Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Battle of Olustee

That night, Amanda took me back to a hotel in Macclenny. Early in the morning, Amanda had to fly out, which would have meant dumping me out on the trail again at three or four o'clock in the morning. Not something I'm particularly fond of. =)

Lord knows where I'd end up going to sleep while surrounded by 20,000 people anyhow.

But I had an idea. Gordon Smith, trail angel, who found me on the trail two days earlier. If he could give me a ride from the hotel to the trail, I could sleep in to a decent hour, or at least when it was light outside, and Amanda woudn't have to drop me off on the trail so we could stay at a hotel closer to Jacksonville. She wouldn't have to drop me off, so the drive was shorter for her. She could sleep in an extra hour or so too! (But she still would have to wake terribly early.)

So I gave Gordon a call, and he said he'd be thrilled to give me a ride to the trail. It was settled.

So we got a room in Macclenny, and Amanda left at four or five in the morning--I was still too unconscious to care. I slept in late, until about 8:00, then spent an hour typing up my adventures and another hour putting my pack together.

Gordon arrived at 10:00, and whisked me back to Olustee. It was an act of trail angeling that benefited both Amanda and myself.

"Don't get shot!" Gordon warned me as he dropped me off. =)

"Hey, at least all of these people are shooting blanks," I replied. "I'm more worried baout the hunters in the woods that are using live ammo!"

I'm rather interested in Civil War history and decided to stick around a bit to enjoy the theatrics. The reenactment this day wouldn't start for a couple of hours, so I took a walking tour of the battlefield reading all of the plaques set up to describe the battle. Surprisingly, I was the only person! Thousands of people around, and nobody else thought to walk around the battlefield?

After my history lesson, I went up to the bleachers where the reenactment would take place and took a prime location at the top. Then waited for the main event to occur.

I wrote more adventures on my PocketMail and ate a few snacks for lunch.

Then it was the main event. A narrator explained what was happening, and oh what a show they put on! Horses pranced around, canons blasted smoke O-rings into the air. You could feel the concussion of the blast hitting you. Men walked around firing their riffles. And huge explosions rocked the battlefield. Occasionally, a small palm tree or stick would go flying 50 feet into the air. It was a fine show.

Surprisingly, despite all the gunshots and canons, absolutely no casualties resulted. Not one dead or wounded soldier lay on the ground, and I can only imagine these people must be the worst shots ever.

Eventually, some of the soldiers started playing the parts of dead and wounded, but not for the first half hour.

I finally left about an hour into the reenactment. It was supposed to rain during the night, and a shelter--a shelter!--lay about 10 miles ahead on the trail. I needed to get there before dark.

While leaving, one person dressed in period costume asked why I was leaving--the battle wasn't over yet--and I explained about my hike and needing to get to the shelter ahead.

I continued to hear the sounds of battle for another half hour or so, and the rest of the hike was uneventful. I arrived at the shelter before dark.

The shelter had no walls--just posts at each corner which held up the aluminum roof, but I wasn't complaining. It was supposed to rain heavy this night, and a roof was more important than walls. =)

I made dinner on the picnic table in the shelter, then laid out my ground sheet and bag near the center of the shelter in case the wind started to blow water in. I wanted to stay as far away from the edges as possible.

It wasn't until morning that the rain started, however, disappointing because the last time I checked, the rain was supposed to END by sunrise. The storm must have came in slower than expected.

I had hoped to ride out the storm high and dry during the night, and continue hiking in the morning sun. Now it looked like I'd be hiking through the worst of the rain, and hopefully by the end of the day the rain would end.

At least I could eat breakfast, stand up, and walk around without getting wet. I waited, hoping the rain would let up before I had to leave the shelter, but by 10:00, I decided I could wait no longer.

I pulled out my umbrella, and stepped out into the rain. The wet, relentless rain.

Two hours into the hike, I saw another hiker coming from the opposite direction. "Must be a thru-hiker," I thought. "Nobody else would be hiking in this miserable weather."

The hiker wore a green poncho, and when he got closer, I thought he looked familiar. "Hey, is that Skeemer under there?"

And indeed it was. I only met him briefly near River Ranch when Amanda and I spotted him on the trail while I was slackpacking.

He was hiking south now, having parked his car in White Springs and figured he'd hitch a ride back to his car after about 75 miles.

I suggested he give Gordon a call--he'd be absolutely thrilled to help. Gordon is actually from Missouri and came out to Florida solely to find thru-hikers to help. I felt kind of sorry for him, seeing as there weren't many of us to be helped, and he was so excited when I asked for the ride from Macclenny back to the trail. "Give Gordon a call," I said. "He'd love you for it. Really."

We went our separate ways, and I continued through the rain.

The rain finally stopped at about 1:00, but tree snot continued to fall long after the rain had stopped. I was wet and generally miserable, but I had one thing to look forward to: another shelter, the Madison Shelter, where I could dry off and sleep somewhere dry.

The trail eventually came out of the woods onto surface streets, and once more the good blazing came to a screaching halt.

Unfortunately, the one place where blazes were good, they led me astray. A double blaze marked a telephone pole, which typically means the trail makes a sharp turn and to pay attention.

I did that, and noticed a small trail on my right. I followed it, finding more orange blazes leading me deeper into the woods.

After half a mile or so, I was still following blazes--some even looked like they had been painted last week--but I had a bad feeling that I wasn't going in the right direction.

I couldn't pinpoint exactly why I felt this way, but I did, and I started paying even closer attention to blazes and the trail.

Another ten minutes later, I reached a gate warning me I that I was entering Big Shoals Public Lands, and finally the alarm bells went off. I was NOT supposed to be here!


Teresa said...

Too bad you can't have your trail angel paint some extra blazes!

Anonymous said...

Oh...nice way to end the 'chapter', leaving us all hanging like that! *S*

Can't wait to see what happens next.


Anonymous said...

teresa, that would be a great job for gordon to do.........paint blazes on the roadway part of the trail. he would feel so useful, and a wonderful job would be done at the same time.

hope drier weather is ahead for you ryan. keep us posted. love the updates.


redshoes said...

tree snot.......

a.k.a. noseinabook

midlandtrailblazer said...

talk about a cliffhanger!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Was someone playing a joke on hikers by painting all those blazes going in the wrong direction? If rude!!!

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers