This should have been an easy day. And it was. But now I have more chores to do. I broke my umbrella.

Uber Loves Me

There is a coffee shop two blocks down the road that I wanted to try this morning. I had an Americano, two fried eggs, rye toast, and the first grits I’ve had in the last 2 years.

I have no way of weighing the pack, but I am guessing it weighed about 15 lb. I wish it could be this light all the time. But I always seem to fill it up with too much food, too much water, and too many cameras.

I called for an Uber and it said he was only 4 minutes away. 8 minutes later I see him drive right past the hotel and pull into the next one. The driver last night did the same thing. Maybe that’s a sign that I stayed at the wrong hotel.

It’s only a 10 minute ride out to the park where I was picked up last night, but road construction and traffic slowed us down a little bit. His English was not great, so there wasn’t much chit chat.

I wanted him to drop me off at the same picnic table where I was picked up yesterday, but he kept driving to the restroom areas. So technically I have now missed about a hundred feet of Trail. If the grass was not wet, I actually would have walked back to the picnic table just to pick up from the same spot. But I am not that much of a purist.

Get up to the Trail

They have been doing construction on the earthworks for the last five maybe even ten years. There are still no trespassing signs all over the place. But everyone in the app says that the workers say it’s fine.

I spot a worker at the top of the embankment just down from the park so I make a beeline straight for him so I can ask him for myself. He looked at me like I was an alien. He said the trail was open all the way to the Army Corps of Engineers headquarters which is where I am headed today.

I was exhilarated to be walking on a 12-ft wide paved path high above the lake and high above the highway. The wind was very strong and it was only about 8:30 in the morning so the sun was not yet hot. It was a magical morning.

The worker was driving a car the same direction I was, but I was moving twice as fast as he was. Within 30 minutes, I couldn’t even see him anymore.

I have been eagerly awaiting being able to get some drone footage along the lake. But just as I got far enough ahead of the worker, another crop duster showed up and started dusting a field right across the highway.

His turnaround maneuvers were right over my head. He was probably only 200 yards above me. I could see he was wearing a t-shirt and sunglasses.

The aeronautical engineer in me was excited to see his high G maneuvers and how the plane seemed to just squish through the air. The direction a plane is pointing isn’t always the direction it’s actually moving. And I could observe this as he was flying with his wings almost completely vertical over my head. He must get tired of doing that all day long.

I had to hike at least 2 miles before I was out of range of the plane. I then set up the drone to go through the sequence of maneuvers similar to the ones I have done in previous days.

It is much windier today than previous days, but the drone has no problem keeping a steady position. This truly is an amazing drone for so little money.

I begin to wonder about the nomenclature for the earthworks I am walking on. It is not a dike because there are not differing water levels on each side. I don’t think it’s a levee, because I don’t think it’s purpose is to prevent flooding of the city of Clewiston.

The level of lake Okeechobee does go up and down as they divert water into or out of it. So I am thinking technically it’s an earthen dam. But without knowing it’s true purpose, I will still just call it an embankment. Did I just put you to sleep?

The Miles Roll by

With so little weight on my back I am walking at least 3 miles an hour. My feet don’t hurt, my back doesn’t ache, and I am barely sweating because of the strong breeze. I still need the umbrella because the sun is still quite hot.

I come to the campsite that I was considering stopping at last night. It did indeed take me a full hour and a half even at my brisk pace. It would have been 7:45 or later if I had tried this last night.

I stopped at the picnic table to have a snack and check out the campsite. It is fairly level but does have a gentle slope towards the water. The shoreline has rocks piled against it which makes collecting water easy. I am assuming the other campsites around the lake will be nearly identical to this one.

After I leave the campsite, I have only five more miles back to town. The sun is getting even hotter so I have to be careful with orienting the umbrella to block it fully. The breeze is still keeping me cool but I can feel a little sunburned on the back of my arms.

About halfway back to town disaster strikes. I hear a loud crack and then the umbrella flops around my face like an octopus trying to eat me. Crap I have broken my umbrella.

The umbrella is a very important piece of gear. It not only serves as rain protection along with a jacket. But it is my primary means of sun protection. All of the sunscreens that I could find were large 8 oz bottles. Why don’t they sell it in one ounce bottles.

Without complete body coverings and sunscreen the umbrella is my primary sun protection. I inspect the umbrella and one of the main ribs has snapped in half. Luckily it is broken in the middle of the rib and not at the joint. It is possibly repairable.

I have two or three miles left to go on my walk back to town so I begin thinking of all the different ways I could repair the umbrella. Coat hanger is the first thing I think of. But a coat hanger will bend too easily. I have some tent pigs that are 90° bends of aluminum. They may be too big to securely hold the thin ribs of the umbrella.

But I also have the thin shepherds hook stakes which are about the same diameter as the ribs of the umbrella. Maybe one of those with some KT tape will be strong enough. Then I begin thinking is KT tape even strong enough. I miss not having gorilla tape with me on this trip.

On the way back I am looking for new places to eat breakfast. It is 1 mi from where the trail goes back to the lake to my hotel. I will probably just walk this again tomorrow instead of taking an Uber a whopping one mile. It might be nice to stop and eat along the way.

I don’t really find anything appealing but I do stop off again at the same Cuban restaurant I had dinner at yesterday. I grabbed a cuban and maduros to go. And I cannot resist getting a Cafe Con leche.

MacGyver Gets to Work

Once I get back to the hotel, priority One is another shower. I am hot and stinky.

After that, priority two is repairing the umbrella. I try the angled steak and it is indeed way too big to be effective. I start pulling off pieces of KT tape and taping up one of the stakes to the broken section. I just open and close it a few times and it looks like it is going to last quite a long time. I am relieved.

The umbrella is repaired with tape and a tent stake, of which now I am missing two of.

Now that I have figured out that the umbrella is serviceable but probably not as durable, I contact the manufacturer to see about repairs or replacement parts. It is the same manufacturer as my pack which has the broken sternum strap. So I might as well inquire about both pieces at the same time.

I need to know how long the lead time is to figure out where I would be as a mailing address for replacements. If it is just a few days I could get it as soon as River Ranch Resort. If it is longer than a week then I will have to wait till the Ocala National Forest unless I want to make another post office stop not on my schedule.

After several emails back and forth with the manufacturer, we find out what parts I need and they tell me the lead time is at least seven business days. Boo. It will be several weeks to my next box pickup location after River Ranch Resort. Let’s hope the tape holds.

More Chores

I still have to mail excess gear back to Karen, so I need to make another trip to the Walmart area where the post office is. I take inventory of my food and also make a shopping list for Walmart.

I am probably mailing back close to 1 lb of gear, so I am looking forward to a slightly lighter pack although not as light as today. At the Walmart I find all kinds of interesting things I’ve never had before, so I probably buy too much food.

But one thing I am excited about is finding a single stick of butter. It is Kerrygold garlic and Chive. The only problem is my peanut butter jar is now my cold soak jar. And I have several things that I have just bought that need to cold soak.

I go back to the peanut butter aisle to look for the smallest peanut butter I can find. What I end up finding is cinnamon toast spread. It is a 6 oz jar instead of an 8 oz jar so that is a win. But I am paying $3 for a product that I will immediately scoop out and throw away just to get the jar. Hiker problems.

Back at the hotel there are still more chores. I still have to do laundry. The machines have digital readouts to the remaining time so it makes it easy to run back and forth across the street and know exactly when my laundry will be finished.

But I have several blog posts I still need to write. And I still want to try to process some of the video I have been taking to post during the trip.

I end up wasting an hour trying to get the 360° videos to transfer. But it is such a pain that I just give up. I only managed to get two 5 second clips of some of the water video of the Everglades. That will have to do. The big videos will have to wait until after the trip.

KFC earns my business as the dining establishment for dinner tonight. A chicken pot pie and coleslaw is all I need tonight. I still have half the Cuban from lunch.

I am too tired too pack up the backpack tonight. I have everything thrown on the bed and the dresser. I will pack up in the morning and figure out where I’m going to eat breakfast. I don’t need to leave at sunrise, but I also don’t want to leave when it’s already getting hot.

Emotion of the Day

Disbelief has to be the word for today. After a record setting day yesterday losing things on the trail, I end up breaking one of the most important pieces of gear that I have. The only thing worse would be to have catastrophically broken the pack itself.

I tried alternate methods of sun protection on the last few miles back this morning. The handkerchief under the hat works fine for the neck. The buff around the arm did not work very well. So I really need the umbrella.

I have used umbrellas like this one thousands of miles on the AT and the PCT without a single failure. This new umbrella is the one I selected because it is an ounce later than the others. I guess an ounce lighter also means an ounce weaker.

I miss my old beat up umbrella. I still have a hard time believing that a 20 mile an hour wind is enough to completely snap an umbrella. The PCT was way worse.