Goodbye old friend. Until we meet again.
More Canal Walks
I was able to get up and get moving by 6:45 in the morning. It was kind of warm and humid last night so I’m not cold at all while while walking. The pines continue for several more miles.
As I approach Lake Delancey, the terrain changes back to scrub oak. This area looks less familiar to me as it’s been 30 years since I hiked at this part.
But as soon as I come out to Rodman dam, it all looks familiar again. The lake that is formed by the dam is quite large and impressive. You can still see remnants of trees from the forest when they flooded the river to create the lake.
The trail goes over the earthen dam along the road about a mile long. At the spillway, there are many people fishing. And they are pulling fish in at a pretty fast rate.
My goal is to stop here to refill water from the restrooms. 30 years ago I’m not sure if they had water at the restrooms or not, but I do remember running out of water when I reached the dam. This time there is plenty of water.
From this point on, it is about 3 mi to Buckman lock. The trail is atop the levies that straddle the canal.
This is part of the Florida Greenway. It is a failed project of it intended to build a canal all the way across the state. It was probably obsolete before they even started. But now it is a state park 1 mile wide and the width of the state.
From 30 years ago, I remembered these levees being barren and without trees. That could be my memory playing tricks on me. But now it is heavily wooded and quite scenic. It is a very pleasant walk.
Crossing Buckman Lock
There is a small county park just before you get to the lock. I came to the park at 11:00, so I decided to stop and make use of the picnic tables to make lunch. They also had a portable toilet which was nice.
The lock has a gate which you need to get a combination to open. The lock keeper is there from 6:30 in the morning till 3:00 in the afternoon. If you try and cross anytime outside those hours you need to combination and you’re on your own.
When I got to the gate there was a sign instructing me to go 600 feet down the fence line so I did so. When I got to the end of the fence you had to jump a fence to get to the gate.
When I got there and tried to combination, it didn’t work. I tried calling the FTA office but you can’t get ahold of a human unless you know the exact human you want to talk to. So I called the lock tender.
It was evident after 30 seconds talking with the lock tender that I was at the wrong gate. I was supposed to go through the gate where the sign was before going along the fence, not afterwards. So I walked back up to the first gate.
When I got there, the lock and chain was on so tight I couldn’t pull the lock through to my side to work the combination. After 5 minutes of struggling with it the lock tender came over because he was only 100 yards away.
Apparently the previous hiker had latched it so tight that it would be impossible for anyone to get through day or night. I am thankful that the lock tender was there to be able to open it from the other side. And even he had troubles.
What should have taken me 2 minutes to cross the lock took over a half an hour. Joy.
After crossing the lock, It is a short road walk up the lock road to begin the backcountry road walks. The next 10 miles or so will be on small double track service roads. This is actually some of my favorite hiking.
This area also looks very different to me from 30 years ago. When forests are actively logged, they completely change character in just 10 years, much less 30.
There is a big storm rolling in today. It is supposed to start raining at about 7:00 p.m. and keep raining till about 2:00. The cold front behind it is supposed to make the temperatures drop pretty quickly too.
There is a shelter on a side trail about a mile from State Road 100 which goes to Palatka. My plan is to go to that shelter and see if it is a good place to weather out the storm or if I think I should try and hitch into Palatka.
The trail starts getting much swampier. But across the worst of it there is a giant boardwalk that must be over a quarter mile long, possibly longer. You can tell it has been here for a long time, but it is in pretty good shape.
There is one section that is out from a tree that has fallen over it, but you are able to walk on the tree to prevent you from having to walk through water. This whole area is about 6 to 10 inches deep of water.
When I get to the shelter, there is another hiker there. I have not met him before and I can’t remember his name. He is from Tampa and has been doing sections up and down the trail just for the fun of it. But he has to return to work soon, so he is making his way back south before he has to get off trail.
And looking at the shelter, it is one of the better shelters on the Florida Trail. It is screened in and has mats from a church pew for sleeping on.
But there are huge gaps all around the screens and I doubt it provides much mosquito protection. This whole area is very swampy and I am betting around 6:00 this place will be swarming. The gables are also very open and if there is any wind with the rain everyone will get soaked. So I decided to push on to palatka.
There is a trailhead about a half a mile from where the trail across is county Road 100 that leads into Palatka. It is 4 miles from that point to where to hotels are located at the edge of town.
When I get near the trailhead, I check for Uber service and it says that Uber is available in Palatka. So I go ahead and book a room at one of the hotels and then request an Uber ride.
The Uber request times out after 10 minutes so I try one more time. That request also times out. It is time to try and hitch.
I begin walking on the shoulder going with traffic which I never like to do. But if you are trying to hitch this is the way you have to do it. It is important that I reached town as soon as possible, because the rain should start within the next hour. And it will take me longer than an hour to walk the entire way.
Once it gets dark, it is clear that I am not going to get a hitch into town, so I decide to hop over to the rail trail that goes most of the way into town. After less than a mile on the rail trail the trail just ends abruptly into woods.
The woods are actually growing up from the abandoned rail bed which still has the ties and the rails.
I keep going on this for another 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile before it gets just too thick to navigate easily. I need to make my way back out to the highway again. But between the railroad bed and the highway is a ditch that must be crossed. I do my best to jump across it but I still end up getting pretty muddy.
Now I still have about 2 miles to walk on the road but I will do it facing traffic this time.
With about a mile to go, the rain begins. It is not very hard and it is not very windy, so my umbrella is effectively keeping both me and my pack dry.
When I get to the hotel it looks nice from the outside, but on the inside it looks pretty run down. They have four or five broken air conditioners just sitting in the room where they serve breakfast. This may be an interesting experience.
The room itself is not too bad. The shower curtain is barely hanging and the tile in the bathroom floor is all broken up. But there are two beds in it and they are clean and dry.
I run to the Mexican restaurant next door after taking a shower and have enchiladas. Nothing to write home about so I won’t.
I managed to get one blog post done before I am too tired to stay awake any longer. I will have to finish my posting chores in the morning.
Emotion of the Day
Oddly, I think the emotion is somber.
The national forest is familiar terrain to me. The hiking is pleasant and the scenery is nice. Even hiking the levee between the dam and the lock was way nicer than I expected, The hike on the double track roads was less than impressive.
Today also marks the last day I will be hiking north. Once I hit the rail trail on county Road 100, I will now be going west along the panhandle to Pensacola.
And even though I am not yet halfway through the trip in miles, it does seem like a halfway point turning west. But it doesn’t feel like I am anywhere near halfway done. In reality I am about 60 mi from the halfway point.
Finding that the shelter wasn’t as nice as I was expecting also put a somber mood on the evening. Not being able to Uber or hitch in to town also put a damper on my spirits. And then finding out that the hotel was in pretty bad shape just added to it.
But the internet uploaded speeds is fantastic. So that is a plus. I will spend a lot of time in the morning uploading posts and giving my feet a little rest. I will probably get a late start tomorrow.