Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Calm Before the Storm

I left you hanging with my arrival in White Springs. The food situation was terrible, my left shoe was starting to show signs of falling apart, and the weather forecast was not encouraging.

Frankly, I fell into something of a depression. I was not at all looking forward to the next week ahead, but what else could I do but plod on?

The rest of the night, I watched the History Channel and the Weather Channel. Much better than Project Runway. ;o)

And no, I did not work on Atlas Quest. I didn't have the laptop to work on, and even if I did, the hotel had no wi-fi access.

Actually, it was generally a pretty sad place to stay. When I left to make a phone call, I returned to find a couple of cockroaches nosying around my food. In the morning, when I turned on the hot water in the shower, hundreds of ants came out from behind the knob. There were more bugs and critters in that room than there were when I slept outside, and that's just not right.

The place is a bit run down, and I'm okay with that. I love old, run down hotels. Just not ones with bug infestations.

The rest of the night, I stored much of my food in the mini-fridge. The fridge didn't seem to work when I plugged it in, but I kept the food in there anyhow since its interior seemed bug free. I once heard that many families in India use refrigerators to keep bugs off food. They don't get electricity so they can't keep anything cold, but it's well-insulated so it keeps bugs away from their food. I decided to try the same thing.

The next morning, I ate breakfast at the Suwannee River Diner, not only to save the one and only breakfast cereal I had left that I knew I liked, but also because my guidebook mentioned what a wonderful mural is inside of it.

And it is indeed absolutely wonderful! It stretches around the top of the walls, depicting the Suwannee River flowing from its source in the Okeefenokee Swamp (and I just love that word--Okeefenokee) to the Gulf of Mexico over all four seasons and 24 hours. Supposedly, there's even a Florida Trail blaze hidden in the mural, but I didn't find it. I think it was on the wall I was sitting against so I didn't have a good view of it.

It's a wonderful mural, though. The breakfast was ordinary--two pancakes, two eggs (scrambled), and a heap of bacon--but still quite a luxury compared to my usual cereal.

After breakfast, I did a few more chores regarding permits for St. Marks Wildlife Refuge and hiking through Eglin Air Force Base, finally hitting the trail near 10:00 AM. Much later than I would have liked to start, but was about the time I figured I would start given the tasks I had to finish.

I was determined to get as many miles done for the day while the weather was nice. A minimum of 20 miles, though with my late start, it would be nearly impossible to do more than 25 miles by dark.

This day, in any case, turned out absolutely beautiful. The temperature was nice, the bugs weren't out, and the trail continued to follow along the banks of the scenic and meandering Suwannee River.

I'd have been positively giddy except for the weather that I knew would be blowing in tomorrow which put a damper on my spirits.

The trail near Swift Creek climbed over a series of small hills. I clutched at trees and roots, using all fours to make it back up the steep slopes.

One was so steep that the powers that be included a cable line one could grab to help pull yourself up with, and after reaching the top, breathing heavily, I promised God that I'd never make a joke about Florida being so flat again if he stopped with the hills. (Not to worry, though, the hills kept coming.)

Late in the day, I caught up with Snap. Gretchen had left the trail for the civilian life, but Snap was still working his way through Florida. He took a zero day in White Springs which is why I caught up to him--I thought he was still a day ahead of me, but he left town only a couple of hours before I did.

Even more amusing, it turns out that he was right next door to me at the hotel, in room 18, and neither of us realized the other was there.

We continued hiking together the rest of the afternoon, trading war stories and enjoying the company of not hiking alone.

At US 129, Snap decided to hike south to a campground. I was torn. I wanted to get miles in, but there was food and perhaps a telephone in that direction. I didn't intend to add to my food stores, but I didn't think I had enough food to get me to St. Marks so if I could eat dinner there, that was one extra meal I'd have for later.

The fact that Snap is such great company settled it for me. =) Enjoy it while I can! We hiked toward the campground. A woman who turned out to be a landscaper offered us a ride in her golf cart gizmo to the campground, but when she told us the camp store closed at 5:00, we declined. The store had closed minutes ago. We decided to go to the convenience store another 0.2 miles down the road instead, and I joked if she could still give us a ride on her cart.

She seemed to think about it a moment, then waved us in, "Yeah, I can do that!"

We threw our packs in the back and squished into the front. She couldn't drive the thing on the main road outside of the park, so she drove it down a dirt road then across the grass (warning us to hold on, because the ride was about to get bumpy) across the street from the convenience store.

We jumped the fence, then ransacked the store for dinner. I picked a hearty Italian sub, a bear claw, and a Coke. Snap picked up a Cuban sandwich, a Snickers bar, and a Diet Pepsi, I think it was.

After finishing our meal, we hiked back to the trail and set up camp far enough away from US 129 so the cars driving by wouldn't keep us awake all night.

I poked my head out of my tarp to check out the total lunar eclipse I knew was supposed to happen that night, but I didn't know the details of exactly when it would start or end at my location. I couldn't see much in any case since the trees mostly obscured the moon, and I never did see the eclipse. Oh, well. There's another one in 2010, and I've seen a number of total lunar eclipses in the past. Not the end of the world.

The weather, on the other hand, that would be a problem....

The morning started overcast, to be expected, and I hoped the rain wouldn't start up until late in the day. Snap left camp before I did, but I passed him by pretty quick determined to pull about 26 miles to a shelter of sorts. Snap had no intention of trying to keep my pace, so we parted ways.

"I'll give you a call when I reach Springer Mountain," I told him. Maybe I will too if someone has a cell phone up there that works. =)


Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

I love the line about the bugs not being out. Of course they weren't out. They were all in...in your hotel room! EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! I'm sorry, I don't tolerate bugs well at all. Outdoors, yeah ok, that is their home, but indoors? NO WAY, Jose! It should mention in your guidebook that you should bring along a can of Raid if you want to stay in that place.

Steve, Christa, Emily, Meghan, Charles & Elizabeth said...

When I was a freshman in high school, whenever my Science teacher was absent he had us watch the same video... The Alligators of the Ofeekenokee Swamp, that video is filled with the dumbest scientists I have ever seen, it has to be watched to be believed. Keep your chin up Ryan, after a certain point, you can't get wetter!!

Anonymous said...

oh yeah, trail magic........gordon #1, praying there are more to come.
yeah, those bugs would have had me moving outside if i had the gear you have.

keep up the good work.


Eidolon said...

"I'll give you a call when I reach Springer Mountain," I told him. Maybe I will too if someone has a cell phone up there that works. =)

--Well, I will have mine but yeah, it is rather hit or miss up there when it comes to signal...

Anonymous said...

Slow down already! You're going to make it to Springer Mountain early (while I'm out of town) at this rate!!!!


Ryan said...

Not to worry--I'm at about the halfway point, both in miles and the time I expected to reach Springer Mountain. So far, I'm RIGHT ON SCHEDULE! =) Perhaps a day or so behind, but pretty much hitting things right when I thought I would.

I am close to the Georgia border, but keep in mind that I still have 300 miles of hiking through the panhandle of Florida before I even leave the state! That's a good two or three weeks of hiking I still have to do just in Florida.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I used to enjoy staying in hotels while on the road, but now only camp if possible. Years ago we stayed in a Hilton and had nasty bed bugs in our bed and in the morning, while we sat scratching our bed bug bites we saw that our room had a moldy coffee maker.....in a Hilton! Can you believe it?

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers