At home, laundry day is never my favorite day. On the trail laundry day is always my favorite day. Especially when it’s shower and laundry day.

Early Start on the Prairie

I began my morning routine at 5:30. These days it means take my morning meds and listen to music for 30 minutes.

As I started rummaging around in my food bag to start eating breakfast at around 6:00, I could see weird shadows on my tent wall. It took me awhile to figure out shadows weren’t coming from my headlight. They were coming from another hiker outside walking by and looking at my tent.

Of course my mind begins racing who could that possibly be. Most of the people I have so far don’t seem like early risers. I know for sure Max isn’t. But I met somebody two days ago that it could possibly be. Or it could be somebody from the bubble who was really fast and passing me while I’m cozy in my tent.

And by cozy, I mean freezing cold and shivering. I know it didn’t get down to freezing last night, but it sure did get cold. I am guessing in the mid-30s.

I am up and hiking just before 7:00 a.m. and the sun has not risen yet. It’s nowhere near dark enough for a headlamp so maybe I can start out a little earlier tomorrow. I might shoot for 6:45.

I love to start hiking when it’s questionable whether or not you need a headlamp. And if I need one for the first 10 minutes or so then that is usually about the perfect time for me to start.

Early morning hiking is the best.

I am about halfway around the prairie, so I have several more arms of lakes to hike around. The trail is mostly sandy and the grass is either short or far between. This means that my shoes are staying dry this morning which is a plus.

I remember from previous hikes, that at the other end of the prairie the trail turns straight up hill and goes into the woods. I know once I am in the woods I will be away from the grass.

When I get to that point where the trail turns into the woods, I see two people rummaging through a bear canister. I am guessing they are overnight hikers and it seems early for most overnight hikers to be awake.

As I start up the trail into the woods, I can see many tents and I assume this is where they slept last night. On the other side of the trail is about 8 or 10 bear canisters. I have never seen that many bear canisters before.

Sand and Scrub

Most of the morning is hiking through scrub oak. The terrain is very hilly here you might even say that this is the mountain region of Florida. Or at least of the peninsula. The hills around Tallahassee put these to shame.

But these hills are steep enough and big enough that they do actually cause me to breathe harder going uphill. And going downhill as gentle enough it just ends up being really fast walking. It’s not like going downhill in the mountains where you’re struggling to keep from going too fast.

The 88 Store

The highlight of the day has to be hitting the 88 store. It is about 12 miles from where I camped, so I am expecting to hit it sometime between 11:00 and 11:30.

This is where my next resupply box is waiting for me. This is also where laundry in the shower should be waiting for me as well. And if I am lucky maybe there is some hot food.

Just past the 88 store is where the east and west corridors meet. I took the east route by Orlando as opposed to the west route by Dunnellon.

About a mile before I get to the store, I can see another hiker about a quarter mile in front of me through the thin trees. We are in long leaf pine country and you can see quite a long distance through the woods. My suspicions are that this is the hiker that passed me this morning.

When I get to the store the other hiker is there. It is the hiker that I met at Farles prairie two nights ago. Apparently he has kept about a half a mile behind me the last two nights in a row.

But he is section hiking and will finish his section today at Rodman dam 12 miles ahead. He got an early start because he wants to make sure he gets to his truck which is parked at the dam before dark.

He stays for about 30 minutes before he leaves. But before leaving I find out that he works at Saint Mark’s Wildlife Refuge, where I will be in probably two weeks. Maybe our paths will cross again.

My first order of business is a shower so that I can get off all my stinky clothes. The next order of business is laundry because that is going to take the most amount of time. Once those two things are done, then it’s starting to charge electronics and drying out the tent.

They do not have hot food but they have microwavable food. A frozen burrito and a half a gallon of chocolate milk will have to do. I will probably grab something else before I leave as a walking snack.

While I am doing laundry, another two hikers come up. It is a grandfather in grandson from up north who are section hiking. They are eager to do the Big Cypress section, so I tell them all about it.

Between all the chores, the stop at the 88 store ends up taking close to 3 hours. That’s not too bad considering all the things that I got done. One of which was unpacking my resupply box into my bear bag. My pack is now heavy and full again.

Pushing Towards Rodman

It is after 2:00 by the time I can leave the store and it is 12 miles to Rodman dam. There is a locked gate just past the damn where you have to cross during business hours. It makes no sense to try and push to get to the dam today because I may get to the lock to early in the morning to be able to cross.

So for tonight I will just take a pleasant walk through the long leaf pines and see if I can get within four miles or so of the dam. And that is almost exactly where I end up at about 6:00 p.m. with plenty of sun to set up the tent and cook dinner.

Pleasant walking through the pines.

This is one of my favorite parts of the Ocala National Forest because of the sparse pine trees. There is usually just grass in the undergrowth but sometimes it’s small oak trees or palmettos. Most of the time in Florida the vegetation is so thick you can’t see more than 50 yards. And sometimes far less than that. Prairies and ponds and lakes are usually the only time you can see long distances. But in these in pine Forests, It actually doesn’t feel like Florida.

Emotion of the Day

I think refreshed is the best word to describe today.

I put on clean clothes this morning since I knew I would be able to do laundry today. Just being able to put on clean clothes is very refreshing. The fourth day of putting on the same sweaty clothes is just the opposite.

Getting a shower and being able to do laundry is obviously also refreshing. As is being able to buy anything you want from a decent size store with various food and drink items.

Just knowing that I hit another milestone to be able to pick up another resupply box is also refreshing. I knew I would make it before lunch so there was no rush this morning.

There is also no need to schedule any special destination for tonight. Just being able to walk as short as far as you want to is very refreshing.

Sometimes your resupply boxes will all have the same items in them. When that happens by the third or fourth box of the same things you are sick of whatever is in them. This box had artichokes and dates which I haven’t had on the trail yet. It is refreshing to have new items to be able to eat over the next few days, especially when they are items that I can’t purchase at a gas station.

I will wait until tomorrow before I try and figure out my timing to my next resupply. For the rest of the day I’m just going to relish my new refreshed mood.