I have been blessed with another opportunity for hiking, this time much closer to home on the Florida Trail. Join me as I hike from the everglades to just short of the Alabama border in the west panhandle of Florida.
This will be an 1100 mile journey, and I have a mere eight weeks to complete it. Florida, being flat, is normally not a problem to do this kind of daily mileage. But most hiking is done in the Summer or shoulder seasons where there is plenty of daylight. This hike will be in January and February where I will have several hours less daylight than I am accustomed to.
Although I love night hiking, I am not a fan of finding a campsite in the dark, so I do not plan on doing much hiking after sunset. I am not averse to night hiking in the morning, so I will probably get up before sunrise to begin the day. There is nothing better than be hiking for 20 or 30 minutes before the sun even makes its presence known. I want to be the first one to see sunrise, even at the expense of clearing every spider web with my face. Take one for the team.
I am unsure how many hikers I will see on this trip. I will be leaving a week before the official kick-off weekend, where a dozen or more FTA trail angels will shuttle hikers to Big Cypress from both coasts and have some informational seminars on what to expect and Leave no Trace (LNT) principles.
If I see one, or see a hundred, it makes no difference to me. In previous section hikes during the hiking season, I have tended to see only one thru hiker a day at most. many other hikers have already started from both ends. So I know I should at least see plenty of south-bounders for at least the first half of the trip as they finish their hikes.
I have section hiked maybe a quarter of the trial over the years. I have been an FTA member on and off since 1990. The only areas I have never ventured to are the southern 300 miles in the sugar cane fields and swamps of Big Cypress, and the center section of the panhandle near Eglin AFB. I am looking forward to new experiences.
One thing that will be different about this hike, is that I have decided to hike in “costume.” The trail name that I acquired on the AT in 2016 was Gilligan, from the 60’s TV show Gilligan’s Island. later that same year, it was transformed into Dirty Gil, as the desert of California is very dusty and a white shirt and cream pants get dirty very quickly. I have white pants and shite shorts, a red long sleeve shirt and a short sleeve one, and a white bucket hat. I have also shaved clean for the first time in 30+ years. Perhaps I should dye my hair brown, too? I am also bringing an orange hat and orange shirt, because I will still be in active hunting areas for the first few weeks. We shall see how long the coconut lasts… it’s heavy.
I have changed out much of my gear, too. I am going with a Gossamer Gear pack that is lighter than I am used to. I will be using my 40 degree down bag, but switching up the insulation layer to a super thin 1/8″ foam pad more for prickly protection, and a torso length inflatable pad. I have a back issue that requires me to elevate my lumbar when sleeping on the ground, and the torso length pad eliminates the need for that and actually improves my sleep significantly. The combo is lighter than my normal Z-lite or Ridge-rest setup. But the biggest change is I will not be using my hammock this year, I have opted for a Zpacks solo plex. It’s just soooo darned light and still has great rain and bug protection. I have only spent a few nights in it so far, but think I am going to love it.
I have selected five locations to mail myself packages of harder-to-find items, but will be buying most of my food along the trail. I prefer to buy locally as the palette changes over a period of weeks on the trail and you get sensitized to the flavors of some of your food items. I doubt I will ever be able to put a Clif bar in my mouth ever again. Tuna packed in oil? Still love it and will have a dozen in each box. Once I discovered (by accident) to eat it cold and not hot, I just cannot get enough tuna fish even to this day. I probably have enough mercury in my body by now to make a thermometer.
I am upping the camera game on this trip, too. I will be bringing the DJI Pocket Osmo again. It takes great video. But I am also considering bringing a drone. I know I cannot use it in the national lands, but there are hundreds and hundreds of miles of the trail where they are permitted. I have a tiny 450g drone that takes great video, but I am unsure if I want to lug the weight of the entire kit with batteries, controller, case, etc. It’s over 2 lbs, and that is a ton of weight for a hiker. I must make my final decision soon. I also have a 360 degree camera, but early tests show that the editing software on the phone is just too cumbersome to try to post anything on the trail. it is also nearly half a pound, so this one will stay on the gear shelf for this trip.
I will not bother with a complete gear list because up until the time I board the airplane, I probably will not know exactly what I want to take. On our 2016 Appalachian Trail hike, I had brought a small bluetooth keyboard to assist with blogging. But as we entered the train station in Washington DC, there was a USPS post office on the ground floor, and I mailed it back home before ever setting foot on the trail. I hope to not have any last minute moments like that any more.