Today was a record-breaking day for me. Today I lost more items on trail than I ever have in my entire hiking career. Not exactly a champagne worthy event.
Resume the Canal Walk
My right shin was hurting last night as I tried to go to sleep, so I took a Motrin PM. I slept more soundly than all the previous nights so far on this trip. And my shin no longer hurts. I don’t want to take them too often, but when I need them they really do work for me.
The Motrin had me sleeping until 6:15 in the morning. I wanted to get an early start to give me the option of making it into Clewiston today. But a 7:00 a.m. start is not as early as I was hoping for.
Oddly enough, at 7:00 a.m. the mosquitoes were almost gone. I would have expected them to hang around much longer in the morning. The sun isn’t even up yet but it is bright enough to do anything you want to do without a flashlight.Since the official trail is on the grassy embankment and the dew is in full force at 7:00 a.m., I decide to jump down to the road. It will probably take two hours for the grass to dry.
I can see the footprints of another hiker in the sand. I can’t tell if they were made last night or this morning but they look quite fresh so I’m guessing this morning. Maybe the other hiker is close by.
Cattle and Sugarcane
Once the grass is dry enough, I hop back up onto the embankment and notice that the left side of the canal is all cattle and the right side of the canal is all sugarcane.
I can hear a crop duster approaching in the distance. This one is yellow and sprays a field on the left side of the canal.
But only 30 minutes later another white crop duster shows up and he is spraying a field on the right side. The wind is coming from the right side and I suddenly get a sinking feeling that he is about to spray me with some horrible chemical.
But he only makes two passes and the plane is flying towards me, so I’m sure he can see me with my shiny umbrella. After his two passes he leaves. I am wondering did he see me and decide maybe he better come back to this field later, or did he run out of juice?
My answer comes twenty minutes later when he shows up to resume the same field. But this time he starts from the other side. So both guesses are correct. The end result is I could never smell anything funny so I didn’t get doused with anything horrible.
But less than 30 minutes later I can see sugarcane operations up ahead. They are harvesting a field with about eight combines near me. But two Fields further they are burning the leaves off the sugar cane for harvesting in a few days.
Thick Black Smoke
There is a massive thick black cloud blowing right across the trail. It is 11:00 a.m. and I spot a single palm tree so I decide to take a little break and have a snack under the tree to wait the smoke out to see if it will thin.
It is nice and breezy, so I also decide to pull the tent out and dry it out. Since I had camped in grass last night, it was totally soaking inside and out. Now is a perfect time to let it dry.
I put the single pole up and rig only three lines facing into the wind so it acts like a giant pillow case filling up with air. It should dry in less than 5 minutes.
I turned to munching on some snacks which includes Tapatio ramen noodles. It says they are chicken flavor but I can’t really tell. It just tastes like hot Mexican flavor. I am almost done when I realized that adding some of my refried beans to it would have been a good idea to jazz it up. If I ever find this brand again I might try that.
About the time I finish eating and decide to pack up, I noticed that the tent is blowing funny. One of the stakes has come out of the ground. I go to look for it but it is not where I put it.
The wind must have pulled it up and slung it across the field. I only have one spare, but I really want to find this one. After 10 minutes of searching, I finally give up.
The smoke had started to thin but by the time I get packed up and ready to go, it looks like it’s thickened up a little bit more. This field is probably going to burn all day and I can’t wait all day. I decide to walk through it.
If the smoke gets too thick, I can always go on the far side next to the water and it should not be nearly as thick there. I put on my covid mask to see if it will help.
As I start walking through it, the sugar cane smells just like palmettos do when they burn. I can smell the smoke but I can’t really taste it through the mask, so I think the mask is doing a pretty good job. It’s not thick enough to make my eyes water either. Crisis averted.
Just as I am about to exit the smoke cloud I realize that I’m coming upon the campsite that I was supposed to stay at tonight. The canal here makes a 90° turn to the right which keeps it along the same field that they are burning. So I get to walk through the smoke again.
This time the smoke is much thicker and it does start to burn my eyes. My breathing is still not affected so I’m glad to have the mask. I exit more forcefully than inhale and that helps flush my eyes with smoke free breath . Masks are bad for wearing glasses, but good for eye flush.
It takes about 15 minutes to get through all the smoke and my eyes and nose are running by then. It was probably close to the limit of what is safe to actually hike through.
Today is still early, and I still have a lot of hiking to do. And they are nearly all along more canals. But as they progress the trail gets rougher and rougher to the point where I’m basically just walking through coarsely mowed grass and weeds.
These embankments don’t have a road option, so I have no choice but to stumble through the weed stubble. It slows me down and makes me step in funny ways. Maybe it will simulate mountains and spread some of the abuse over a more parts of my body and end up being a good thing
When it is time for second lunch, I find another palm tree. This one is pretty short and it feels like I have a little fort once I crawl under the fronds.
I take off my shoes like I did at the first stop just to make sure my feet can dry out a little bit. Letting your feet dry out a few times a day really makes a difference.
Water Jugs by the Side of the Road
There were two more water caches today. One was in the morning at about 10:00 a.m. and the last one is at about 3:00. The canals here are so polluted with agricultural runoff, that volunteers stage these water caches of 30 gallons of water about 15 miles apart.
I am carrying three liters with me when I fill up. I usually go through at least two between the cashes. They really do make a big difference, especially in the hot weather. Thank you volunteers.
As you pass by each cache, it is courtesy to count the number of gallons remaining and either notify the volunteers or post updates in the app. Or at least I hope they are reading the updates in the app, but maybe they are not.
I can see from previous posts that even with the few number of hikers going through right now, that a gallon a day is being consumed. Once the main bubble of hikers comes through, these cashes will empty fast.
It’s a Jungle Out There
As I am making my update as to the count of bottles, I read the previous commenter’s entry. He mentioned that the next five miles were in grass up to five feet tall and that the road on the other side of the canal would be an easier hike.
The dike looks freshly mowed like most of the previous ones, so I decide just to stay on the dike. About a mile along this canal I can see that a tractor is actively mowing.
Right about where he is mowing, there’s also a bridge over to the road. I think this means the report that the grass is 5 ft tall is probably accurate for the next 4 miles. I decided to hop over to the road.
The bridge wasn’t marked on the app. And neither are two railroad tracks and another bridge further down. Usually there are too many waypoints in the app for this trail, but in this case there are several important ones that are missing.
Having that info about the bridges to the other side would give people more information as to whether the embankment or the road was the best choice for each section. Regardless, I am on the road for the next 4 miles.
At the end of that section, the trail turns along another canal that is another embankment road canal combination. I am getting tired, so I decide to take the road because the embankment is just too rough on my feet.
Where to Camp
It is starting to get late and I need to decide how far I think I can go today. I am still several miles away from the park that is right at lake Okeechobee. I know I need to make it at least to that point because there are restrooms and water.
From the park it is nine more miles into Clewiston. There is one campsite about four and a half miles away. But but there is only about an hour of daylight left, so neither destination is solid option.
I conjure up a hairbrain idea that starts to gain traction in my head. If I go to the campsite and then walk into Clewiston tomorrow it will be too early to check into a motel. Clewiston is a fairly big town and I don’t relish the thought of walking around for several hours in sweaty clothes.
I decide the best option is to Uber from the park into Clewiston to a motel and stay there two nights instead of one. In the morning I can Uber back to the park and hike 9 miles back into town to a hotel that I have already checked into. This allows me to leave some of my heavier items behind.
This is called slack packing. I will be walking the exact route with my backpack, but with less of a burden. I should be able to do the nine miles in about three hours. This is beginning to sound like an awesome idea.
When I get to the park, I check to see if I can get an Uber ride and one acknowledges within seconds. The decision has been made. While the driver is arriving, I call one of the hotels to make sure they have availability and they do.
I only have eight minutes before the driver arrives, so there is no time to go to the bathroom to clean up. I take a sponge bath right there at the picnic table to wipe off the dirt and change into my sleeping clothes. They are still dirty but they don’t smell like a sewer.
The driver pulls up right as I am packing the last of the items. A quick ten minute ride and we were at the hotel. I check in and shower and decide that dinner is first on the agenda since it is after 6:00 p.m. now.
A Cuban restaurant is three blocks east of the hotel so I go there and have a big dinner that I can’t even finish. Chunks of chicken with beans and rice and maduros (ripe plantains).
I drop off my leftovers at the hotel and head five blocks to the west to go to Walmart.
Lost and Found
As it turns out, I lost a record-breaking three items today. The tent stake flew across the field at first lunch. Somewhere in the last 5 miles my Gilligan hat disappeared. And when I went to check into the hotel, I realized my reading glasses were gone.
But I did have a plus one for the day. During mid-morning I found a pair of sunglasses in the trail. I picked them up and meant to leave them at the park but forgot to leave them when the driver arrived since he got there so quickly. When I go back in the morning I will leave them there and then post in the app in the app where I left them.
I remember losing my sunglasses in the desert on the Pacific Crest Trail. They were prescription sunglasses and irreplaceable on the trail. I had been fortunate to find a pair on the ground while backtracking to go retrieve them, and ended up using that pair for the next 1500 miles.
The pair that I found today were not prescription, but they were nice enough that someone would want them back. I doubt the owner will ever get them back, but at least I tried.
I only lost two total items on the PCT. But on this trip I have already racked up five if you count the first pair of glasses that I broke. Maybe six I am beginning to lose count. But three in one day is a record I never want to break again.
The major task at the Walmart trip is going to be to buy some new reading glasses. But I also need to buy another short sleeve shirt and some new shorts. I was expecting colder weather and need one more shirt. And I should have known better than to think white shorts were a good idea. They look like they have seen more than a thousand Miles already and I’m only at Mile 90 something.
I also need to buy some tools to repair the threaded attachment I put on my tent pole to act like a selfie stick. Apparently the ground where I pitched the tent on last night was so hard that it shoved the threaded rod pretty far into the tent pole. Since the selfie stick is the only good way to use the 360° camera I would like to repair it if I can.
While I am there, I also see shoe adhesive that I have bought before and I know works well. I was looking for some alternate shoes to use as water shoes but didn’t find anything. So I will try and put some adhesive in the front toes that are falling apart to see if that will make them hold up a little bit better. I doubt it will but it’s worth a try.
After I get back from Walmart, I immediately start working on the tent pole.$1 tweezers are not doing the job at all. I don’t think the cuticle pushers are going to work either. So I’m down to the small needle nose pliers.
There is just enough thread showing that I can get the needle nose pliers on the stud and end up getting it out after a few minutes. I am able to get everything back in the proper place and am very relieved that the repair has worked.
I made a small piece of plexiglass to use to protect the thread for this exact reason, but I could not find it in the dark last night and was in such a rush to get away from the mosquitoes. Lesson learned: use the special base because I’m not carrying needle nose pliers with me for the rest of the trip.
Emotion of the day
I think today’s emotion has to be self-loathing.
How do you lose three items on the trail in one day? Not only do I no longer have the use of these items, but I have littered the trail with them.
The tent stake no one will find because it is so small. That one does not bother me other than I am missing a tent stake.
The glasses I’m not sure if I lost them on the trail or in the Uber trunk. So maybe I did not litter the trail with them. That would be good.
But the hat. A big giant floppy white hat that you keep attached right on your chest the entire time you hike. How do you not notice that falling? And it makes you wonder if the person behind me is brave enough to pick up a sweaty hat or not.
I need to be more careful so that I don’t become the actual person that I hate on the trail.
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