Saturday, March 8, 2008

I'll Cross That Bridge When....

The next morning, my tarp was positively sopping wet from dew. It's amazing how wet it can get even when it doesn't rain, but even I was surprised at how wet the tarp was. Dew does tend to be worse when I camp under an open sky rather than under trees, but still...

I took the tarp down first, laying it out on the railing to dry in the morning sun while working up breakfast and packing up the rest of camp. The tarp was mostly dry by the time I finished, and it went into my pack last.

There's not much to report today. I planned to hike the length of Econfina Creek, stopping somewhere just short of the SR 20 trailhead for the night, a distance of about 18 miles. I could have hiked further, but then the trail follows SR 20 for something like 30 miles, and I'd just as soon camp in the woods away from cars than trying to stealth camp along a busy road. Rain was in the forecast that night as well, and I hoped if I reached camp early in the afternoon, I could have the tarp up and ready before the storm got going.

The creek was scenic, at least by Florida standards, but I can't say I found it particularly impressive. It's nice and certainly better than roadwalks or through timberland, but I didn't find myself gasping at the beauty of the area either.

Strangely, Econfina Creek turned out to be much larger than the Econfina River I passed a couple of weeks ago. Two completely different water sources, but why did they call the larger source a creek and the smaller one a river? That makes no sense to me. =)

At Fenton Bridge, I could see where the FTA was busy replacing a bridge. It's a pretty substantial bridge and the work was not completed, but the bridge could still be crossed.

On the far side of the bridge, I saw tracks made by some sort of machine, which I figured must have been used to carry heavy stuff. One project I worked on in Washington once used what amounted to a gas-powered wheelbarrow. Capable of hauling much heavier loads than a conventional one and for much longer distances.

Whatever their device was, though, it was a lot bigger than the one we used to build our own little project. (We built a turnpike, in case you're wondering. Check the AQ glossary if you don't know what a turnpike is.)

I followed the tracks up the trail and noticed they threw a bunch of logs across a muddy section to help their machine getting through, happy they did so since it also kept my feet dry. =)

The trail came out at a clearing where I found the large machine, covered with a tarp and planks of wood keeping the tarp in place. I didn't want to mess around with their gear so I didn't look under the tarp, but I was curious....

I continued following the trail along a fence line for a few minutes, but now that I was no longer admiring the crew's work and tools, it occurred to me that I hadn't seen a blaze for a while.

I thought a bit, trying to remember the last blaze I saw. Was it at the clearing? Perhaps, but I couldn't remember seeing any there. Nor even on the trail leading to the clearing.

The last blaze I clearly remembered seeing was on the bridge itself they were working on. I hoped I didn't have to backtrack that far, though, and maybe I lost the trail at the clearing.

So I started backtracking. First to the clearing, but I found no blazes so I continued on to the bridge.

This time, while walking between the clearing and the bridge, I noticed orange ribbons tied to trees along the way. Usually they'll do this as a temporary measure when blazes need to be replaced.

But on one of my working vacations rebuilding parts of the Pacific Crest Trail, ribbons were used to mark a reroute. It suddenly dawned on me that these ribbons did not mark the Florida Trail--they were used to mark the route of a new trail. They brought their big machines and tools as close to the bridge as possible, then cut a new trail (or perhaps widened an existing one?) from there to the bridge. But before it was built, someone walked through and marked of the trail with ribbons.

And I fell right into the trap.

Drats. Well, at least I didn't walk THAT far out of my way, and I did get to see their staging area with my detour. =)

FTA: do hikers a favor. That new trail is so large and wide and goes straight off from the bridge, it's VERY easy for hikers to miss that sharp turn to the right. I'd put a double blaze at the end of the bridge to indicate a right turn.

The trail continued on, and it became harder to follow once it left Econfina Creek. Much less scenic as well, going through clearcuts and rows of trees in perfect lines.

I finally stopped about a mile short of the SR 20 trailhead, just as the trail came out of those perfectly lined up pine trees into a clearcut.

I couldn't see any trees ahead on the trail, and it was possible the clearcut extended all the way to SR 20. I wanted to camp in trees. They provide an excellent wind break in stormy weather, and I didn't want lightning striking me while camped out in the open. Better to hide among the trees. Sure, lightning could strike a nearby tree, but better that than striking me directly. =)

So I set up camp under the pine trees where it provided a thick layer of pine needles--my favorite type of ground to camp on.

Not being near a water source, I ate snacks for dinner. I arrived two hours before sunset, giving me plenty of time to catch up on adventures. (I had been about three days behind on writing them.) And went to sleep long before the rain or lightning started.

Which, oh, it did. Rain poured down in buckets and lightning lit up the sky while thunder tore through camp. Makes getting a good sleep difficult, but hey, at least I was dry and under the tarp. =)

A slight breeze pushed a few drops of water under the tarp by my head, and rather than lowering the tarp (I like my head room!), I opened the umbrella to plug up the hole instead.

Then I tried to ignore the lightning and thunder and get more sleep.


Anonymous said...

It's classified as a river according to it's length. You may have been nearer the beginnings of the river than to it's end.

Anonymous said...

glad i don't know about things like opening an umbrella in the middle of a lightening storm until i know you have lived to tell about it...........

i guess i missed the last posting, i thought you were going to be in a hotel by the time the big bucket rains came down.

keep on hiking, getting closer....

Anonymous said...

So the trail does not cross Walsingham Bridge anymore? If not that sucks... we left a short note for you in the letter box there!

BTW Econfina Creek and Econfina River are even pronounced differently.

Eidolon said...

re: Anon's comment #1 "It's classified as a river according to it's length"

I have always heard that but never found any evidence to support that answer. I would LOVE a source if you have one that says what the criteria actually are!!!

Anonymous said...

I love to read about your adventure. keep on hiking!