The guidebook says that this section of trail looks just like the Appalachian Trail. That is probably an exaggeration, but there is quite a similarity of flora and terrain.
Rise and Shine
I know with the new time zone that I should just subtract an hour from the time I normally get up. But that just sounds way too early in the morning. I lounge around until I can see it’s starting to get light outside. Now it’s time to get moving.
Mickey was already up and making coffee. There are some interesting pumpkin biscuits in the refrigerator so Mickey and I each had one of those. There was also one piece of sugar free pie that had my name on it. A few triskits in the gullet and I am set to leave.
There was a pretty heavy frost on the ground. All of the door steps were very slippery with ice and melted ice.
I managed to make it out the door at 7:00 a.m. which is really 8:00 in the previous time zone. This is an hour later than I wanted, but I knew it would be really cold this morning.
More Road Walking
This section may begin to sound like a broken record. But it seems like there is road walking every single day now. I have 10 miles of road walking before I can hit actual trail.
The one pay off of the road walk is there as a dollar general just off trail. I am carrying two days of food, but it’s always more fun to get fresh food. I should be able to get there by 10:00 or so. It will make a nice early lunch stop.
Along the road there are many dogs. Dogs are not usually fond of strange people walking by their houses. But I think that they hate hikers more because they think we’re mutants with this big giant hump on our back.
The dogs are usually either chained or fenced. I think about four or five times so far there have been dogs that were not chained or fenced. So far I have been able to control them with voice commands.
But today I finally met the first dog that would not respond to voice commands. It was a pit bull and it got within six feet of me, which is too close for my comfort. All I could do is stand there and yell at it while it barked at me. Eventually I think it got bored and I was able to slip away.
The rest of the road walk was uneventful except for the Dollar General. I had a Santa Fe salad, a yogurt, a Green Machine, and a frappuccino for lunch. I only drink half the frappuccino and we’ll save the rest for tomorrow morning.
The Econfina River
The road walk eventually turned into dirt roads as it entered water management lands. The trail turned off onto an actual wooded trail away from the road. It was a long a small creek that was flowing pretty heavily.
I have been hearing mixed reports that this section of trail is either flooded or dry. It starts out dry but then a few muddy areas appear. It is easy to walk around the mud.
After about a mile, this creek merges into the Econfina river. It is a much smaller version of the Suwannee. This whole area has been devastated by hurricane Michael a few years ago. There are downed trees everywhere and almost clogging up the river itself.
Much of the woods away from the river is just dead pine trees. There is some undergrowth, but it is just weird not having tall pine trees to provide shade.
After a few miles it starts to get more hilly and the trail goes over exposed roots from the nearby trees. I also noticed that I’m starting to see both Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel which are trees you normally see on the Appalachian Trail. If there were taller pine trees providing shade this section would look a lot like the Appalachian Trail.
A few miles further the trail now starts to go along the edge of a bluff. Now there is not only Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron, but now the trail is on the side of an incline. Now this is really starting to feel like the Appalachian Trail.
Every few miles the trail changes its character. And about mile 8 it’s character changed to total destruction. There is hardly a tree standing and there is so much debris on the ground that it is very difficult to follow the trail.
There are blackberries and other prickly vines and bushes growing all over the trail. The combination of destruction everywhere and being scratched makes this area not much fun. I actually get lost a few times and have to backtrack or bushwack back to the direction of the trail.
After two miles of this unpleasant section of the trail it starts to get nice again. The hills return and now young pine trees begin to show up. Now it’s starting to turn into a fun trail again.
Finding a Campsite
The area where I wanted to stop is called Rattlesnake Lake Campground. You have to reserve it and it looks like it’s totally booked for every day for the next several months.
Comments in the guidebook app say that it is flooded. I am guessing that this means that the campsite is actually closed and not really booked. There is another campsite nearby that I will have to stop at instead.
I am still getting used to the new time, but I think I should have plenty of daylight to get to near where I want to camp. It is still an area of planted pines but there is a lot of thick undergrowth. The kind of prickly undergrowth that is not ideal for tenting.
None of the area around here seems flooded. And before long I’m actually within a few tenths of a mile of the actual campsite when I find a nice area off to the side that has lots of pine needles and very little of anything else. This will make a perfect campsite.
It seems odd going through the camping routine when I have been in either a motel or a hostel for the last two nights. But it is the same routine. Set up the tent. Cook the food. Configure the tent. Eat the food. Write the blog. Go to sleep.
Emotion of the Day
Other than the one dog that was troublesome, the rest of the day was pretty good, even the 10-mile road walk.
But I think the emotion for today is actually sadness.
It is mainly sadness at seeing all the destruction of this section of trail. I bet ten years ago this was one of the best sections of the trail. But right now it is just a massive area of chaos for much of it.
Having fresh food doesn’t trump the sadness. Seeing plants you normally only see on Appalachian Trail doesn’t trump the sadness. Finding an excellent stream to collect water that has absolutely no color in it cannot trump this sadness.
It was actually a really good day today. But I am sad that I could not see this section of trail back in its glory. Maybe in 10 years I can come back and it will be somewhat restored. Only that will break the sadness of today.