Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Homeless Guy Under the Bridge

Have you ever seen those homeless guys under the bridge? Of course you have. They're everywhere. Have you ever been the homeless guy under the bridge?

I hadn't, but I figured it was about time I gave it a try. =)

With rain in the forecast, and expected to continue all night long, I decided to hike 26 miles to a bridge over the Withlacoohee River on CR 141. I'd passed several campable bridges the last few days, and my guidebook said that this particular one, on the west side, would make a good rain shelter.

So a rain shelter it was to become. Unless I found some other improvised shelter at a more reasonable 20 to 25 miles away first, but I had no reason to expect that would happen.

The first sprinkles started by 10:00am, and by noon, the rain came down in torrents. The trail was still quite scenic, but the rain wasn't much fun. Cold and wet pretty much sums things up.

I stopped to rest at 2:00 at Gibson Park. Filled up my water and used the pay phone across the street at the agricultural check station. That was when I heard the first of the thunder. The weather forecast called for 'isolated thunderstorms' the next day, so I was surprised to hear the thunder just then. It gave me a small hope that maybe the storm was blowing through quicker than expected and perhaps I'd only have to deal with two days of rain instead of three.

The rain continued the rest of the day and evening, sometimes hard, sometimes soft, but always there.

To reach the protection of the bridge by dark, I decided to take a blue blaze trail cutting about 3.5 miles of official Florida Trail hike. It was a shame, really, since the trail followed along some very scenic areas, but a half-mile blue blaze would cut an hour off my hiking time and allow me to reach the bridge by dark.

I also set a limit--if I didn't reach the blue blazed trail by 6:00, I'd set up camp at the first good place I could find. I didn't want to be caught setting up the tarp both in the rain AND in the dark.

I reach the blue-blazed trail with less than 20 minutes to spare, and happily lopped off the 3.5 miles of official Florida Trail.

It must have been karma. When I reached the bridge, I was disappointed to see litter strewn about and broken glass all over the place. It looked like a local hangout for the teenaged delinquents. I considered going on and finding a place to camp in the woods, rain or no rain, but it was starting to get dark and I kind of liked the idea of being the troll under the bridge. Perhaps it wasn't the nicest of bridges to haunt, but I'd do it anyhow.

In hindsight, I should have just moved on.

I laid out my ground sheet on a small patch of grass near the north side of the bridge and set up camp. I cooked mashed potatoes to use up some of the cookable stuff I had while it was dry to do, then laid down to go to sleep.

A few minutes later, a gust of wind blew in from the north, and I quickly realized I was too close to the north end of the bridge.

I threw open my tarp on the south side, and quickly carried all my belongins onto it, safe from the rain blowing in under the bridge.

For now, at least. There wasn't room enough to lay down here. Most of the area under the bridge pooled water and turned to mud--obviously not good places to camp. I looked around with my headlamp and decided on a location between two support beams holding up the bridge. It was high ground, and perhaps the posts would help block the rain from blowing in.

I stood in the spot, determining if rain would be a problem still, and decided it likely would be, so I tied my tarp between the two posts and set up camp underneath it.

If I was going to set up my tarp anyhow, I would have just as soon did it in the woods where I wasn't surrounded by trash and broken glass.

When I did lay down, I discovered yet another reason it was such a horrid camp. That was when I got my first whiff of urine. Damn punks had peeded on the post by my head.

In a nutshell, my idea to camp under the bridge was one of my worst ones ever on the trail.

I did survive the night, however, and listened to the rain and thunder most of the night, staying mostly dry in the process.

Shortly before sunrise, the rain stopped, and shortly after sunrise, I broken down camp, glad to be rid of the place.


Unknown said...

Google Hike Map Updates:

Ryan, Google Maps can't show your entire hike in one map so they broke it up into multiple pages. You've outhiked Google! The two links below are convenient shortcuts so people can easily go to section 2 to see the more recent additions without scrolling all the way to the bottom of page 1 and clicking "next".

Link to section 1 of the map

Link to section 2 of the map

Anonymous said...

ok, you have run out of trail magic as of now...........yuck on the pee post............hope you have a better night soon. condo

Anonymous said...

just looked at the map on page 2.........looks like GA on my mind might be your next song to be stuck in your head............oh yeah.......looking good!!!!!!!

condo :J

Anonymous said...

I don't see how it is another 300 miles in FL. That google map does really show you much, much closer. An inch is about 20 miles...and you look closer than an inch. Or am I reading the map wrong?! Now unless you plan on traversing the state a bit more. I don't know, seems a stretch.
I am thankful for
no snow or tornadoes!
Now just prayin that a rainbow appears for you real soon.
BUt the bugs...eeew. At least you didn't feel anything crawling on you while you slept.

Debbie St.Amand said...

The trail runs the length of the panhandle, not right into Georgia.


Teresa said...

The maps are great!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Every bridge I've ever walked under has smelled like pee. Seems like all the bums would rather pee under a bridge then on a tree. And then they sleep under there. What's up with that?

Not even dogs will soil their own beds!

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers