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Day 46 Hillcrest Baptist Church Hostel

Today was like any other day on the Florida trail. Two miles of trail, two miles of bicycle trail, and 18 miles of road walks.

Cold Morning Start

I still had plenty of food from my Piggly wiggly run left, so breakfast was a feast. Sausage dog, hot pocket, grapefruit wedges, and an egg roll.I got rolling by 7:30 and there were still tons of clouds in the sky. It looked like more rain.

The first obstacle out of town was crossing the Apalachicola river on a very long bridge. The floodplain for the river is very wide. It started raining lightly about half way over the bridge. My umbrella was able to keep me dry and I was happy because I did not want to start the day soaking wet.

Crossing the Apalachicola river on a dedicated pedestrian bridge.

The significance of crossing this river is that it is the border between Eastern and Central Time. My phone switched almost immediately as it connected to a cell tower from Blountstown. My watch changed several hours later. It is GPS based and they probably just use a straight line and not bother with the contours of the river.

Coming into Blountstown, the trail immediately goes into a rail trail around the edge of town. The map shows the trail immediately transitioning between a bridge overpass directly to the trail below. But there is a buzzard circle trail that loops you around to it like an interstate would. Another map inaccuracy.

The pavement on the rail trail was very slippery. I don’t think it gets used very much. It had a light covering of mold over the surface.

It passed by a park with bathrooms, a train and caboose, and a few restaurants which were closed for the weekend.

All the best rail trails have trains.

More Road Walking

After about two miles, it was onto another county road, CR 71. This was a two lane road with quite a bit of high speed traffic, but being a Sunday, no big trucks. I would be on this road for nearly eight miles.

The shoulder was very narrow and very sloped in most places. My feet were getting sore from having to get onto that slope so often to try to walk. I put a heel lift insert in only my left shoe to try to compensate for the slope. It did seem to help a little bit.

The highlight of this road is when it ends. There is a convenience store. The cashier saw me coming and opened the door for me. She was very friendly.

The food selection was very thin, but I found a few things to buy to make a lunch from. As I watched people come and go, I saw the cashier outside the store as much as inside. I think she is very bored.

Leaving the store, the trail goes into a much smaller road, then eventually through a neighborhood. Lots of barking dogs, but only one mean one. They were all fenced.

Finally, a Trail

The neighborhood leads to a Wildlife Management Unit around the Chipola River. The forest here still shows massive damage from Hurricane Michael. Many trees are pushed over or leaning heavily and much of the forest has been clear cut.

Finally, a trail. And it has bridges, too.

The trail is muddy in only a few sections leading up to the river. I am able to skirt around all of it and keep my feet dry.

The river itself is nice. It looks a little high, but not too bad. The trail zigs along it like a mini Suwannee.

More Road Walking (again)

The trail only lasts a mile and a half before popping out to cross the bridge on another highway, so it is back to highway walking. I think it is seven miles to the Baptist Church. I should be there shortly after 3 pm.

This road has slightly less traffic and a much better shoulder. It is far more pleasant than the one from Blountstown.

The convenience store is destroyed, but this building is still kicking.

There used to be a convenience store on this road, but it was destroyed by the hurricane and is now just an empty parking lot. That’s too bad. I take a break there to text the Pastor of the church that I should arrive at about 3:15.

While I am doing that, Jack and Mickey show up. We hike the remaining four and a half miles together.

Hillcrest Baptist Church

The church is an amazing complex of buildings. The main hiker building has two bunks, a small kitchen, and a sofa area. Another building has another bunk, a shower, and laundry. The main church has a large kitchen, bathrooms, and more rooms to sleep in. There is a refrigerator full of food in each building. I have no idea why I did not take a single picture of any of the buildings.

The first order of business is a shower and laundry. I think this might be my first real laundry since the 88 store. The rest of the day is nibbling on food and chatting with other hikers.

One of the hikers here, Eric, has hiked this trail five times already. We talk to him quite a bit about upcoming trail conditions. There will be more mud and water, but nothing that sounds outrageous. He is the unofficial Mayor of Hillcrest Baptist Church.

More importantly, Jack has let me borrow his double sleeping pads to test out tonight. I am eager to see if it could be a future solution for me since I am having so much trouble with inflatables. Stay tuned.

A campsite that was back on the Chipola river.

Emotion of the Day

I think nostalgia is what I will pick today.

The rail trail around Blountstown reminded me of trails in other cities, and the hostel reminds me of the kind of thing you would see on the Appalachian Trail.

With other hikers around, it finally feels like a national scenic trail.

I am the only one leaving northbound tomorrow, so it will be back to feeling like the Florida Trail again.

Day 45 Hello Bristol

The rain was even worse today. And it was much colder. From the entire time of leaving the campground to hitting the hotel, it was constantly raining. And it was cold.

A Decent Night’s Sleep

As you already know, my new sleeping pad is already leaking. And each night it seems to get a little worse. Since I was camping on concrete last night, I really needed it to function well. But it did not. I had to blow it back up at least six times during the night.

Jack and Mickey are using closed cell foam pads. They are nearly identical to the one that I used on the Pacific Crest Trail. But interestingly they are using two pads and not just one. They use a full length pad on the bottom and a torso length pad on top of that. It may not be a light solution, but it looks like a comfortable solution.

I was originally planning on using my closed cell foam pad. But I decided against it because when it is strapped on top of my pack it sticks out to either side. And I knew I would be crashing through a bunch of weeds and brush. And the pad just catches those things and makes it harder to push through.

But Jack and Mickey have found a solution to that problem, too. They stowe their pads vertically instead of horizontally. My pack is not equipped with the cords to be able to do that, but I think I might modify the pack when I get home to be able to do exactly that.

It rained most of the night last night. I have my tent on the picnic table blocking the wind. But the wind was shifting throughout the night so it wasn’t always effective.

When the rain intensified, I could feel water mist on my face during the night. But when the rain let up, things did actually dry quite well. When I woke up in the morning the bag was as dry, if not dryer, than when I’m in my tent. It also happened to not be raining very hard at the time.

A slack in the rain means eat your breakfast get packed up and get moving quickly. So I did just that. Because it was only 15 or 16 miles into town, there was no rush to get out early. So it was only 8:00 when I left.

Here Comes the Rain Again

I left at the perfect time, because 5 minutes after leaving camp it started raining pretty hard. I was wearing my shorts, a short sleeve t-shirt, and a long sleeve t-shirt over that. My rain jacket is actually what I’m using to keep rain from soaking through from the top of the pack down to the rest of the pack.

Just another road walk.

I wasn’t sure how warm or cold it was going to get throughout the day. I didn’t want my long sleeve shirt to get wet, but I also didn’t want to get cold. I was beginning to think that the decision to wear the long sleeve shirt might have been the wrong choice.

I am not using a pack cover on this trip. My backpack is made of nylon and not waterproof. All of my clothes and sleeping bag are in waterproof dry bags. But the packet self gets very wet.

I had forgotten that I have a garbage bag with me. I was hoping to be able to put it over the pack and then cut little slits to pull the backpack straps through. But this garbage bag is not nearly big enough to do that. So all I can do is drape it over the pack like a shower cap.

It does not work well at all and at some point during the morning blew off on the roadwalk. I never even noticed that it happened until I got to the hotel and it was missing. I really wish I had gotten a Dynema backpack for this trip.

One foot in front of the other.

Jack and Mickey passed me about six or seven miles into the road walk. They found an abandoned house with a very large overhang to hide from the rain. I went to join them because it was time for a break. I also wanted to try and call the hotel to reserve a room.

I called the hotel and they did have a room so I was very relieved. We were still two miles from the convenience store, and then another three miles into town. So two hours from now I should be dry.

Jack was getting very cold so he went ahead and took off and Mickey followed after him. After I packed up everything up and set out again, I can see that Jack actually started running down the road. He was getting very cold and shivering and probably close to getting hypothermia. He really wanted to get to that convenience store quickly.

After only about a half of a mile, I could see that Mickey was getting a ride from a pickup truck. This is probably the best thing for them if Jack is in that bad of shape. I expect that they will hitch all the way to the hotel just to get out of the rain immediately.

For some odd reason, even though I am cold and pretty wet I am in good spirits. I guess mainly because I was expecting it today and it really wasn’t that bad of a road walk.

My umbrella keeps the top half of my body moderately dry. But my shorts and obviously my shoes and socks were completely drenched. I could see from an electronic sign at a bank that the temperature was 56°. This normally would be perfect hiking weather, but when it is windy and rainy it’s a little on the cool side. 66 would have been much better.

It doesn’t take long before I am at the convenience store. I go inside and I’m happy to see that they have a hot deli counter at the back of the store so I head directly for it. Fried chicken, fried okra, baked beans, and cornbread, please. The fried chicken is not quite as good as the Jay Veer store but it was still delicious. And the store is warm and dry.

I also bought a chocolate milk and an oatmeal cream pie to eat before leaving. But I also bought a tube of Pringles and a honey bun for tomorrow in case I can’t find breakfast food.

I am planning on resupplying at the Piggly Wiggly that is at the other end of town, but I want to have an emergency backup just in case. If it rains this hard all afternoon, then I’m not likely to go to the Piggly Wiggly.

A few miles out of town there is a sidewalk which makes the walking much less stressful. But this sidewalk must be too close to Bradwell Bay, because big stretches of the sidewalk are under water. Some of the deepest sections are about 4 inches deep. My feet are so wet it doesn’t really matter if I walk through them or not.

Snowbird Motel

I managed to get to the hotel at 1:00, which is when I told them I would arrive. My hands are so cold that I have to give the clerk my ID and have him fill out the form for me. When it comes time to sign the credit card receipt, it is so jagged it doesn’t even look like my signature.

The first thing I do is to head straight for the shower. I take my shoes and socks off and my long sleeve shirt, but just jump in the shower with everything else. Everything is so soaking wet it doesn’t really matter so I might as well rinse them out at the same time.

The hot shower never felt so good. Instead of washing dirt off, this is just to get my body temperature back up. I haven’t even bothered to get any dry clothes out of my backpack.

The next thing is to get the heat turned on which takes a while to figure out but eventually I get it working. Then I can finally get into some dry clothes.

After a quick 5-minute rest, it’s time to do chores. The first chores are to wash the filty things that need washing. In this case it’s mainly socks and gaiters. I washed them and set them out to dry. Then I set all the other wet clothes out to dry.

Then I need to get everything out of the backpack so I can hang the backpack upside down to dry. The dry bags work extremely well at keeping the clothes and sleeping bag dry. But the outside of the bags themselves are wet and need to be dried.

This room is going to start stinking in just a few minutes with all this nasty laundry lying around. But as long as I’m dry I don’t care what it smells like.

Later in the day it does stop raining. It is about 5:30 and I make my break for the Piggly Wiggly to go hit their deli. It is 3/4 of a mile so it is not a trivial walk.

When I get there, I am horrified to see that the deli has closed and is already cleaned up. The only thing in the deli are packs of cooked ribs and one sausage dog. I will have to go buy stuff from the Frozen aisle to cook in the room. This was not the Piggly Wiggly trip I have been dreaming about for days.

I also pick up some things for breakfast tomorrow, and enough walking snacks and lunches for the next two days. I made the mistake of not eating before grocery shopping and buy way too much food. I guess I will be feasting for dinner and breakfast. It’s good to be the King.

Emotion of the Day

I want to pick the word accomplishment.

Not that hiking in the rain is some major task to overcome. But I started out the morning knowing that it was going to be miserable. And all during the miserable hike I was in pretty good spirits.

After I ate lunch at the convenience store, I did get much colder than before. This is because the body sends blood to the stomach to process the food and you tend to get cold very quickly.

So the 30 minutes after leaving the store I was probably my coldest. The rain might not have been at its hardest but it definitely was far from its lightest.

Then even though I had a nice sidewalk to walk in, it had enormous amounts of water all over it. But it didn’t seem to bother me at all.

I was in the hiker zone. I was cold. I was wet. But I was not tired and I was not hungry. I was also in a somewhat upbeat mood.

The worst part was probably the cold. If I had a better solution to keeping my backpack dry, I probably should have worn my rain jacket. After all, that’s what a rain jacket is for – keeping you warm in the rain. It’s job is not actually to keep you dry. But that is a secondary function as part of its purpose to keep you warm.

I know it is going to rain like this for two days again at the end of next week. I will be better prepared for that rain.

So I guess I feel accomplishment because I was able to take really horrible hiking conditions and actually have a reasonably good time doing it. But tomorrow will be better when it is cool and no longer raining.

Day 44 Bring on the Rain

Hiking in the rain as a completely different sport. When it’s raining you tend to not want to stop. But you need to stop to rest and to eat food. I got very lucky today with timing my food stops with very brief periods where the rain let up and then immediately started pouring again.

Early Start to the Day

I was able to get out at 7:00 today. I am not likely to go past Camel Lake Campground. It is only 16 miles away. There is one more camp about 2 miles past that, but after that it’s a 10-mile road walking to Bristol which is too far.

It barely sprinkled last night off and on. I was expecting it to rain quite heavily. And in the morning I was relieved to see that the tent wasn’t very wet at all. I was careful about placing the edge of the tent lower so that no water could get inside.

Leaving the campsite started with a short road walk on a freshly paved road.

Wet Trails

The grass is wet with rain, so my shoes get wet pretty quickly. I am also still in Apalachicola National Forest, so every mile or so the trail gets very swampy and muddy.

