Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Visit to White Springs

Once again, I had walked a mile in the wrong direction. In my defense, however, I was following orange blazes! I can only assume this must have been an old, abandoned route that is no longer the official Florida Trail, or a new route in the making that was not on any of my maps. Or maybe the folks painting blazes wanted to find out how many thru-hikers they could confuse. =)

In any case, I had no idea where the blazes were leading or where I would wind up, and I had my heart set on a shelter that was NOT on this particular trail, so I backtracked the mile back to the road, cursing the blazing for leading me astray.

I followed the road another mile or two, the current correct direction of the Florida Trail, and finally ended the day at Madison Shelter. The shelter seemed cluttered and dirtier than other shelters, filled with decorations, candles, and even a wood-burning stove. Oh, I was tempted to start a fire in the stove--it was going to be a cold night!--but I'm too lazy to search about for wood to burn.

Instead, I lit a couple of the candles, giving the shelter a warm, romantic glow, not that it would do me any good, but it was pretty to look at. =)

I changed into my camp clothes and cooked dinner--mac 'n' cheese with spiral (spiral!) noodles.

After cleaning up, I sat back in the rocking chair (a rocking chair!) and rocked back and forth catching up on writing my blogs on my PocketMail device.

By around 8:30, my fingers started turning numb from the cold, so I put on my gloves, blew out the candles, and crawled into my sleeping bag for the night.

The next morning, and a cold morning it was, I took my time waking up and packing up camp since I planned to stop in White Springs for the day, a measily 12 miles away. No reason to get up early or rush around!

At first, the trail mostly followed roads--not very exciting at all--then the trail went into the woods and followed along the banks of the Suwannee River. In a word--WOW!

The Suwannee is a sizeable river flowing along a relatively deep chasm. Often the trail would descend steeply at a tributary, then climb back up just as steeply where I'd actually find myself breathing hard upon reaching the top again.

And the river banks were beautiful. Some of the prettiest hiking so far in this state. I vaguely remembered a song about the Suwannee, but I couldn't remember any words or even be sure if this was THE Suwannee River, but I hummed a tune close to how I thought it went.

I often sing or hum tunes based on where I am, the weather, or any number of triggers that might set me off. When you're hiking by yourself day after day, it gives you something to think about. In the Florida Keys, I'd sing Margarittaville or Kokomo or something. Near Orlando, it was Disney tunes. In Avon Air Force Base, it was In the Navy by the Village People. (I couldn't think of any air force songs, so I figured a navy one was close enough.) Today, it was the Suwannee River.

The rest of the day's hiking was absolutely wonderful, in any case.

I arrived in White Springs at about 2:30, and my first stop was at the American Canoe Adventures. Apparently, they're very hiker friendly there with a register and a thru-hiker wall of fame, and I could get my picture added to it. =)

Alas, it was not meant to be. They were closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and I arrived Tuesday afternoon and would leave Wednesday morning. Maybe I'll take a picture of myself and mail it to them someday. Seems wrong that I'm not on the thru-hiker wall of fame since I am thru-hiking the trail.

I then did some more mundane chores. Made some phone calls, posted to my blog, and dropped by the library to use the Internet, and finally stopped at the Suwannee River Hotel making arrangments for me to have a room for myself. Room #19 for anyone who wants to follow in my footsteps or sleep in the same bed I did. ;o)

I checked the weather forecast at the library, and in a word, it looked bleak. The next day would be beautiful, but then three solid days of rain would follow. There would be another day or two of sun before the rain continued. The next week would not be fun. In the hotel, I flipped on the TV to the Weather Channel for more details about the forecast. It still looked bleak and depressing.

I emptied out my pack, then started walking up US 41 looking for a grocery store. My guidebook mentioned an S&S Food Store, warning that it was good for short-term resupply, so I planned to skip that. I needed some long-term resupplies--enough to get me 160 miles to St. Marks.

It also suggested Dollar General for groceries, but I never remembered them as being good for long-term resupplies, so my hopes rested with Stormant's Grocery. It sounded like a real grocery store.

Alas, it was nothing more than a mini-mart attached to a gas station. I suddenly realized that I had a serious, serious food problem. I needed a real grocery store, and this town was filled with mini-marts.

I bought a few items at Stormants. A bottle of fruit punch, sliced up watermelon, potato salad, and a slice of strawberry cake, which I ate for dinner.

I also picked up some Stove Top stuffing thinking I could make a meal out of that on the trail in a pinch.

I don't like to cook meals in the rain, so I often end up eating Pop Tarts and other snacks instead. Knowing the weather forecast, I wanted to buy a disportionately large number of meals that did not require heating or cooking.

But the choices available were as bleak as the weather forecast. I prefer a hearty cereal for breakfast, such as granola or something like Smart Start, but the only thing available here were Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms. I do like those cereals, but I don't find them very filling and end up hungry an hour after eating them. I wanted a cereal with substance, but they only offered fluffy cereals.

Walking back to the hotel, I hit every mini-mart available along the way trying to stock up enough food to get me through a week of hiking. At Dollar General, I picked up a box of something that at least pretended to have nutritional value on the box. (They don't even try to pretend on boxes such as Fruit Loops.) I have no idea if I'll like the cereal, but I'll be eating it.

And I stopped at S&S Food Store, picking up additional snacks and food items.

Back at the hotel, I laid it all out and started repacking everything into ZipLocks. It was a sorry state of affairs, and seemed representative of my week to come. I was not at all happy with my food situation or the weather forecast.

Plus, my left shoe is starting to come undone. After 600 miles, my shoes finally need replacing, but the next post office on the trail was another 160 miles away.


Anonymous said...

We will eagerly await your next report from the trail. One hopes it won't be too soggy nor too hungry.

Mailing a picture to the thru hiker hall of fame at American Canoe Adventures ...sounds sort of like claiming a letterbox find when you never actually stamped in. What to do, what to do!

Grumpy Grinch

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about the food & the weather. Hope some trail magic shows up for you this week.

DC Stones

PS - What is the betting line on "lefty" making it the 160 miles in the rain? :)

Anonymous said...

praying that the weather does a turn around for the better, and you can have favourable conditions in that left foot. no rain
no rain
no rain
oh that would be wonderful.

Peas on Earth said...

Way down upon the Swanee River,
Far, far away,
That's where my heart is turning ever -
That's where the old folks stay.
All up and down the whole creation,
Sadly I roam
Still longing for the old plantation
And for the old folks at home.
All the world is sad and dreary everywhere I roam.
Oh darkies, how my heart grows weary
Far from the old folks at home.


Not a very peppy song or lyrics, but definitely catchy! How fun! Hope you find some shoes and pop tarts soon!!

Anonymous said...

So's you know, next modern-sized grocery store isn't until Panacea (old IGA, now something else) unless you venture 6-10 miles south of the trail to Live Oak or Perry for Walmart. You're in the country now...

Cheers, your friendly guidebook writer (who thought you might have come thru White Springs on Sat or Sun, when I was there)

Anonymous said...

Not liking these days and days between posts. It is so hard to not have any reading material on your adventures.


Anonymous said...

Ryan, don't go tellin' everybody how pretty N Florida is. The tourists and snowbirds blow right through on I-75 and I-95 and never take an exit until they get to Central Florida, and we like it that way.

-- Kirbert

Anonymous said...

Hi Ryan,
Sounds to me like the guide books need to be a little more explicit on food stuffs. Sorry to hear of your fasting stiuation, or close to. Keep your chin up, Manna from heaven? You never know, maybe some one will hear you plight and show up unexpectdly with a nice treat of a good meal or two to spare. They didn't have beef jerky in those mini marts?
Stay dry,
Okie Dog

Anonymous said...

sounds like a roll of camo tape would have been a good find. not very tastey, but maybe would keep those toes dry. praying another gordon comes your way.........trail magic at its best with food and a pair of shoes.

well, if you can keep up the pace maybe food is closer than you think. :J