Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sweet Home Alabama

Amanda dropped me off on the Florida Trail for the last time, just four miles from the Alabama border.

The trail went into the woods, then crossed the road again just 1.2 miles from the border. A ribbon blocked off the trail, the kind I've seen put up because of prescribed burns when they don't want hikers to enter.


Don't tell me I can't finish the last 1.2 miles of trail!

I looked for a note or writing on the ribbon to warn of prescribed burns or dates they were burning but found nothing.

It looked to me like the burn had already happened, so I decided to ignore the ribbon and continue on.

No problems, though. I didn't even find any smoldering logs like I would with a recent burn.

I reached a kiosk just shy of the official state line, but I considered it the end of the Florida Trail because it was here I saw my first yellow blaze.

The trail through Alabama--at least the first couple hundred of miles--is marked with yellow blazes instead of the orange ones that mark the Florida Trail.

There were photos taken. Of orange blazes and yellow blazes, of me next to a yellow blaze, of trees, of plants, and flowers. This point may have been the most photographed location of my entire journey. I even took a photo of my pocket watch with the time and date displayed. I wore out the batteries in my camera.

I signed the register there, a bit sad after realizing that I left my signature stamp in my pack. Since I was slackpacking, I didn't have my stamp, and it seemed wrong not to stamp it in on this historic occasion.

I followed the last of the orange blazes to Alabama where the trail came out on a dirt road. I took more photos of the actual last orange blaze I could find and the first yellow blaze that was actually in Alabama. It was a touching moment.

The rest of the hike was largely uneventful. The trail followed forest roads through Alabama. Only two vehicles passed me all day, both fire trucks with the forest service--probably checking out hot spots from still smoldering burns. (Apparently, Alabama likes to do lots of burns too.)

I hiked a whopping 27 miles to reach highway 136 for two reasons. One, it was a major road and Amanda knew she'd have no trouble finding the trail where it crossed THAT road. She might have a much harder time finding me on those forest service roads--especially since I had the maps for them and she did not.

The second reason for the long trek was because Amanda's last day with me was the next day, and so I wouldn't have to be dropped off on the trail at 3:00 in the morning, I was determined to reach the trail town of Andalusia. If I could hike in the next day, I could sleep in at the hotel then walk back to the trail when I was ready.

So I did a 27-mile hike to highway 136, where I found Amanda sitting out in a portable lounge chair relaxing and reading a book. She seemed considerably happier this time.

We stayed in the Sunset Inn, a cheap motel about 0.2 miles off the trail and about 17 miles from where Amanda picked me up. An easy hike into town.

The next morning, Amanda dropped me off on the trail. And this time, she had no plans to pick me up. I intended to walk to the motel and meet her there.

The trail came out onto dirt roads then onto the dreaded paved roads. I knew it was just the beginning. I'd be following paved roads for over a hundred miles now. On the road again...

I hiked to the motel and knocked.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent preparing for Amanda's departure. I resupplied food and supplies. I fixed up some last minute details on Atlas Quest.

And once again, Amanda snuck that little bag of joy into her bags and stole off in the middle of the night.


Anonymous said...

Let me be the first to congratulate you. You're the second I know of to finish this season, the first as a thru. Just added your name to the roster on the website. Best of luck on the rest of your journey!!

Cheers, Sandy

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Ryan, well done!

Okie Dog

Anonymous said...

oh yeah, oh yeah..........
another one down...........
singing sweet alabama.........
soon to be singing georgia on my mind.............
then take me home country roads....
or leaving on a jet plane


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Hooray!! You did it!

Happy for ya!

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers