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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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