Saturday, March 1, 2008

Sinkholes, Mines, and Tarps

Upon waking up in the morning, I was somewhat surprised to see gloomy skies and a thick layer of fog. I generally don't sleep deeply at night--at least not in the woods where you want to be alert of man-eating alligators and food-hungry bears--and peak around my surroundings all night long. You can do that easily from a tarp. I'll look at the sky and try to discern a pattern to the weather or listen to the splash of something entering the water.

I would actually sleep quite soundly at night, and usually do at first, to tell you the truth, but it gets dark so early and stays dark so late, I end up getting about ten hours or more of 'sleep' each night. Have you ever tried to sleep that long every night? It ain't easy, and I often end up tossing and turning wishing the night would go by faster. =) Not a big problems as problems go, but that's the real reason I'm often alert to the sights and sounds of the darkness. I'm bored with nothing better to do.

But I digress.... So all night long, I notice the brightness of the nearly full moon lighting up the area and casting long shadows. I can see the stars twinkling brightly all night long. So when I finally opened my eyes to get a start in the morning, it was a shock to see it so gloomy. A mere hour or two before, I was admiring twinkling stars. What happened?

I feared another storm had rolled in, knowing there was supposed to be another one behind the one that already passed. Maybe it rolled in early like the last one rolled out early? It wasn't raining, at least.

I made up breakfast--the last one in my sack of food--and packed up camp. A hint of blue started showing through the clouds. It was simple river fog, pure and simple, and the fog was starting to burn off. Fooled by river fog. Silly me. =)

The trail continued to follow the Aucilla River, or at least what was left of it according to my guidebooks. The Aucilla gets swallowed by a sinkhole, in its entirety, then can be spotted occasionally on the surface where it runs under other sinkholes.

So it didn't look like a river anymore. It looked like occasional pools of water. Scenic, but the water seemed stagnant. I imagine the bulk of the river is still flowing underground, below the sinkholes.

A few miles later, the trail dumped me back onto a road and the road walking continued. Almost by habit, I started singing 'On the Road Again' to myself.

The road passed what is labeled as a dolomite mine on my map, which I found entrancing to watch huge trucks moving around what looked like huge mounds of dirt. I didn't know what dolomite is or what it's used for (kind of sounds like an ingredient in Doritos, though, don't you think?), but I was impressed with their mine. Actually, I was impressed that Florida had something to mine other than limestone and coral.

The trail eventually passed J.R.'s Aucilla River Store, which was supposed to be good for 'hiker supplies.' I suspected this was another way of saying 'short-term supplies,' and I was right. They had a choice of about four different cereals, and I picked Raisen Bran or something like that. The flakes weren't very sturdy, though, and I suspect I might end up with a bag of crumbs by the time I'm ready to eat it.

Although I didn't need it, I also grabbed a box of mac 'n' cheese since I prefer to always have at least one extra meal on me at all times.

And then I picked up a bunch of snacks and a bottle of Coke to eat right then and there for lunch.

When the road walk finally ended, the trail led into St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. It was immensely disappointing to see a large pool of water across the trail. I was led to believe that the trail throught St. Marks was largely water free. The walking through water part was still further up ahead.

Maybe this water was a fluke, I hoped, and carefully bushwhacked my way around the water where clearly so many before had tried to do as well.

After several of these water bogs and an unpleasant experience with a bush with sharp, long thorns, I decided that walking through the water was the best thing to do.

Frankly, I couldn't go wrong. Knowing my luck, as soon as I walked through one of the bogs, it would likely have been the last bog anyhow. And if it wasn't, and there were lots more bogs ahead, at least I didn't waste anymore time trying to get around them keeping my feet dry.

So into the bog I went. And another. And another. Then, to add insult to injury, they provided a bog bridge to get across. Not sure why they bothered since our feet were already wet, but I used them anyhow since it seemed like the right thing to do.

I walked through more bogs, and over more bog bridges, in alternating patterns as if it taunt us.

Finally the trail came out on a dike and the walking went faster and drier.

I stopped to rest when I reached the Pinhook River campsite. A nice site with lots of pine trees (my favorite), but it wasn't even 2:00 yet. How cool was that? I'd probably hiked about 18 miles, and it was only two!

On to the next campsite, another six or seven miles ahead. My permit wasn't for the next campsite, but then I also reached St. Marks early so it wasn't actually good for Pinhook River camp either.

I lounged at the campsite for nearly an hour, first noticing that the hole on my right shoe had grown dramatically larger since I put it on that morning. Alarmingly fast, in fact. My left shoe took the better part of a week to do that, and my right shoe did it in a matter of hours. Probably that bog walking. I thought it was a sure thing that my left shoe would fail long before the right one ever became a problem, but now I wasn't so sure anymore.

Between the two camps is the official Florida Trail and a blue-blazed high water route. Based on the bogs I had to walk through, I'd give the high water route serious consideration. I suspect it was meant for REALLY high water, like up to one's waist, but there was no sign saying how high the water had to be before the high water route was an acceptable alternative.

But as an act of pennance for my last blue-blazed shortcut (camping under that horrid bridge), I took the official Florida Trail. And I walked through more bogs. Blah.

Both shoes came out muddy, but otherwise no worse than going in.

And I finally reached the Ring Levee campsite.

The views are wonderful. There is very little tree cover here, so you can see for miles in every direction.

The campsite was remarkably gusty, though. The wind didn't bother me, and if it kept the mosquitoes at bay, I'd have even encouraged it. But the wind was strong enough that I put some extra considerations while setting up my tarp.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ryan,
Are you gonna make it with those shoes? Do you carry anything that could tie it on your foot in case needed? Otherwise are you barefoot should the sole come off? Sheesh, look for grapevine or something on your travels, just in case. What to do, what to do?
Here's hoping the shoes make it and you also, safely and dryer!
Okie Dog

Anonymous said...

Are you McGyver? Bet you learn real quick. :~)
O Dog

Anonymous said...

Hi Ryan, I'm not sure if you are able to read these messages.

I had posted before and asked, but I figure it would be okay to ask again. Is it possible to see a gear list of what you have with you on the trail? And what do you think has been the average weight of your pack while on the trail?

Kaaren said...

Do we not have any Florida Panhandle/North AQ people? Ryan needs to go buy some new shoes. :(

Anonymous said...

There is an awesome restaurant in St. Marks. If you like typical fish camp style food you might want to consider stopping. It is right on the water where 363 meets Riverside. Yummy!

Anonymous said...

Ryan will be getting a resupply in St. Marks that includes new shoes, so not to worry! He doesn't have a full gear list around that I can post, however, his pack usually weighs around 35 pounds: depending on how much water he is carrying, it could be anywhere from 30-40 pounds. He is pretty much carrying exactly what he carried on his AT hike, you can check out his adventures on the AT here:

-Amanda from Seattle

Kaaren said...

Thanks Amanda. I was seriously entertaining the idea of a long drive :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Ryan...

Is it possible that you are hiking without my favorite item??? DUCT TAPE!!! That would hold you together until your next pair of shoes!!!


Anonymous said...

aw, and I would have thought you used bandaids...Bandaid.
Can't wait until you get mroe photos downloaded...I do not remember seeing a final report on the operation of the camera after 'tippy canoe'.
Which remends me, any idea why there is a place by that name in Washington? Amanda? Ryan?

Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

Ok Ryan, you made me curious about dolomite, so I looked it up. Here you go:

"Dolomite is used as an ornamental stone, a concrete aggregate and as a source of magnesium oxide."
"In horticulture, dolomite and dolomitic limestone are added to soils and soilless potting mixes to lower their acidity ("sweeten" them)."
"In nutrition, dolomite is sold sometimes as a dietary supplement on the assumption that it should make a good simultaneous source of the two important elemental nutrients calcium and magnesium."

Anonymous said...

I'm back in Ohio with my wife and trying to find a hiking partner for the Grand Enchantment Trail later this month. Great meeting you and Great Blog!...probably the best written hiking journal I've ever read. Take Care & Hike On! EBskeemer

Anonymous said...

Hey Ryan! Just checking in. I know when we don't have one of your blog entries to read every night, we get let down so we thought you might feel the same about some of your Lb'ing buddies (which we HOPE include US!) So, know that we're with you in spirit (you'd NEVER get me in a B-O-G--yeech!!), hanging on your every, interesting word and, in general, cheering you on all the way! BIG hugs (and foot rubs. . .) ~~Doublesaj & Old Blue~~

Kerstin said...

Always hike with duct tape! Somebody who's resupplying him-get him a roll would ya? LOL He hasn't hit the fun in GA yet. Ah yes, briars, GA red clay that can actually suck skin off when wet~LOL, and skeeters the size of housecats. At least he'll need some good shoes and a roll 'o' duct tape to keep 'em whole for more than a day! LOL

Danny said...

Weird, I just found this blog -

I was out at St. Marks on Saturday. Walked on the levees from Lighthouse Road to where the FT heads into the woods. Guess I missed all the bogs... :)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Dolomite sounds like something you'd spread on Vegemite.

Or maybe a dip for Doritos?


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Whoops! Just noticed I pasted the link to your AT hike that Amanda posted, instead of my siggy.

It's late and I've been catching up on your blog for two days now.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :D

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers