Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Massacre on the Trail

I left you with my arrival in Lake Butler, and I walked down to the IAG store where I called Amanda to find out where she was. She expected me to walk into town on SR 100 and might have been driving up and down the road looking for me, but she wasn't.

Amanda spent the afternoon near Gainsville visiting her stepmom, Suzi, and had gotten stuck in traffic. She was still an hour away. My guidebook mentioned a Hardees on the other side of town, so I told Amanda I'd wait for her there. It was a place I could loiter without drawing attention to myself, and I could eat dinner while waiting.

When Amanda did finally arrive, we drove back to Starke for the night. Lake Bulter didn't have lodging available.

The next morning, fairly late in the morning as it turned out since I got sucked into fixing a couple of bugs on Atlas Quest, Amanda dropped me off at the IAG.

Within a mile, six different dogs came running at me, often darting across busy roads, uncontrolled and barking. If I had a gun, I probably would have started shooting in a couple of cases, because frankly, those dogs were scary. I guess they thought me scarier, though, since I yelled at them at get away and they would stop their approach about 20 feet away. Never on the trail had so many vicious dogs running loose, though, and I was getting angry about the situation. Is it so hard to keep a dog on a leash, indoors, or a fenced yard?

Annoyingly, I lost the trail almost immmediately out of town. The trail turned north on CR 231, and I found a trailhead on the right side of the road marked with blazes and everything. But the trail led south! I couldn't find one going north.

Tired of playing hide and seek with the blazes, I just followed the road instead. Once out of the city, about one car would drive by every 15 minutes, which wasn't so bad, and it would cut off a mile or two from the meandering trail hike, wherever THAT went.

The trail should come out on the road, or at least close to it, twice more during the day, and I could pick up the trail again then.

The road walking went so well and so quickly, I started considering walking the whole darned road. Or at least to the last place the trail came near it at Barton Gap Rd.

After a few miles of road walking, Amanda drove up. =) I told her my sad story about losing the trail (again), and she offered me a cold soda saying the trail came out on the road just around the next turn.

When I told her I was thinking about following the road even further, she suggested that that wouldn't be a good idea. There was trail magic waiting for me on the trail, and I'd miss it if I followed the road.

To the trail, then. It was probably for the best anyhow.

At one road crossing, someone had written 'Amanda loves Ryan' and 'Lunch 3 miles ahead' in the dirt, and I suspected Amanda might be responsible for the graffiti. =) Or at least one of my many admirers. ;o)

I rubbed out the part about lunch being three miles ahead in case any thru-hikers were behind me. I didn't want their hopes to get up just to be shot down later.

Five miles more along the trail, I found another road crossing with a note for me attached to a hiker sign from Amanda, telling me that lunch was under some bark and other debris to the right. Amanda, in a car, used her odometer to determine the distance of three miles. On foot, the trail winds and turns and I actually had to hike about five miles to reach lunch.

In the plastic bag, I found a sandwich from Subway, a small bag of Cheetos, a small bag of sliced apples, and a 20 oz bottle of Coke (which was wrapped in a bag with ice, so they were still cold). Marvelous!

I took my stash into the shade and started to pig out, determined to eat everything she left. I almost considered not eating the Cheetos and saving them for later, but then decided I didn't want to carry the full bag out and stuffed those down my throat too.

A car pulled up to the trailhead just as I was finishing--it was Amanda! I waved at her, and she parked and walked over to me.

"You wouldn't BELIEVE the traffic at Olustee!" she exclaimed. Now I just walk my little walk, and I rarely look more than a day or two ahead on my maps to see where I'm going. As it turned out, I would be walking into Olustee SP on the third weekend of February.

Why does that matter? Because it happens to be when they hold a reenactment of a Civil War battle fought there in 1864. Thousands of people descend into this little community dressed up in the blue and the grey uniforms (for the men) and frilly elaborate dresses (for the women). And about 20,000 civilians drop into town to see them.

And, of course, one thru-hiker. =)

At the time of the battle, much of the food and supplies that supported the south came in through Florida, so a bunch of Union soldiers were ordered west out of Jacksonville to take and destroy a key railroad bridge in Lake City. When the south found out about the plans, they brought in soldiers to stop the advance.

And the two groups clashed at Olustee. It would be the largest, bloodiest battle ever fought in Florida where 2,807 men lay dead or wounded.

And completely by accident, I'd be walking directly into this reenactment.

Amanda came back to the trailhead to look for me, worried that we wouldn't be able to find each other in the masses at Olustee. If the lunch she left was still there, she'd wait for me. If the lunch was gone, she'd try to intercept me further up the trail. She didn't expect to find me eating lunch, but it worked out well for both of us.

I left the trash from lunch with Amanda, and suggested we meet in front of the museum that my guidebook mentions. The reenactment was to start at 3:30, and I told her most people would leave as soon as it ended. Parking would be then be easy, and she could probably get a front row location!

She headed off, and so did I. Near 3:30, I heard distant booms going off as cannons were shot off, which continued for the better part of an hour. They are LOUD!

The trail dumped me out directly at Ground Zero. It's a bit disorienting to be hiking all day by onesself, then walk into 20,000 people attending a reenactment, literally in just three steps.

Cars backed up as far as the eye could see in both directions. Hundreds of people walked along the street, many dressed in period costumes and carrying old muskets.

Amanda decided to watch for me where I came out of the woods and intercepted me before I could get lost in the masses.

Since we were in the area, we decided to take a look around. Booths were set up where you could have authors of Civil War books sign their work. You could buy period costumes and swords, paintings, and I don't know what all else.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad Amanda was able to warn you about the re-enacting.
You would have been wondering about the cannon fire! brother is a re-enactor sailor for the War of 1812, Battle of Lake Erie


Anonymous said...

I was checking into doing the Buckeye trail in sections but it seems that a very large portion of it is nothing more than walking back roads and through some questionable big city neighborhoods.

I know the trail folks are eager to keep the 1200 mile circuit trail but I somehow don't see counting highways as part of the trail. It just makes such a hike kind of disappointing but then again, you can't walk much more than a mile without finding a road or a house, the noise of trains, planes and automobiles is seldom absent.

Anonymous said...

ok, don't think i liked this had me worried. i thought they found someone killed on the trail and amanda was coming to warn you about it being an investigation scene. ok, i am now breathing again.

be careful!!!!!!!


Anonymous said...

so....??/did you buy a costume for the trail. wouldn't that be a hoot to be found walking down the trail a couple of days later in a soldier costume, what would they think????
Have fun.
Yes, that would have been a very strange feeling to go from quiet wilderness, to throuings of people.
Amanda, you are a gem.
Way to keep him on the trail.
pilgrims in this land

Anonymous said...

Oh I forgot..
Ryan, photos,
photos, can't wait to see more photos.Please, pretty please with a green shell on top??
We do hope the camera did survive that 'tip'.
Hasn't been new photos since January.
waa waa

Teresa said...

Since soldiering in the civil war was mostly walking 30 or so miles a day carrying a pack on your back, you were probably the most realistic re-enacter of them all.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Enjoyed the image of you emerging into the melee as a thru hiker. What a shock it must have been.

Loose dogs are the worst. As a horse rider, loose dogs can end up injuring or killing you if they spook your horse or try to chase it. People can be so irresponsible. bah!

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers

word verification: acting

How perfect for this post with the reenactors!