There are a few sections every few miles where you do have to wade through ankle to calf deep water for a hundred yards or so. It is nothing like Bradwell Bay, but it is still a pain.

It is mostly raining very lightly, but as the afternoon approaches it starts to rain quite heavily. Before I left camp I made sure that my coffee was ready so that he didn’t have to stop and fix it. I was also fortunate that I stopped for an early lunch break at the Vilas Campground.

Because shortly after I left is when it started raining pretty hard. Hard enough you don’t dare stop.

I had plenty of snacks in my pockets because I knew I wasn’t going to want to stop very much. But as the afternoon approached I was getting tired and would have liked to stop just for 10 minutes to get off my feet.

A typical forest road roadwalk

Right around coffee time, the rain did let up so I took the opportunity to stop and have a quick snack and make coffee at the same time. I’m glad I did because it started raining pretty hard just a few minutes after I resumed hiking.

I was only a few miles from the campground and I knew that bathrooms and showers awaited me.

Camel Lake Campground

The campground itself is in a sandy pine area. I was happy to see this because it means there won’t be muddy trail or campsites. I got there about 3:30 so the camp hosts were busy checking people in.

They said they were full and could not accommodate walk-in hikers today. But at least I was able to get a shower.

I found out Jack and Mickey were already there and the camp host had offered them the primitive spot they reserved for the hikers. But Mickey said what they pointed to was a low point off to the side that looks like it would fill up with a water. And because it was still going to rain another day and a half there’s no way anyone in the right mind would want to camp in a depression.

They were hanging out under the picnic pavilion out by the lake and the swimming area. It was pretty large and had four picnic tables. It was a great place to wait out the rain.

This will be home for the evening.

They were planning on going a little further and stealth camping. But because the rain still wouldn’t let up and actually got harder, they decided they were just going to try and camp under the pavilion. And that sounded like a perfect plan to me, too.

Just before dark the camp host came over and let us know that it would be okay to hang out under there overnight. No one was going to be picnicking or swimming in the rain. And we were only 40 yards from a bathroom. Sounds like a perfect spot.

Even though the rain had never stopped, I set out a few things to try and dry. And to a my amazement, some of the things actually did dry pretty well.

That was good, because we were cowboy camping in our sleeping bags on the bare concrete. I could have put my tent over myself, but then my body vapor would condense on the inside of the tent.

I just hope the rain doesn’t get so bad or the wind so high that it starts blowing rain in on us while we’re trying to sleep. That would not make for very pleasant sleep.

Emotion of the Day

I think I need to pick exhaustion today.

I normally only get exhausted when it’s hot outside. And the rain today kept it very cool.

But because there were so few breaks in the rain, I was not able to stop and take even quick 5 minute breaks. If I had not timed my lunch and coffee stops perfectly, then I would not have been able to stop to do those things any other time.

And in the afternoon before getting to the campground, I was getting pretty tired. If I could have stopped for just 10 minutes that would have made all the difference in the world. But when it’s raining pretty heavily you don’t want to take your backpack off and you certainly don’t want to set it on the ground.

So you just keep hiking in the rain, and that is exhausting.

Day 43 Bradwell Bay

Wading through miles of water in Big Cypress was fun. Wading through miles of water in Bradwell Bay was not fun. I guess it’s only fun if you’re expecting it.

Early Start

I knew today would be a long day so I wanted to get an early start and get as far as I can towards Bristol. I was able to get rolling by 6:40 which is my earliest start so far.

It was still a little dark so I needed my head lamp. And even with the lamp I missed two turns in the darkness. The trail was weaving on and off forest roads and it was hard to see some of the places where it veered off a road.

Let’s Get Wet

Within the first 30 minutes I came to a water crossing that was far too wide to try and dance around. I know today will be full of water so I might as well just get it over with now. So I plunged straight through the water in my shoes and socks.

Insert foot, tab a, into water, slot b. No point in putting off the inevitable.

The water was cool, but it didn’t seem as cool as the water in the Everglades. It was more tannic but it was still clear.

I don’t think I went more than 10 or 15 minutes all morning without getting wet walking straight through water. I was impressed how quickly the water would slosh out of these shoes but everything was still wet of course.

Since there was plenty of dry land between the wet spots it wasn’t challenging like the Everglades. There were plenty of places to stop whenever I needed to.

Eventually the trail came to the Sopchoppy River. It was a lot like the Suwannee but quite a bit smaller. It’s another black water river with high bluffs and trails zigging up and down ravines.

Bradwell Bay

Everyone seems to know about Bradwell Bay, but I didn’t really know what it was all about. We have to be 70 mi from the gulf so why is it called a bay? I was about to find out.

Instead of just swampy mud holes to walk through like the morning hiking, This was bonafide wading through water. Lots of water.

This is a tramway in Bradwell Bay. Normally a tramway is raised far above the surrounding swamp, but not this one.

I was unprepared for how long some of these wades were. I think the first one was over a mile and a half. And I was only going one mile an hour.

It was just as challenging as the Everglades. There was soft mud and varying depth of the water. The water might come up to your knee. Or your foot might sink all the way to your knee in the mud and the water come up to your waist. One step could be firm and the next one foot of mud.

I was never in danger of losing a shoe, but there are many steps that took 10 or 12 seconds to get my foot free from the mud.

There were brief sections of dry trail in between the long stretches of wading. Just in that main section of Bradwell Bay, there must have been four or five miles total for walking through the muddy water like this.

And one thing that made it more difficult than the Everglades, was that there was debris everywhere. Hurricane Michael destroyed the West Coast of Florida a few years ago. And you can still see the effects on the trail here.

I know there is a trail in here, somewhere.

It seemed like they were almost as many trees laying on their sides as standing upright. You could also see where they rerouted the trail around large downed trees to avoid having to cut and move them. Those blazers would be bright orange and fresh.

But they didn’t bother painting over the old blazers which were more faded. And with all the debris I was getting lost quite frequently. But sometimes I would be on the old trail and not the new one. After three or four times getting fooled by these older blazes, I just started ignoring the faded ones and only looking for fresh ones.

After the first water crossing was over, I stopped to eat lunch and rest my feet. All of the dead skin from prior blisters wiped cleanly off my feet. And there was a lot of stand inside my socks just like in the Everglades.

I have no idea how much more water was ahead so when I stopped to eat was actually a perfect stopping point. It gave me the energy I needed to continue through the other miles afterwards.

Road Walking

The rest of the afternoon was a combination of walking on muddy trails and road walking. The muddy trails were more like the morning. There would be stretches of mud 20 yards or maybe a hundred yards long. But then there would be a few tenths of a mile of dry trail until the next mud pile.

