Friday, April 18, 2008

Memoirs of the Florida Trail

I continued following Highway 100 north, eventually intersecting the Simms Mountain Trail, a rails to trail program that also happened to be used by the Pinhoti Trail.

I cut off of the highway and back onto the official Pinhoti Trail. My little road walk, I'm happy to report, cut out about 20 miles of needless road walk. I did good. =)

I camped a bit further up, about a mile before the small town of Holland, tucked well into the woods since, technically speaking, it was private property and illegal to camp. So I definitely intended to be stealthy!

The night passed well enough, and the next morning I got up early and hit the trail. I stopped briefly at a convenience store in Holland where I picked up a package of Skittles and a bottle of orange juice before continuing my rails-to-trail hike.

The day was overcast and looking ugly, as well it should since the last weather report I checked in Cave Spring predicted rain for most of the day and night. The rain hadn't started yet, and I hoped it would hold off until later in the day--maybe even after I set up camp, if I were really lucky.

Regardless, I did not intend to hike a long day. I knew rain was in the forecast, and I hate rain. And at this point, I only needed to average a measily 15 to 16 miles per day to reach Springer Mountain on time. I could easily quit early, and even had the latest Reader's Digest to occupy my time once camp was set up.

I planned to wait out the storm, assuming I could set up camp before it started. The next few days were expected to be nice--just today and tonight were expected to be wet. Very wet.

The trail cut off the rail-to-trail and back onto Highway 100 a short ways before entering the mountains, wonderful mountains, once again. The road walk was over.

There's not much to report except that the rain started at around 3:00 in the afternoon, and at that point I started looking for a place to set up camp. Ideally, I wanted to camp near a stream so I'd have essentially all the water I wanted, but the next water source I *knew* was on the trail was more than nine miles away, so I stopped at a nice flat area with lots of leaves.

The rain paused long enough for me to set up my tarp, not that I wasn't already soaking wet, but it's nice to set up camp without it actively raining at the same time.

I pitched my tarp alongside a fallen tree, using it as a wind (and rain!) break for one side, and I set up the tarp relatively low knowing a heavy rain would be starting soon. The forecast I saw suggested that three or more inches of rain were possible, and that's a heck of a lot of rain.

It didn't take long before the steady patter of rain hit the tarp and lightning roared across the mountain, deafning thunder shaking the tarp. Oh, the fun!

I had changed into my dry clothes, and was somewhat giddy about the idea of not hiking in the rain. I still had more than four hours until sunset! It felt like I took off work early.

Around 4:30, I heard footsteps coming, and there was Mortis hiking down the trail, soaked to the bone. Poor guy. We talked for a few minutes, but he pushed on wanting to camp at a water source another mile or two down the trail--at least according to his trail notes.

With so much time to kill, I decided to cook a more elaborate dinner of bean, rice, and cheese burritos. My worry, however, was about running out of water. That meal tended to be a rather messy one to clean up and usually required large amounts of water (relatively speaking) to do well.

But I had a brilliant thought--what if I just cleaned the dishes with rain water? I put an empty 2 liter bottle at the edge of my tarp to catch some of the water running off it and was absolutely astounded when it filled up completely after a little more than an hour.

I had all the water I needed, for dinner, cleaning dishes, and brushing my teeth. I filled up the rest of my water bottles, then put the 2 liter bottle back at the edge of the tarp to catch more water.

I figured the bottle was probably catching about about 5 to 10 percent of all the water striking my tarp--certainly not most of it--but that meant my tarp was shedding between 20 to 40 liters of water PER HOUR while I was tucked safe and dry under it. I had no idea such huge volumes of water were hitting me! That's a heck of a lot of water.

In any case, any worries I had about running out of water went out the window. I had all the water I could possibly need readily available.

I finished the Reader's Digest shortly after sunset, and went to sleep soon after.

The rain continued all night and into the morning. I was really grumpy about the rain in the morning, complaining to myself that the weather forecast showed only a 10% chance of rain for the day, and it was still pouring buckets (or at least liters) of water.

I decided to wait it out, at least for as long as I could. Having run out of reading material the night before, I tried going back to sleep. Which worked to a degree, but I'd wake up again every half hour or so as my body kept wanting to get up with the sun.

Around 9:30, I finally started getting ready for the day. Near 10:00, the rain started to slacken, and it had nearly stopped completely by the time I hit the trail at 10:30.

It was an incredibly late start for me, but I did manage to miss most of the rain! Hooray!

I mosied along the trail, up and down. I didn't stop for water at the next water source a mile or two down the trail since I had already filled up with rain water.

The weather stayed drizzly all day. I call it fat fog. Not really a rain, per se, but still wet enough where you feel soaked through if you spend more than a few minutes in it.

Much of the time, I followed a single, solitary set of footprints along the trail. I knew they belonged to Mortis, and I guessed when my late start, he was probably at least a good five miles ahead of me.

At one point, the trail comes out of the woods to follow a dirt road which then crosses an unbridged creek.

I stood at the edge of the creek, extremely disappointed. With the rains from the night before, the creek was flowing pretty well, deep and cloudy with sediment. I thought my days of walking through knee-deep water had ended in Florida, but alas, the Pinhoti decided I needed it again.

I braced myself with my trekking pole and forded across, feeling the ground with my feet and prodding ahead with my trekking pole since I wasn't able to see the bottom of the creek. I waded across, up to my knees in water, exiting the other side grumbling about the lack of bridges.

I was, frankly, ready to quit for the day.


Jimmy said...

{It felt like I took off work early.}

Yeah right.How long has it been since you've worked for someone so you could take off early? =8)


Anonymous said...

Hey... GT... I would love to see you with your scruff at the end of the trail... did anyone take pictures???

Anonymous said...

bandaid, they are posted on there are about 30 of them.

sounds like your last few nights were not so good, maybe the road, trail gets better. only you know so far.

as i was reading i kept thinking just put your dishes in the rain.....and you listened. :J

keep the stories coming.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

The Atlas Quest widget for this post is a picture of the Liberty Bell and says, "Free Yourself".

I'd say you did that with your clever use of the tarp to gather rain water for all your needs. Very cool!

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers