Below Freezing on the Florida Trail
ECT Day 285&286
Day 285: 30 miles
This morning I woke up around 5am but rolled over and went back to bed. Then around 6am I finally started to move around and pack up. There were loads of dogs barking in the distance. The sun was about to come out and the hunters were getting ready.
I got packed up which was much easier having a picnic table. My socks and shoes were still soaking wet from yesterday. Then we hung around the campground for a little bit before we got walking. We followed a road out of the campground and then got back on trail. It wasn’t long before we were hiking through freezing cold ankle-deep water. What a way to start the day.
It was still early so the sun hadn’t really come out. The sun was up, but it was really cold out still. All of the water that we had to walk through was frigid. Over night temperatures have been pretty low lately. So the water was extra cold first thing in the morning.
It was a rough first couple of hours of the day slogging through water. One section in particular wound up being thigh high. I almost got my short shorts wet. Sadly, I didn’t take my ace bandage off, so that got soaked. Most of the trail was ankle deep or a little higher. But we did get a couple of those deeper sections.
Just after 10am we came past the Osceola Shelter. It was a really big raised covered building. The walls were enclosed but it was way bigger than most shelters. It would have been a great place to spend the night, especially if it was raining. We decided to stop off there and take a break. I didn’t even bother taking my shoes off. I knew that my feet were just going to get wet again. It didn’t want to deal with the brutality of putting them back on again afterwards.
I made a couple of sandwiches while we sat there. I’ve been pleased with my decision to pack out rotisserie chicken, pepper jack cheese, rolls, and hidden valley secret sauce. After hanging at the shelter for a while, we got moving again. Apparently, we’re going to go past a gas station today! It’s just off the trail. I hadn’t realized that we would be going by anything today. That’s a fun surprise! I always love a cold drink or a little treat.
Leaving that next break, the trail was still pretty rough. But eventually we were walking on back roads more so than trail. It was completely dry which was awesome. The sun is out so at least now my feet can begin to dry. We’re only about 6-7 miles away from the gas station. In that time my shoes will likely dry out.
We continued along dirt roads for a while in the woods. Then eventually popped out onto a paved road to continue along to the gas station. We were in the small town of Olustee, which had a Chevron and a place called Rogers sandwiches. I got some drinks and some of those Belvita breakfast bars. I’ve been obsessed with those lately.
Then we went next door to Rogers Sandwiches to have a look. I wasn’t anticipating real food so this was exciting. We headed inside and I ordered a cheeseburger and fries. They had that good crumbled up ice for soda. Inside was a sitting area which was perfect. We sat and ate and enjoyed a nice break before continuing along. The food hit the spot! And I drank way too much coke.
After that we headed out and continued along the road. We were on and off of dirt road for most of the remainder of the day. A little while after our restaurant stop we took a quick break in the woods. It was nice to sit and stretch there. Then we pushed on for the remainder of the day.
Around 5pm we passed a pretty decent designated camp site. But it was far too early in our minds to stop. If you only hike when the sun is out, then you aren’t getting very many miles in this time of year. Luckily for the rest of the evening we were going between the trail and intersecting dirt roads. We managed to keep our feet dry. That was definitely a struggle sometimes. Because of all of the rain we just got some areas are quite flooded. My feet were almost dry from this morning, so I was determined to keep it that way.
Because of the trail being wet we were having trouble finding a place to set up camp. We would follow along the trail for 30 feet and then it would connect right back to a road. Options were pretty limited. At this point it was almost 8pm so we decided to make something work. There was a pull off alongside the road which seemed safe from traffic. We decided to call it a night there.
In the last couple of hours, the temperature had dropped drastically. Setting up camp I could see my breath. My hands were fumbling around to get everything situated in the cold. Eventually I finished up and got into my tent and sleeping bag. It took a while to warm up though. And it wound up being an incredibly cold night. I didn’t get fully comfortable until the early morning when it began to warm up a bit.
Day 286: 25 miles
This morning I began to pack up around 6:30am when the sun was coming up. It was so unbelievably cold last night! In the hours of the early morning the temperature clearly dropped even more too. I woke up and could feel the shift. So I got a bit more bundled up for those last hours.
When I packed up my tent the tip of it was frosted solid. Luckily though my water filter hadn’t frozen. Because I forgot to sleep with that last night. We got packed up and then headed out. There were only about 7-8 miles to go until we would arrive in Lake Butler, FL.
The morning started off following along dirt roads. Then after a little while we briefly were on a trail again. That would short lived, though. Those final 5-6 miles into Lake Butler were all along the road. I didn’t mind though. It would give me a bit of time to get some writing done as I walked the road.
Last night before I went to bed I was corresponding with Hippie Chick. Her and her husband Poet run Shaws hiker hostel up in Maine. It’s one of the best hostels on the Appalachian trail truly. Their family spends the winters living in Florida. We’re starting to get close to where they are located and hopefully will get a chance to see them! I really enjoyed talking to everyone at Shaw’s while we were there.
By around 9am the sun came out and I finally started to warm up. Previously my hands and feet were so cold! And I had on my fleece and my rain jacket and pants. Eventually I had to stop off and at least take off the rain gear. It’s still so cold in the shade so I decided to keep the fleece on. I’m looking forward to getting into Lake Butler and having a delicious hot coffee.
It wasn’t long before we were waltzing into Lake Butler. Our first stop was at a Mcdonald’s for some breakfast. We got there just before they stopped serving breakfast at 10:30am. Perfect timing. I got a coffee, a McGriddle, and hash browns. We sat there for a bit and decided how much food we need for this next stretch.
It’s just over 100 miles to the location where I’m sending some boxes to. Hopefully I can finally get the one box with my replacement tent that I’ve been trying to pick up for weeks now. I also sent a pair of shoes there and gossamer gear is sending my replacement sun umbrella there.
After eating in McDonald’s, I resupplied at the IGA. I got most of what I’ll need for the next 100 miles. But sometime tomorrow we’ll pass a gas station where I can top off on a couple snacks if need be. Once I checked out, I packed everything away. Then met back up with Beer Run who was drying his stuff in the grass next to the dollar general. I dried out my soaking wet tent and my shoes a bit. Then sometime just after noon we packed up to make our way through the rest of Lake Butler.
The trail followed along a bike path leaving the town. It was much better than walking along the road and the time passed quickly. At one point the bike path came to an abrupt stop. The road was out past there. We had to walk along the main road for a while after that.
As the day went on, we got back to dirt roads. We wound up remaining on dirt road and double wide trail for the rest of the evening. Before it got dark, we stopped off and took a final break of the day. Then I put a layer on and we continued along. Once the sun goes down it gets really cold! At least that’s been the case the last couple days.
I walked along the dirt road in the dark up ahead of Beer Run. It was overgrown and had lots of large rocks along it. My feet were starting to hurt from stepping on rocks. The “injury” of sorts that I was dealing with back around Pensacola definitely isn’t gone. The day we tagged the FT northern terminus my pain was intense. If it hadn’t gotten better I probably couldn’t have kept going. After taking the next day off I felt a lot better. We haven’t been doing nearly as much road walking which seems to irritate it the most.
I’ll still feel the pain flare up every now and again. Especially toward the end of a long day. Or if we’ve been suddenly road walking again all day. Thankfully though I’ve still been feeling a lot better than I did in Canada. I dealt with a lot of pain up there. My body has been doing a lot better since then.
Sometime after it got dark, we passed by a fairy open grassy area. It was around 6:30-7pm at the time. There weren’t any marked camp sites along our route, so this seemed like a good find. Lately camp sites have been few and in between. I got set up in the grass and then put everything in my tent. For once in ages, I actually tried to thoroughly check for tics. They’ve been getting stuck to my ace wrap lately. I think it’s easier for them to attach there.
After all of that I got into my tent and bundled up. It’s going to be another cold night tonight. Hopefully a bit less cold than last night. I put some of my straps on my katabatic quilt to try those out. The quilt comes with 2 straps which go across the back. They hold the quilt together a bit more, kind of like a sleeping bag. But not fully enclosed along the back. That actually kept me a bit warmer than last night which was great.
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