Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Sun Will Come Out... Tomorrow...

It rained pretty much all that night, with a couple of bolts of lightening lighting up the sky and a roar of thunder to make sure I was awake to appreciate it.

No adjustments to my tarp were necessary, however. It kept me dry all night, just as I originally set it up.

And the most wonderful news of all, the rain had stopped by morning. I ate breakfast under the tarp and packed up most of camp under the tarp--just in case the rain returned, but it was an unnecessary precaution since the rain stayed away.

I'm down to two breakfasts now, with four days before my planned arrival in St. Marks and a definite place I could resupply. I am, however, about a half day ahead of schedule, and think I can push on to a full day ahead of schedule by the end of the day--or at least close to it. Still, that's two breakfasts for three mornings.

Snacks are harder to estimate since I eat those whenever I stop or get hungry. Some days I eat more (or less) than others. All things considered, it's still a sizeable bunch of snacks.

Dinners... not sure how many of those I have. At least a few, but if my snacks run low, one of them might have to improvise as a lunch. Actually, one of them will likely improvise as a breakfast at some point since I know I'm already short one breakfast.

Basically, I'm cutting it close in the food department, but being a day ahead of schedule certainly would help tremendously since it eliminates the need for a breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The walking is slow at first, with the logging roads still saturated with rain water. As the roads dried throughout the morning, progress improves.

My mood has improved dramatically since last night. Rain still threatens all morning, but I hit a low point yesterday and things are looking up now. Of the three days of predicted rain, it's now the last day. My left shoe has a large gash in the side where the stitching is coming undone, but it doesn't seem noticeably worse since leaving White Springs and I'm nearly halfway to St. Marks where a new pair of shoes awaits.

My right shoe has started showing the same problem as my left, but the hole is much smaller and I have no doubt it'll make it to St. Marks without any problems. My left shoe could still blow out before then, but I'm optimistic it'll make it if I'm careful with my footing.

I pushed on, never stopping to rest for more than 15 minutes at a time. At first, my goal is to hike as much as possible before the rain begins, but by early afternoon, the sky starts to clear up and I don't think it'll rain at all. At least not until after I stop for the night.

My map shows a river, the Econfina River to be exact, and I figure to fill up with water there then find a place between US 221 and US 19-27 to camp for the night, but my imagination of what a 'river' is turned ot to be considerably larger than the real thing. I walked right passed the so-called river. I did see a stream, a couple of them, in fact, but I passed them earlier than I anticipated and assumed they were tributaries to the Econfina. No sense carrying extra water any earlier than necessary.

So I walked right past the river and didn't realize it until several miles later.

This was not a disaster by any stretch of the imagination. Water was still everywhere, including large pools of it directly on the forest roads. I'd rather not drink from it if I can help it, though.

The next water source listed on my map was at the road crossing of US 19-27, so I figured it must be a better (or at least more reliable) source than the others, and I set my feet in motion to reach that water source. Of course, if I found an awesome source of beautiful, clear water before then, I'd make use of it, but otherwise I'd rely on the stream by US 19-27 which was actually my goal for the NEXT night on my schedule. If I reached it today, I'd be a full day ahead of schedule.

So I kept hiking, hard, never stopping to rest for more than 15 minutes at a time.

The hike wasn't particularly noteworthy. I didn't hate it like many road walks since it was on rarely used dirt roads. Only one truck passed me all day, and he asked where I had started hiking from, saying I had 'spunk' and he admired that when he found out I started my hike in Key West.

So there wasn't much to hate about the walk, but it wasn't amazingly beautiful either. Much of the area was clear-cut, and the rest had been clear-cut in the past. Trees grew in perfectly straight lines, on linear mounds the tree planting equipment created for them.

No reason any hiker would go out of their way to hike this section, but at least it wasn't on busy roads.

My guidebooks warned that the trail could be hard to follow along the logging roads since trees with blazes often get cut down and blazing isn't always so great. A map and compass, my maps and guidebooks warned, were essential.

But I never had any trouble following the trail. It was well-marked and easy to follow, though admittedly, if someone did take a wrong turn, it would likely take some time before one knew it since generally, only the turns were well-marked. Blazes between turns were scarce.

But I made it through quickly and efficiently, reaching the designated water source a bit after 5:00. I liked the look of the water from the Econfina better, but it was too late for that now.

I stocked up with five liters of water, then mosied another mile along the trail, across US 19-27, and far enough away so the traffic wouldn't disturb my sleep overnight.

The sky looked beautiful at dusk, partly cloudy and not at all threatening. Having no idea what the overnight forecast was, however, I set up my tarp under some pine trees, on top of a thick layer of pine needles.

A thick layer of pine needles, I have to say, are my favorite place to camp. It's luxiuriously soft and comfortable, and even those folks with thick air matresses or pads can't do better than a thick layer of pine needles. They interlock at random points creating enormous air pockets. It's like floating about an inch off the surface of the ground.

I'd take a thin layer of pine needles if that's all that was available, but nothing beats a thick layer of them. Nothing. =)


Anonymous said...

Ryan, no need to starve. You can grab some food at JR's Store along US 98 after you get through Aucilla Sinks. That will get you thru St. Marks...

Cheers, your friendly guidebook writer @

Anonymous said...

Got a little confused following you on the map this time until I realized that the FT crosses the Econfina River *twice*. The first time, it's right at the headwaters, so, yeah, you'd expect it to be barely a creek, even right after a rain. The second time is after 221 and 19/27, and it'll probably be bigger then. Not a lot bigger -- the Econfina is never a large river.

Go downstream to where the Econfina crosses 98 and you can find one of my letterboxes!

A few days from now you'll be hiking along the Econfina Creek. It's a lot prettier than the Econfina River.

-- Kirbert

Anonymous said...

oh yeah food. so glad to hear you will have food, water and a cool is that. almost like finding trail magic...........thanks to technology.

glad your spirits are up also and the rain has stopped.

keep on can do it. so proud of you.


Trailtracker said...

So you may kill me for this post....but I have to say, "yea, pine needles"!

Only for some reason I'm saying it like that goofy song, "Yeah, toast" where the guy bangs on his toaster like a drum?!

If you know the "song" and it sticks in your head for more than a couple miles....I'm so sorry. Maybe the beat will help you hike quicker..... =}