The road walks were a combination dirt roads and paved roads. They were all forest roads and had very little traffic on them. But it still sucks to be on a road walk with soaking wet feet. I do not want to develop a new crop of blisters.

Rain in the Forecast

I think my schedule is one day off. I started walking through the water today. But tonight it is supposed to start raining for two days. It would have been nicer to start the water walking when the rain started. That way it wouldn’t matter how wet my feet got.

Tomorrow should be much dryer trail but will probably have some muddy spots. But I do not expect to have to walk through standing water.

The day after will be a road walk into Bristol. There is only one small hotel there. Subway will be the only restaurant open. But there are several options for resupply and groceries.

I doubt the hotel has laundry, but at least they have showers. And I should be passing a campground tomorrow that has showers if I think I need one before then. I think it will all depend on how hard it is raining. If it’s raining hard enough I will be getting an automatic shower.

Look closely for the mantis sitting on the sign.

Today was the longest day of the trail yet. It went from dark to almost dark and was probably over 30 miles. I am still 40 mi from Bristol which should be easy to do in 2 days.

I was getting worried in Bradwell Bay that I was going too slow and might actually be in the situation where I could run out of food before getting to Bristol. The road walking helped to counteract the slower miles with some fast ones.

I am camped at a campground which is high up on a hill. It is Sandy pine scrub habitat. If it is going to rain cats and dogs tonight, then this is a good place to be. But so far tonight it has only been sprinkling lightly. But the night is young.

Emotion of the Day

It is a negative emotion today, but I’m not sure which one.

I knew from other hikers that Bradwell Bay was going to be wet. But I had no idea it was going to be a swamp crossing.

What is weird is that I had no idea when it started and when it would end. In Big Cypress it was very clear each section that was water and each section that was land. Here it was just a long red line on the map with no markers to tell you beginning of swamp end of swamp.

I wasn’t upset about plunging into the water so early in the morning. And I wasn’t upset about having a really long hiking day almost 12 hours long. That was my choice to hike so long.

I think the feeling that sticks with me the most is the helpless feeling while in the middle of the swamp. I had no idea if it would end after the next tree. Or if I would still be walking in water past dark.

So I guess helpless is the emotion I need to pick for today. It is the only day of the hike so far that I have felt this way. And I hope that it is the last.

Day 42 Leaving St Marks

It’s going to be hard to leave the bed and breakfast and the town of Saint Marks. And that’s because the B&B does not serve breakfast and the only place that does doesn’t open till 9:00. So I literally cannot leave until after 9:00 and that will be hard.

A Good Night of Sleep

It’s hard to beat a big old four poster bed with cushy pillows and a fluffy comforter. I woke up at my usual time, so I made a cup of decaf coffee and had some fruit and a fig bar.

I spent most of the morning just looking at the maps and figuring out what lies ahead for the next miles or so. The next point of interest is the town of Bristol, which has one hotel and probably no laundry. They have a grocery store and only one restaurant will be open over the weekend when I will be there.

But between here and Bristol is a hundred miles of Apalachicola National Forest and Bradwell Bay. Both of these places are well known as the muddiest and wettest sections of trail outside the Everglades. Today will probably be my last day of dry feet for the next few days.

I also took a look at the weather forecast. It will be sunny and dry for the next two days and then overcast and raining for the two following days. So my last two days of the wettest section and doing a 10-mile road walk into Bristol I will be soaking wet. Fun fun.

At a little after 8:00, I am packed and ready to go. I haul everything downstairs and decide to spend one last session in the massage chair. This thing is amazing. It’s a chair that actually causes physical pain.

The wonderful massage chair of pain.

The torture session ends right at 8:30 so it is time to head out. The coffee shop is a mile and a half away and it will take me exactly 30 minutes to get there.

Coffee Time

I have already had two decaf coffees which does have some caffeine. What I want to get at the coffee shop is a decaf Americano but they have no decaf beans. It looks like I will be upping my dose of caffeine today.

I order a bagel sandwich and avocado toast to go with it. I have never had avocado toast before but it is awesomely delicious. It is now permanently on my rotation of breakfast foods.

Jack and Mickey were already at the coffee shop when I arrived. We sat together and talked for 30 or 40 minutes while we ate breakfast.

I didn’t leave the coffee shop until 9:45. This is a super late start for me. But I know the trail starts out on the St Mark’s bike path and will be a combination of trails, roads, and bike path for most of the day.

A Day of Alternate Trails

The trails today will go in and out of sections that are known to be swampy. There is also one section with a missing bridge and supposedly has signs posting a reroute.

Leaving the town of St Marks.

But this section has many high water alternates too. So wherever there is an alternate I just automatically take it. This does add more road walking, but the roads are not too busy and the road walks are not too long. I think the longest one was about four miles.

I noticed that the end of this particular alternate takes me very close to a barbecue restaurant just barely off the path. By my calculations I should arrive there about 5:00 p.m. and that sounds perfect to a hungry hiker.

Throughout the day I cross paths with Jack and Mickey and tell them about my plan. They like the plan too. And much to my surprise the roadwalks were probably shorter than I thought they were going to be, because we arrived there at about 4:00. That may sound early for dinner but it’s not too early for hiker dinner.

The name of the restaurant is Hamaknockers BBQ and if you are ever in the town of Medart, Florida, you must stop by this place. I have had a lot of barbecue in my days, and this is some of the best. I will definitely be saving this in Google maps.

Hamaknockers BBQ in Medart.

Find a Campsite

When we leave the restaurant, I realize that the restaurant is on the same road that we left St Marks from. If we were so inclined, we could have stayed on the bike path the entire day and gone straight to the restaurant and probably gotten here a few hours earlier. That would have bypassed 15 miles of trail, though.

Once back on the trail, the map indicates there are many road crossings and the pictures show dry sand and pine trees. But interspersed with the road symbols are marsh symbols showing boardwalks over water.

The distance between the symbols is very short so it looks like I should not have too much trouble finding a campsite whenever I want to. Since I don’t need to cook dinner, I plan on hiking until 6:00 or possibly even later.

As 5:30 rolls around I come to the end of the map section and have to switch maps. This is a huge milestone as this is the second to last map for the entire trip. It’s a bit like finishing another state on the Appalachian Trail.

As I go to the new map section and jump out a mile or two to see where I should be at around 6:00, I notice that there is an official campsite. I guess there is no more guesswork. If I’m going to hit a campsite right about 6:00, then that’s where I should go.

A little bit of road walking today.

I do get to the Bent Sapling Campsite at about 5 minutes before 6:00. It is a section of pine trees with a few palmettos, but more important to me there are a few oak trees. I always prefer oak trees because they provide better protection from the dew.

These are not big ones, but the space underneath them is ample for my tent. I am here for the night.

Emotion of the Day

I think I will just pick a simple upbeat as my emotion for today.

