I mentioned in a previous post that I was bringing 10-year-old running shoes for the water. I was nervous that the adhesive would fail since the shoes would be wet for 4 days straight. The adhesive failed. In fact, a lot of things have failed.
Mr Mosquito Says Hello
I always bring earplugs when I’m hiking to drown out the sounds of nature. The sounds of nature are very welcome during the daytime but not at night when I am trying to sleep.
If you hear a mouse at night it sounds like it’s as big as a fox. And if you hear a raccoon at night it sounds as big as a bear. The slightest critter noise will keep me awake all night.
Tonight the earplugs were keeping the mosquitoes from sounding like a formation of bombers. When I woke in the morning there were about 200 swarming at the top of my tent. The few that rode on me when I got in the tent did not bother me too badly all night.
I purposely waited until sunrise before I started getting up just because I knew the blood suckers would eat me alive if I dared get out of the tent. So most of the morning activities were done inside the tent.
It was a very dewy morning and the inside of the tent had lots of condensation from my breath and the grasses all around the tent. So I had to be careful moving around because if I hit the wall of the tent I would get soaking wet. I only hit it a few times which was pretty good.
Cold Shoes, Cold Water
Putting on dirty clothes is not too bad unless it’s really cold outside. But putting on wet socks and shoes is never pleasant. I did not wear my gaiters yesterday and did not think about digging them out of my pack until everything was all tidy and ready to go.
The worst part about wading yesterday was all the sand the managed to get inside of my socks. I don’t mind saying between the socks and the shoes because that is inevitable. But sand inside your socks just balls up into big gobs of itchy goop. If not for the coolness of the water I would be concerned about getting blisters. I would try it again today without them and see if today was any different than yesterday.
Let’s Get Going
Because I was purposely going slower this morning I did not break camp and start hiking until about 10 minutes after 7:00. The temperature definitely was not what I would call cool but it wasn’t really hot yet. I was actually concerned about being too cold on this part of the trip. But it is the usual Florida problems too much heat and humidity.
It was a similar mix of wading, mud, and palmetto’s compared to yesterday. I guess this is what the Everglades is all about.
By 10:00 a.m. I hadn’t gone very far and I was already getting tired. The Sun was not up very high but I had to use my hat and sunglasses toward off the heat. I managed to find some bushes to hide behind in a dry spot to take a break. I ate the pastry that I picked up in Miami and it was fantastic. Someone needs to make freeze dried pastries.
I knew I would be hitting another campsite around 1:00 so that was my goal to stop for lunch. But at around noon I noticed my left shoe looked a little weird under the water. I stopped and pulled my foot out of the water and saw a massive twigs and weeds in the front of the toe area. The front sole of the shoe was coming unglued.
I am literally halfway between the only two roads that access the Everglades and my shoe is failing. Did I mention that I was worried about the adhesive failing on constantly wet shoes? Let me mention it again.
I cleared out the debris and took a closer look at the shoe. The sole had already delaminated about two and a half inches of the front of the shoe. This is not good.
I have an hour before finding a place that will be comfortable to try and repair the shoe. I try all sorts of different foot motions in the water to try and keep the sole from flapping down. Nothing is very effective and every five or ten minutes I have to stop to clear more debris.
For the next hour my mind is conjuring up all sorts of possible fixes. I have tape with me but tape is not effective on wet things. I have rope with me and can probably tie some crazy knot to keep the front of the shoe together. But then I finally realized that I purchased a new sewing repair kit a few weeks ago that is strong enough to fix shoes. I think I have needed some sort of sewing kit on every long distance hike I have ever done.
Gil the Cobbler
As soon as I get to the campsite I unload the pack and grab the water reservoir to go get some fresh water. As soon as I get back to the picnic bench I immediately take my shoes off and wash out my socks.
I had already stopped earlier this morning to rinse sand out of my socks and a mere 3 hours later they are just as full. I think I need to dig out the Dirty Girl gaiters and give them a try this afternoon.
After cooking a burrito that I could hardly choke down, I managed to find some other food items to snack on. Dried fruit is really hard to beat. Parmesan crackers are pretty top notch too.
After my feet have dried and I’ve eaten enough, it’s time to try to fix the shoes. The sewing kit has a really strong curved needle and I am surprised at the heft and strength of the thread that comes with it. It is definitely strong enough for shoes.
After threading about two feet of thread I tried jabbing the needle into the toe of the shoe. It is very difficult to do but I do manage to get it all the way inside the shoe. The idea is to curve over to the mesh of the shoe, then come outside and tie the tip of the shoe down with the cord.
It took about 15 minutes to make four ties of the toe to the shoe. After a quick inspection it looks like it might work quite well and last for the rest of the trip. Let’s hope it does.
Within the first 5 minutes after hiking away from the campsite it looks like my repair is working well. The toe is not moving and it is not catching any debris.
A few minutes later I can hear an engine approaching. It is very slow and low not like a boat or a motorcycle or an ATV. But it also doesn’t sound like a truck.
The trail crosses a buggy road and then I realized that’s what I’m hearing. I swamp buggy is headed my way. I think I will stand here and wait for it.
Within a minute the buggy approaches. It is sort of like a pontoon boat welded to the top of a truck chassis. They are sitting at least six feet off the ground and just mozzying down the road at about 5 miles an hour.
When they see I am taking pictures of them they stopped to chat. Apparently two of them have just flown in by private plane to a small airport perhaps a quarter mile away. They are having a boys weekend in the swamp.
They ask if I have seen any creatures and I tell them I have only seen one snake about an hour ago that I think was a timber rattler. It acted like a cotton mouth but it looked like a rattlesnake. It did not rattle but it had its mouth wide open. It was also in the water which is unusual for rattlesnake.
I realize I had taken a picture of it so I show it to them and they identify it as a juvenile cotton mouth not a rattlesnake. I have never seen one that color before.
They offer me a beer before they leave but I decline. I am still nursing a very small caffeine withdrawal headache which I am trying to fix with Chinese tea. Even though a beer would be very refreshing it would probably not help my headache.
The next official campsite is about 6 miles away maybe 7. It’s about all the miles I have left in me for today so I am hoping I can get to it at least an hour and before dark.
As the day wears on the terrain is a bit rough and I am not going as fast as I had hoped. When I stopped to check the map I see that they say the last 2 miles before the campsite are very wet and have zero dry ground. As long as I can get there by 3:30 I should have plenty of time to make the water crossing to the campsite.
But as the day wears on 3:30 comes and goes and I am not at the beginning of the water crossing yet. Now is where your mind starts playing tricks on you. You start playing what if scenarios in your head as to the latest possible time that you can start the crossing.
The couple who wrote the guide for this trail have a habit of warning people about ordinary things. Earlier in the day they noted a solution hole that was protected by an alligator and should be avoided. When I get there it is a whole only about 3 or 4 feet across way too small for any kind of an alligator of any consequence to still be there after 5 years.
The current water crossing ahead of me is no exception. They warn that you shouldn’t start unless you are positive that you have at least two hours to cross it before the sun starts going down. For me that limit would be about 4:00 p.m.
Since I am down to one headlamp it is warning I take more seriously than I normally would. But the last campsite before the water crossing is not very good and stopping for the day at 4:00 p.m. sounds like hours upon hours avoiding mosquitoes.
I get to the beginning of the water crossing at 4:03 so I decide to go for it. I had stopped about 10 minutes earlier to switch all of my water into the one bottle I drink out of while I hiked. I also ate a quick snack and put two other snacks in my belt pocket so that I could still drink and eat in the water.
With just the short break to switch around the supplies I have regained enough energy to start out at a really good pace. In addition to that the water is not very deep and doesn’t really slow me down much at all.
I keep an eye on the GPS and notice that only 45 minutes in I am already halfway across. Piece of cake. The only problem is the northern mile is definitely deeper and slower than this other mile so my pace does low do around 1 mi an hour.
As long as I can keep up one mile an hour and don’t have any situations to slow me down I should be able to make it before dark. I am also looking at the treetops trying to identify the species I know are on dry land in case it gets too dark too fast and I have to bush whack to an unknown island camp.
Camp at Last
Luckily I make the campsite well before 6:00 p.m. I go back to the Cypress swamps to collect water first. I have a lot of things to wash and I am now completely out of water. So water is my number one priority.
After that is done, I immediately set up the tent because the mosquitoes are already circling me but not biting too bad yet. The next priority is food so I begin cooking dinner and grab a few snacks while the water is boiling. Just as soon as the water is ready I pour it into the dehydrated dinner and zip it up to rehydrate.
Next comes unpacking. Everything not involved with washing my feet or eating my dinner goes in the tent. Mosquitoes are starting to bite now.
The last thing to do is wash my socks out to remove all the sand and then wash and dry my feet. When I get the socks off I am relieved to see that the gaiters have done a fantastic job of keeping the sand out of my socks. There is still the same amount on the outside of the socks but less than 5% inside the socks as compared to yesterday and this morning.
I deem Dirty Girl gaiters to be effective. I am glad I brought them but I wish I had used them since the first day.
The second to the last thing to go in the tent is me, and the very last thing is my food. I will eat inside the tent to be safe from the mosquitoes. I do not have the sleeping pad or sleeping bag rolled out yet so spilling food would not be a disaster. You don’t normally want to eat inside your tent and you surely don’t want to spill food inside your tent but at least Dyneema is very easy to clean.
The last thing to do is to change into dry clothes and get the sleeping bag set up. I notice that on this tiny little 1/8-in thick foam pad that I am not very uncomfortable. I could possibly use this as my only pad.
I am also glad that I only have a torso length inflatable pad so it does not take so many breaths to inflate. I also only inflate it about halfway so that it just gives me enough support under my back but doesn’t feel like I’m on a water bed.
Once I get it inflated, I realize that it is way more comfortable than just the thin pad alone. It is only a few ounces so I am glad to have it. Without it I would have to be shoving things under the small of my back to prevent back issues while sleeping on firm ground.
Emotion of the Day
The strongest word for today has to be Relief. Once I realized my left shoe was failing and that it was failing because of my own stupidity, I was feeling dread and guilt at that time.
But after seeing the repair was working well and likely to last a very long time I was definitely relieved. After inspecting it again tonight I really do think it is going to last. But I am noticing the other shoe is starting to delaminate in exactly the same place. Though it is only at the very beginning stages.
I have only seven more miles to cross I-75 and that is supposed to be the end of the wading. As long as the other shoe can last seven more miles shouldn’t need to have to stop and repair it. And my feeling lucky? Maybe that can be tomorrow’s emotion.