock State Park. We went to Marathon in March last year and we were so busy sight-seeing that we didn't get any Lbing in, but I was sure I had a clue for it. Anyway, looking forward to your next post...can't wait until you start finding The Tortuga Trail boxes.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ryan, I promise I won't send you anything! Be careful, and enjoy the adventure.


Anonymous said...

Hey Ryan, I promise I won't send you any strawberry anything! Keep writing and enjoy your adventure!


Ryan said...

A Google map is perfectly okay by me! I'd do one myself if I had enough computer time. =)

-- Ryan

Trailtracker said...

Ryan---saw that post about putting the address out there and about panicked for you!

You said "I have to carry everything I get on my back, so I need to be frugal with what I carry.".

One of the best books I ever read about hiking the AT was different hiker's quirks. One famous hiker would trade two nickels for a dime just to lighten his load!

LOVE that you're letting us "hike" along with you! LOVE it!

Anonymous said...

ryan, how about some mole skin for those hot spots before they become blisters?

thanks for all of the posts. seems like this trail has much more contact with the "world" than i thought it was going to have.

you are going to be spoiled when you get to the more remote areas. or doesn't this trail have those like the AT does?

hey, check out those wassaa caps that a of thfts posted on aq. might come in handy on those cold nights without the hair..... :J


Anonymous said...

I love reading these notes Ryan. I especially got a kick out of this one. I hope you don't end up with an entire continent of blisters.