It wasn’t super great because I had to wait so long to leave town. But the B&B was nice and breakfast was nice and dinner was super nice.

Some of the trail was on bike paths, which I love to hike on. Some of it was on forest roads, which I also love to hike on. Some of it was on a road walks, but it was not a bad road.

And anywhere there was water, there were logs or boardwalks to cross the water on.

So even with the late start, the alternate trails, and the road walks, I still went further today than I expected to. And to be on the next map is also a little boost to the spirits.

It was nice crossing paths with Jack and Mickey a few times during the day and sharing dinner with them. I am camped at a dry campsite with oak leaves above me. And the forecast for tomorrow is no rain.

So other than knowing I am dealing with mud and water tomorrow, today has been an easy day.

How could I not feel upbeat on a day like today?

Day 41 The Town of St Marks

Crossing the St Marks River today was phenomenal. I paddle boarded across it. I am still 100% human powdered on this hike so far.

Another Sunrise

Being out in an open estuary has the advantage of giving you both sunsets and sunrises equally. This morning was another nearly cloudless day and an awesome sunrise.

Sunrise looks just as good as the sunset.

I was out of camp by 7:00 a.m. which was my goal. Jack and Mickey left only 5 minutes before I did. But they are far faster hikers than I am so I didn’t see them for at least an hour.

I was stopping every 5 minutes after leaving camp just to spin around and take the views in. Sunrises and sunsets change very quickly. Every time I would stop to look at it it would look different each time.

The trail all morning was still on levees above the estuary. There was a section torn up by hogs but other than that it is very easy hiking. And the grass was low enough that my feet did not get wet with dew.

Easy hiking this morning.

Shortly after crossing Lighthouse Road the trail goes into a wooded area again. It is still on a double track Forest Road so it is still easy hiking. And it is straight as an ERA with not a single curve for at least three or four miles.

Once I know I am halfway to the river and can accurately predict when I will get there, I go ahead and text laughing bear that I should hit the river at 10:30. The only stop I need to make this morning is to make coffee around 9:00. I know there is a campsite I will hit about 9:30 so I will just go ahead and go there to make it.

When I get to the campsite there are two hikers there packing up and getting ready to leave. One of them has very bad shin splints and they are going very slowly for the last week or two, possibly even longer.

We talk about trail conditions while I make my coffee and drink it down. They are basically doing less than 10 miles a day going from campsite to campsite.

Their major concern going this slow is running out of water and possibly food. This stretch of trail has no natural water sources since it is two brackish from the Gulf of Mexico water to be able to drink. They are headed to the visitor center to top up with water before moving to the campsite that I just left this morning.

Let’s Hit the River

I am still a mile and a half from the river so I need to get going quickly. I see that the trail leaving the campsite goes through a creek that looks too wide to jump across so I decide to take the alternate trail that goes towards Port Leon since it is on the roadway.

When I get halfway through the alternate I notice that it says I need to cross a creek. Then I noticed the big lake that feeds that Creek and now have figured out why the official Trail does a weird reroute around this corner.

Easy hiking today, indeed.

At this point I think that I may have made a mistake taking the alternate trail. I may have traded a small puddle for a giant river. It is too late now I am committed to this path.

As I get closer to the crossing, I can see that it is a very large lake and the chasm ahead looks like a major river. This could get ugly.

But when I actually get there I am relieved to see that it is low tide and the entire riverbed shows exposed rock that I can easily hop across. As long as none of them move or wiggle too bad it should be a super easy crossing. The only hard part is the bank on each side is very very steep.

but I am easily able to manage getting down across and back up without getting wet or muddy. If it had been high tide the creek would have been 4 ft deep. I dodged a bullet with this one.

The other bullet that I dodged is that if I had planned on swimming across the river at low tide the river flow would be at its fastest. So what is good for crossing this Little River would have been really bad for crossing the big one. God is on my side with this one.

I can tell I’m getting close to the river when I start to hear boat traffic. I pop out at the river at 11:24 with 6 minutes to spare and laughing bear is already standing on the shore with his paddle board and kayak. Today is going perfectly.

I get my shoes off and tie them to my pack. I then take out all my electronics and put them in a ziplock and bury them deep in the pack. But I take the waterproof camera and rig it to the pack so that it can record the entire crossing.

Getting ready to paddle across the St Marks River.

The width of the river looks much narrower than I remembered it from being here last year. I do feel confident that even if I did try to swim the river as initially planned it would still be an easy swim even with a low tide current.

But I am relieved to have a paddle board instead. I get the pack loaded up and strapped down and then hop on the board itself.

I have never done stand-up paddle board but it looks pretty easy. It is a pretty stable and wide platform.

I push off the shore and start paddling across the river and the only difficulty I have is keeping it straight. The wind is quite strong so I can’t paddle straight across I need to go at an angle. I’m keeping the angle consistent is harder than it looks.

Instead of trying to do a j stroke like I would in a canoe I just keep alternating the paddle on each side as needed to go in a zig-zaggy course in the direction I need to head to.

The crossing takes less than 2 minutes, and I had a total blast doing it. I help Laughing Bear load the boats into his van and within minutes he is headed back home to South Carolina.

Looking back at the east side of the river.

I am now in the bustling metropolis of downtown St Marks, Florida. It will take at least 3 minutes to hike all the way across the entire downtown section. In other words, it is very small.

In Town at Last

I head up to the main intersection of town and see that Jack and Mickey are there talking to Wingman. Wingman is a trail angel that lives near St Mark’s who I had met yesterday morning while walking to JR’s convenience store.

It is only 11:00 and we are not likely to be able to check in to the bed and breakfast until 2:00 p.m. or possibly later. I am unsure if the laundromat is open or closed. Nothing in the hiking app says it’s closed but it is no longer on Google maps.

wingman drives me down to the laundromat so we can check to see if it is still open. When we get there we can see that it is closed. They have signs on the window saying they are closed because of excessive vandalism. So no laundry today.

on the way back he stops by the post office so that I can pick up my box. The Post Office closes at 1:00 p.m. and it is already noon. I can see my box on a stack of three right by the counter so it is an easy pickup. In fact all of the PO pickups on this trip have been very easy.

The postmaster wants to chat and I can tell we could probably talk for hours but I have wingman waiting in his truck outside.

Jack and Mickey head out with wingman to go by their resupply for the next section. I have enough between what I still have and what’s in the box to last me to the next convenience store. So I head down to the water to go have lunch at the restaurant.

A blackened grouper sandwich and coleslaw is what I order. And they have Apalachicola brewery beers so I have one of those too. It is very peaceful sitting at the dock watching the birds and the boats go by.

Seafood tastes better when you can smell the ocean.

After I finish my sandwich, I’m actually still hungry so I decided to order some chicken wings as well. The other crew comes in about the time I’m ordering my chicken wings so I go over to sit with them when I am finished.

It is a nice sunny day but with the breeze it’s a little chilly. I had to put my long sleeve shirt back on.

We go back out to the grassy area to kill more time until our rooms are ready. It doesn’t take long before we both get texts that our rooms are ready. A shower at last.

Bed and Breakfast

We get there and check in and get our keys and the owner informs this that he has to fix a plumbing problem in one of the rooms so the water will be off for the next hour. Okay, so the shower will have to wait. Bummer.

The B&B is really nice. The rooms are nice and they have a huge common area that has every snack you could think of and so many drinks that I’ve never even seen some of them before. You could practically eat a whole meal here. So I find it odd that this B&B doesn’t actually serve breakfast. They have a mountain of snacks instead.

They also have a massage chair. I normally don’t like massage chairs because they are usually just a mediocre vibrating machine. But I go ahead and check this one out anyway. And oh my God is it amazing. It is such a good massage chair that it actually causes significant pain. I need to find out who makes this chair.

At 4pm the water is finally on. Hallelujah. Shower time. Have I mentioned before how amazing showers are?

The rest of the afternoon is chores until 6:30 when it’s time to head back to the restaurant for dinner. Jack and Mickey join me and we have a nice evening talking about hiking.

They were hiking southbound on the AT in 2020 when I was hiking northbound. Mickey looks so familiar to me that I am certain we actually met on that trail two plus years ago. We are not really sure if it actually happened, but something in the back of my mind is absolutely positive.

We are all three planning on going to the coffee shop up the road that opens at 9am. That is likely the last time I will see them since they hike so much faster than me.

Emotion of the Day

I think it is excitement for today.

Even before getting out of the tent, I was excited to see an awesome sunrise. I knew the first half of the morning was going to be out in the open estuaries and I was excited about that too.

And not just crossing the St Mark’s River, but being able to paddle across it I have been looking forward to all morning long.

Checking in to the B&B and being able to take a shower had me excited all day long. It was a bummer to have to wait 3 hours to check in and another 2 hours to shower, but it got done.

Yes, today was an exciting day.

Day 40 Aucilla to St Marks Refuge

Today was a phenomenal day.

Aucilla was nice, but St Marks is nicer. It has been an odd but pleasant day today.

The Disappearing Aucilla River

The huge live oak limbs that I camped under last night kept my tent protected from dew. Only the very outer edge had any condensation probably all from my breath escaping out the bug netting edges.

I did not get up super early, since the store I will hit today is only a few hours away. I roll out just after 7 and there is plenty of light.

The first ten minutes of hiking I am always stiff and my Achilles tendons are sore. But after ten minutes of hobbling, they are warmed up and ready to go.

This entire area has many sink holes. Most of them have water in them, but some are dry. The Aucilla river eventually dead ends into one of them. And when a river dead ends into one, it means it is going underground.

There are sink holes all over this place.

The trail this morning follows the pattern of sink holes and the river disappears, then reappears elsewhere. Some of them are just a window to the river below, but some have visible flow in them proving it is part of the river system.

Back to Road Walking

Eventually the trail turns into another forest road. There are quarry ponds that begin to show up, then an actual quarry, then houses.

After a few miles we come to another highway. This is US 98 and does not have much automobile traffic on it, but it has a tremendous amount of truck and dump truck traffic on it. This is because there is another active quarry on this road and trucks are constantly pulling in or out of the quarry entrance.

One of the quarry ponds.

The shoulder is nice in some places and steep in others. With all the truck traffic, there is not much walking on the road.

I have to walk on this road for two segments. The first is about 2 miles to get to the convenience store, and the second is about 3 miles to get to St Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

JR’s Aucilla River Store

The miles go by quickly when you have food on your mind. I get there about 9:45 and they are supposedly open for breakfast still, but no one is in the kitchen. The lunch menu starts at 11, so I will wait for that. As long as I leave by noon, I will have plenty of time to get to my campsite before dark.

At the convenience store at last.

So back in the store, I buy mostly beverages and a can of spaghetti and meatballs. It is nice that they have a pull top can now. I just grabbed my spoon and ate it cold.

I decide to wait things out in the kitchen area since it is warmer in there and I can charge my phone. It is cold enough that I need to wear my jacket.

When 11 rolls by, there is still no one in the kitchen so I go back in the store and ask about the kitchen. The cashier has to manage both, so he goes out to round up his son to open the kitchen.

Thirty minutes later, I am eating a cheeseburger and fries. Yum. I grab an ice cream sandwich to go, and I am out of there at 11:45. I should have plenty of time.

The hike out of the store seems to have even more traffic than earlier in the day. I guess people are awake now.

St Marks National Wildlife Refuge

The road walk on the highway ends with another forest road walk onto the Refuge. There are many swampy areas that are hard to walk around, and my shoes get a little damp.

If this entire refuge is like this, then I might not make the campsite before dark.

After a mile or so of mud, a sign appears saying the next 1.8 miles are primitive trail. Oh great, it gets worse?

Does this mean the trail gets even worse?

Luckily, after just a quarter mile of ungroomed trail, it goes up onto an elevated levee or tramway. The hiking gets much easier and it is basically like walking on forest roads again.

The dense woods begin to thin, and the canals aside the levee begin to widen. I begin seeing animals off in the distance. First a raccoon, then later a wild pig. I don’t think either of them knew I was even there.

The forest is beginning to thin.

Plans for Tomorrow

Just about two miles from the campsite, the woods finally give way to grass estuaries and miles of nothing but grass. It is awesome.

Now it is starting to look like St Marks.

I come across a biker who stops and asks if I am a thru hiker. I tell him I am.

It turns out he thru hiked it last year and is back this year making up sections he missed or were closed. I tell him about my plan to swim the river tomorrow and he tells me he has a better idea.

He has a kayak and a paddle board, and will meet me at the river crossing tomorrow and let me paddle board across. I like that idea better since it will not matter if the water is cold or if the tide is low. And I won’t have to waterproof my pack.

It will simplify so many things and still be more fun than calling or flagging down a boat.

We exchanged numbers and will plan to be at the river between 10:30 and 11:00. Now I don’t need to worry about the post office closing at 1pm, either.

Camping by the Grasslands

The campsite for the night is a paddlers campsite. The dike goes out on a loop away from the main dike and has flat spots and shade trees. I set up the tent quickly because the no-see-ums are pretty bad. It is only 5:30 and they will only get worse.

Camp is set before the sun sets.

As soon as the tent is up, I cook dinner and let it sit to rehydrate. I go to the water and see how salty it is. I guess it’s about half the salt content or normal ocean water. It is good enough to wash my feet with, but not the face. I use fresh water for that.

The sun is beginning to set, so I set up both cameras on time lapse mode to grab video of the sunset. Between the two, one of them should come out ok.

A perfect sunset.

Just as I get them set up, two more hikers roll in. It is the couple I met just before Oviedo several hundred miles ago. They ran into Chuckles yesterday, so he should be close behind. I suspect I will see him in town tomorrow.

I could sleep here for a thousand years.

Emotion of the Day

It needs a few words, but relaxed happiness is what I will choose today.

I got a late start this morning, listened to some music, had a nice hike along the Aucilla river and sinks.

The road walk was not bad because it was cut in half by the store.

I was at the store for two hours, but was able to fully charge my phone while waiting. Other than being a little bored and wondering if they were even open today, it was relaxed.

When the trail got muddy, I began to get worried, but it quickly turned into a very nice trail again.

Hatching a plan for crossing the river tomorrow morning has put me at ease now.

And an awesome sunset to top it all off with.

Yep, today was a picture perfect hiking day. Let’s hope tomorrow is a picture perfect afternoon in town.

Day 39 Aucilla River

The 40 mile road walk is done. The 30 mile one outside of Cocoa was worse, but that doesn’t mean that this one was good. All the churches and less traffic definitely made a huge difference.

Out Before Light

Since I never officially got permission to camp at the church last night, I was eager to get going before it got light. I just stuck to my normal routine and was out by 6:45. 

And let me say that the new air mattress is just what the doctor ordered. The only problem I had last night is I kept having to let more air out to get it comfortable. I have been so used to over inflating it and then letting it become comfortable that it took some getting used to. But once it was set, it stayed perfect all night long.

But I did have one small panic moment. As I was setting things up I found something poking my leg. What I discovered was a sandspur that had made it onto my leggings.

And when I found it, I was laying on the air mattress so I had a huge panic attack that I had already punctured my brand new air mattress with a sandspur. Luckily, I already had the sleeping bag on top of the air mattress so it had protected the air mattress from another puncture.

Since there was no traffic, I didn’t even bother to use my headlamp when starting on the road that early. The road was paved now and had houses about every quarter mile. 

All sorts of animals at this house.

There is another church about 8 miles away and I thought about doing the turn counting game. But honestly, once you get past three you start to lose count so I didn’t bother with it.

After only a few miles the road turned to dirt again and was now in-between hunting leases that were all planted pines. No Trespassing signs were all along this section which ended up being a good four or five miles.

Dirt road walking is at least not stressful.

But later it turned to a paved road again with more houses just before we turned onto a different county road. And I encountered the strangest thing I’ve ever seen while hiking. Someone had a Pepsi machine in their front yard.

And by Pepsi machine in the front yard I don’t mean that they had one on their porch or up by their house. I mean that they had a Pepsi machine outside of their fence with electricity and fully functional. Yes, they installed a Pepsi machine specifically for hikers.

I was about to make coffee, but I think a Pepsi will make a decent substitute. So I buy one and drink it down and throw the can in their recycling bin.

No Coke, Pepsi. A Pepsi machine along the side of the road.

Should I go to Church?

When I got to the next church, it was 10:15. There were only seven cars there, and they had already started Sunday school. The regular service would start at 11:00 and probably not end until well after 12:00.

Even though I got an early start today, I don’t know if I can afford a 2-hour delay. My campsite is 25 and a half miles away today. There’s very little chance that I would be able to make it before dark.

I don’t even need water at this point, so I decide just to roll on past without resting or getting water. I will probably stop in about 45 minutes to eat first lunch.

Sunday school is in session.

I find a nice grassy spot in the sun about 30 minutes up the road so I decided to stop there to eat. Instead of getting out my thin pad I have been just sitting on my rain jacket lately. Much faster, much easier, and less chance of bringing prickly things in the tent with me to ruin my brand new air mattress.

I will be hitting a store tomorrow for lunch and I still have tons of food, so I eat a pretty sizable lunch. I go ahead and make coffee for the afternoon. I mixed a Trader Joe’s coffee cream and sugar with a Cafe Bustello espresso. I will drink half of it this afternoon and save half of it for the morning.

Aucilla Wildlife Management Area

The road walk is not over yet, but I begin seeing the familiar state management signs on one side of the road. This means I can legally dive into the woods to go to the bathroom. Things like that are important to hikers.

It takes several more miles before we actually turn off the public road onto a management area road and I am officially no longer road walking. I need to use finger quotes around officially because I am indeed still walking on a road, just not a public one.

The area has been clear cut, so it is pretty sunny and hot, too. In another mile and a half the trail actually enters the woods again.

It may look like a boring trail, but it is Nirvana after 40 miles of roads.

Before long, I catch sight of the Aucilla river. It looks like all the other blackwater rivers I have seen so far. The only one that was different was the Suwannee and that was just because of its massive size.

The trail begins to feel a lot like hiking along the Suwannee, but the ups and downs are not as steep or as high. It still does slow me down a little bit. On the roads I do about 3 miles an hour. On these trails I do about two and a half miles an hour.

The Aucilla River looks like any other blackwater river in Florida.

I did not anticipate the slowdown in pace, but I should have expected it. I am still about 7 miles away from where I intend to camp, so it will add 30 or 40 minutes to the trip. I am no longer second guessing my decision to skip church.


I still haven’t seen any more northbound hikers. This is not surprising, since we would all be going the same direction at roughly the same pace.

But I did end up seeing two south bounders today. One was in the morning between the two churches. We stopped and talked for 5 or 10 minutes about trail conditions ahead for each other. Apparently the Apalachicola Forest is a huge watery mess. Yay fun.

The second hiker was a girl who was on the phone when I passed her, so I got barely more than a hay and not even a slow down in pace. I guess she has important things to take care of.

On the dirt road section between the two churches, I had someone stop and ask if I needed a ride. On a road walk this happens almost every day. Very few people even know that they are driving on a hiking trail, but they know a boring road when they see one.

Later on when I was going to see one of the rapids on the Aucilla River, There are three guys splashing around in the water there. They knew about the trail and figured that I was hiking it. They asked a lot of questions about hiking the trail itself and my motivation for doing so. I gave him the standard spiel.

The last one was a set of three Jeeps where the trail crossed a Jeep Road. They also knew about the Florida Trail and asked if I needed some water. I was nearly at my campsite so I declined but without having actually tasted the water from the river yet I probably should have accepted their offer. Luckily the water from the river actually tastes pretty good.

I was able to make my campsite at 5:30 which is exactly when I wanted to get there. I like to get everything done while it is still light and then roll inside the tent and finish up doing things I don’t need light for.

Dinner was a sweet pork and rice peak refuel dinner that I added some butter to, a packet of tuna in oil, a few dehydrated mango slices, and two coconut macaroons. That’s a pretty good dinner.

Emotion of the Day

I think today’s emotion is just being at ease.

I knew the road walk would be ending today. I knew that with the other church and the river coming up that water would not be a problem today. I knew that it was going to start out cool and be overcast much of the day, so I knew weather was not going to be a problem today.

I knew that getting an early start would give me plenty of time to make my intended campsite today. And by skipping church, I was able to take several 20 minute rest breaks throughout the day. And because I was on lightly trafficked roads or in the woods, that was very easy to do whenever I wanted to.

Just knowing that I didn’t have to deal with buzzing cars for a while put me at ease. And knowing that I will hit a convenience store tomorrow with plenty of food in my food bag put me at ease. Knowing that I have a reservation at a bed and breakfast two nights from now in a town with a laundromat and two restaurants put me at ease.

Tomorrow should not be a difficult day and the day after should be even easier than that. Knowing that the next two days should have no painful sections puts me at ease.

Well, except for crossing the Saint Marks River. As long as I can get the marina to pick me up or wave a boat down to cross the river, then I know the bed and breakfast is only two blocks away.

Two blocks and one river away.

Day 38 The Church Walk

I am now in the middle of a 40 mile road walk. The only way to make it work is to walk from church to church along the road. They are spread out every 8 to 10 miles. I stopped at one last night and I stopped at one again tonight.

Let’s Get Going

I wanted to make sure I was back on the trail by 8:00 so we got up at 5:00 with the intention of leaving by 6:30. Having real coffee and a real breakfast really does make a difference. And we were able to get out by 6:35.

There are still a few food items that I need so we will have to make a stop on the way. I remembered a really nice fairly new truck stop called Busy Bee near Live Oak. I need a specific kind of Smart Water bottle to replace my coffee bottle and this place is likely to have it.

I topped off my snacks and get a new bottle but it’s not exactly the one I wanted but it will do. Buying water in bottles may be wasteful but it’s handy when you need a new bottle quickly.

We got to the dropoff site a little later than I wanted but I was still on the road before 8:30.

The first 3 miles is just hiking back to the interstate where we just came from. This should take only an hour. There is not much traffic so the hiking is pretty easy. It is cold so I have to wear my long shirt and gloves.

The first stop at the interstate is Ragan’s Family Campground. I stop at the RV park right at the interstate not realizing it is not the place I’m looking for. But I am able to get some water and use their bathroom.

The campground I’m looking for is actually a mile and a half further down Old St Augustine Road. And when I get there it is very nice.

Ragans Family Campground was quite nice.

I go to the campground store and buy a few walking snacks. It would not be a great place to try and resupply but they do have snacks to go.

Walking by Pastures

The first road is by cattle and horse country. There is a huge field planted with winter rye. But the cows and horses are not allowed in that field or they would eat every blade.

There are many houses along this road but it is still rural country. The road eventually turns to dirt and then gives way to timber and planted pines.

There is plenty of shade and it is easy walking. But with the temperature still on the slide cool side the shade isn’t really needed. I am still wearing my gloves but I have stripped down to just a short sleeve shirt by now.

The pines give way to live oak trees that tower over the road. It is very picturesque and reminds me of home. There are still cattle fields off in the distance.

Moo cows.

County Road 360

After 5 or 6 miles the road turns onto county Road 360 which is a paved road with a fair amount of traffic. The shoulder is not terrific but luckily the traffic is only a car about every 5 minutes.

I think I will be on this road for 14 or 15 miles. And every four or five miles the road changes character. At one point it merges with county Road 14 and becomes much busier.

But a few miles later it splits away from 14 again and becomes almost deserted but it is still paved. At this point I am only seeing a car about every 15 minutes.

It is still rural country with farms and timber on both sides of the road. The shoulder is still narrow but I’m on the roadway most of the time anyway.

I get to New Home Baptist Church at about 2:00. There are a few people there so I asked where I can get some water. This church allows camping out back but it is way too early to stop.

My destination for the evening is Sirmons Baptist Church, which is another nine miles away. By the time I have a little snack and start moving again I should be able to get there by 5:30.

A cemetary along the way.

Church Bound

After my Starbucks doubleshot at 2:30, the afternoon is going swiftly. I do stop a few times to grab some snacks but just for a few minutes each.

Before I left the previous Baptist Church, I counted the number of turns in the road on the way to the new one. I counted 15 on the map. I decided instead of trying to calculate miles or look at the time I will just count turns and know that when I get to 15 I should be there.

The plan actually worked even though five turns in doesn’t mean you’re a third of the way there. It kept me mentally entertained and made the afternoon go by faster.

I get to the church right on time at about 5:35. No one lives at the parsonage and there is a number for a deacon that you call to get permission. I called but there was no answer.

So I Scout around the back of the church and it looks like there’s a decent spot between two utility buildings. I will get a lot of dew tonight but at least I will be hidden from the road and the neighbors and the street lights.

And let me tell you there are a lot of neighbors. People just hanging out in their trucks listening to music and kids running around screaming like kids do. And people arguing.

I don’t like camping out here without explicit permission, but I don’t have much choice as there is no public property for the next 10 miles. This is home for the night.

I go ahead and do various chores like cooking and eating while it is still daylight but I won’t set up the tent until after dark. And it is already getting cold so it is going to be a chilly night tonight.

Emotion of the Day

I think confidence is a good word for today.

I wanted to get an earlier start because I had a very long day today. But because I was refreshed and rested from taking yesterday off I knew that I should be able to do it without stopping too much.

And since it was all walking on roads it should go quite quickly, which it does.

I could have stopped at the church before and had an easier day, but that would make my plans to get to St Mark’s harder.

I had to submit my permit to St Marks before leaving and they want to know specific dates and specific campsites where you will be camping. If I had not gone all the way to this particular Church I would have had a very difficult time making my intended campsites.

Knowing that I can bust out 24 miles with a shortened hiking day just gives me more confidence that I can do these kind of days whenever needed. And I am sure more will be needed.

Day 37 A Zero Day At Home

Most people think a zero-day means taking a day off and watching TV. And sometimes it can mean that. But in my case, it means catching up on five blog posts, washing and drying all my gear, planning the upcoming road walk, and getting permits submitted for the St Marks National Wildlife refuge (now that I know the dates).

There is also a box to pack for St Marks and mail today so that it arrives there before I do, going to REI to get some more free dried dinners and check out the shoe selection (very dangerous). I also have to pack my food bag to walk out with tomorrow. So a stop at Walgreens and Trader Joe’s is required, too.

There are people to visit while I am here, a quick work meeting to attend, and some maintenance around the house. I need to do a quick repair on my shoes, too. With only 300 miles on these shoes and 400 to go, it seems a waste to try to replace them now, but they do need a little shoe goo love in a few places.

With it raining here, too, I can’t clean my pack or tent, because they would not have time to dry.

It is far from a day of relaxing around the house.

I won’t pick an emotion today, but I definitely felt rushed all day long.