Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Run For the Border

A remarkable thing was happening. I was a measily 28 miles from completing the Florida Trail. Technically speaking, I could be done in just one more day. More likely, I'd finish in two, but either way, I was almost done with Florida.

This particular day happened to be Amanda's birthday, so I joked that for her birthday, I'd take her out of Florida. She often complains about Florida--the heat, the humidity, the flatness of it all. She'll complain about South Carolina and North Carolina for the same reasons (minus the flatness), but I'd NEVER heard her complain about Alabama, so I joked that for her birthday, I'd take her out of Florida and into Alabama.

"You must like it," I reminded her, "because I've never heard you complain about it."

"That's only because I haven't spent any time there. Just you wait!"

So Amanda dropped me off back on the trail. My minimum goal for the day was a 20-mile hike to a certain road crossing, and if I was still up for it, to push on another 4 or so miles past Hurricane Lake to a second road crossing a mere 4 miles from the end of the Florida Trail.

There's not much to report about the hike. It was a largely pleasant walk through the woods. A time to remember adventures past and think about the challenges yet to come. Had I chosen to stop at the end of the Florida Trail, I'd have taken the fork that ended in Pensacola and probably be going home by this time tomorrow.

Instead, I have another month and 560-odd miles to Springer Mountain. But at least soon, I will have joined the ranks of successful Florida Trail thru-hikers. Memories for the ages.

After 20 miles, I stumbled out of the woods at a road. To the right, the road was paved, but it turned dirt towards the left over a bridge--the direction I was supposed to go according to my map though I couldn't find any blazes marking the route.

Amanda was nowhere to be seen, so I figured she was probably waiting further up the road. I crossed the bridge, just as Amanda pulled up from the other direction. She parked on the far side of the bridge, got out, and started tapping her foot.

Uh-oh. That can't be a good sign.

She'd been driving around for hours trying to find the trailhead. It didn't help that she didn't have good road maps for the area, but even when she found the correct road, she couldn't find any blazes or signs to mark where it crossed the road and had driven back and forth on it several times trying to find it.

She expected to drive out a couple of hours early, lounge around reading a book, and instead crossed into Alabama several times and only just arrived and hadn't read anything at all. She was not happy.

She had, however, stopped to pick up a sandwich at Subway for me which she pulled out of the ice chest. I ate the sandwich and drank a cold soda, then went back to hiking. I still had miles to do.

I continued down the road. My map looked like the trail ducked back into the woods where I came out after crossing the road, then crossed the road again another half mile up, but I found no blazes.

When I reached the road for the south campground for Hurricane Lake, I knew I'd passed the trail, annoyed at having lost the trail and completely understanding Amanda's anger.

I followed the road to the south campground knowing the trail was supposed to go near it figuring I'll catch it somewhere around the lake.

I did finally find a blaze about 30 feet deep in the woods and tromped out to the trail wondering how I missed where it crossed the road, but happy to be on it again.

It didn't last long, however. The trail crossed over Hurricane Dam to the north campground, and I lost it again.


I wandered around the campground, trying to find another blaze somewhere on the other side, going so far as the youth group site but finding no sign of a trail or any orange blazes.

I finally backtracked to the entrance of the campground (for cars) where I finally found a blaze and continued my trek.

The rest of the took me through still smoldering forests--one last fire, I suppose, before getting into Alabama--but otherwise was non-eventful.

Amanda was waiting at the road crossing, not having nearly the difficulity finding this one as the last one.

It was just four more miles to the border, but I'd save it for the next day.


Anonymous said...

Every man needs a partner like Amanda. I'm glad I have one of my own.

Hike on! That Florida dust is soon to be left behind. Congrats on your impending milestone!

DC Stones

Anonymous said...

I thought this was going to be another Taco Bell Letterbox.


Peas on Earth said...

hey - alabama isn't that bad! (oh, wait - I am from north alabama - never spent much time down thataway. Hmmmmm)

Happy Birthday, Amanda!!

Anonymous said...

Thank Amanda for being so patient. :)

Anonymous said...

I should mention that I did have the Delorme map book! But it still did not help much. These are all small dirt roads and are labeled in the map book as CR27 and FS182, stuff like that. Then I drive around and I come up on "Bob's Road" or "Mount Zion Baptist Church AME Road" and I am not sure if that is really CR4 or is it CR22??? And many roads did not have road signs at all, so it was very frustrating trying to find the Trail on these days.

-Amanda from Seattle

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Amanda is awesome for having spent her entire birthday shuttling you around, buying you subs and cold drinks, and hunting invisible blazes for hours.
That girl deserves something very special, for sure....

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers