Celebrity Sighting on the Florida Trail
ECT Day 308&309
Day 308: 30 miles
This morning I woke up around 7am for the first time. We aren’t really in any particular rush this morning because Trucker has to wait for the post office to open. Sometimes when you fly down to a trail you end up mailing back the clothes you were wearing or the bag you flew with. That’s just a thru hiker hack.
I woke up sometime after 8am to the sound of a knock at the door. I hadn’t even heard Trucker leave to go resupply. He had just come back to the room, but the key didn’t work. After that I began to get packed up for the day. We would be hiking out soon. The campsites are pretty limiting today so we’re gonna have to go decently far. Even if we’re not getting an early start. There just aren’t a lot of options heading south towards big Cypress. I can’t believe there’s only 100 miles left of the Florida Trail. I know I say it every time but this trail really flew by!
That means in total remaining for the eastern continental trail there are only about 290 miles. I have about 100 miles to go to get to big Cypress where the southern terminus of the Florida trail is. From there I’ll do a 100 mile connector trail to get to the overseas heritage Trail, which is about 100 miles long and goes to Key West. This is going to be over before I know it.
The timing worked out perfectly to get to big Cypress, the end of the Florida Trail, just in time for the Florida Trail kickoff. It looks like we’ll even be a day early, which I was hoping for. We’ll have to decide whether we want to go a little bit further past big Cyprus and maybe get a ride back to the kickoff. Or if we just wanna linger around for a day. There’s gonna be a lot of friends coming down to this area for the kick off so I don’t think it’ll be that hard to get a ride.
Just before 9am we finished packing up and left the room. The walk through town is going to be a little bit long but I know I can probably stop off somewhere and get a snack or a drink so that makes it ok We headed over to the post office so Trucker could mail his stuff back home. Then we were going to begin making our way through Clewiston to get back to the red line.
We headed over to the post office and Trucker mailed out a few things. Then we began walking through Clewiston to get back to the trail. It was about 2 miles to get back to the trail. Then we continue the long roads for a few hours after that. Before getting out of town we stopped off at that same Colombian bakery again. I got more pan de bono which I was so excited about. That’s my favorite!
After hitting up the bakery we turned and continued along roads out of Clewiston. The roads we were on were fairly quiet, which was nice. For the most part we were walking through little neighborhoods.
At one point a couple of small dogs ran out of somebody’s yard and came to give me some love. I got to pet both of the dogs and they were crawling over each other fighting for attention. It was really cute and the highlight of my afternoon. From there we walked along road for a really long time. It was a little bit hot but not too bad.
After a few hours, we got to a guard rail where a large cache of water had been left. They were about 30 fresh gallons of water that Ari, someone who works for the Florida Trail Association, had put out just days before. We filled up on water so that we didn’t have to drink out of the canals, which can often have agricultural will run off. They often have alligators too!
We filled up our water and then decided to take a break there. There really hadn’t been any good place to stop earlier. Then we kept walking the road. The actual trail was just off the road on a section of some overgrown grass. But it really didn’t make a big difference to me which way we walked. The road seems like the easier option. And leaving that water spot we still had over 20 miles remaining to do for the day. Walking along the road for a little bit would at least be easier.
While we walked, we saw a northbound hiker approaching in the distance. It turned out he was one of the young guys who is attempting the FKT for the Florida Trail. If I recall, the guy said he was trying to do it in 24 days or less. That’s an incredible feat and hard to imagine doing. In order to do a fastest known time (FKT) in 24 days he would have to be averaging about 50 miles per day.
We walked along the road for a little while after that. Eventually though we got back onto a dirt levee, which the Florida Trail followed along. Just before we got back on the levee there was yet another water cache. It seems like in the area around Okeechobee there’s a water cache every 10 to 15 miles. That’s a really awesome resource for hikers, especially as the season continues on and it gets hotter and hotter.
I drank some water and filled up. Then we wound up at that cache for a little while too. The day was flying by pretty well, and we have been going decently long mileage between our breaks. I was just listening to music and was getting into the zone. We knew it was going to be a long night, so we enjoyed a long break there. After a little while though we had to continue on. The longer we sat there the later we’d be getting to camp.
The trail stayed on the levee for most of the rest of the day. But the levee was a little bit windier, and the path was rockier and more overgrown. The two ran parallel so we decided to walk along the road for a while rather than the levee. As it got later in the evening though we did get back onto the levee and continued along there. On the levee we didn’t have to worry about cars.
Those last couple hours of the day were pretty exhausting. For some reason my feet were just really tired and I was ready to be done. Sometimes it’s tough on days when you have to walk big miles no matter what. There’s definitely a couple sections on the Florida trail where your mileage is very controlled by lack of campsites. This is an area where that is the case.
It got dark out and we continue to walk along the levee. You could see so many alligator eyes in the water. They glow orange at night in the reflection of your headlamp. Truly, I have not seen a lot of alligators along the Florida trail so far. Just getting into Okeechobee was the first time I had seen alligators along the trail whatsoever. Since then I’ve seen them a lot more frequently, but still haven’t seen a ton. Apparently, when Trucker had originally gone through, he said he saw 100 alligators in this section. We saw probably 10 to 20 as we walked this evening. I think that was the most I’ve seen so far. But you’re not able to get an amazing look at them at night. Their eyes just glow so bright that it’s obvious they are there.
It was fun walking along the levee at night. You were so far away from the water that it wasn’t concerning that. There were so many alligators there. I definitely had no desire to walk down in that grass and set up camp for the night. There were definitely a bunch of places that we could have set up our tents. But it was very close to the canal, and there were tons of alligators in the shallow water along the shore, and also on the grass next to the shore.
Around 8:30pm we made it to the STA 5/6 campsite. It was a designated campsite with a large grassy flat area just off of the trail. There were also pit toilets and a water pump there. I got my tent set up and then got situated for the night. It was a pretty long day because we started late. I was exhausted and hung out in my tent for a little bit before heading off to bed.
Day 309: 28 miles
This morning we were up fairly early as the sun was coming up. My tent was soaking wet from camping on the grass last night. It seems like that has been the trend the last couple of days. We got packed up and then headed over to the picnic tables and pit toilet. Even though we had a fairly early morning, we still didn’t get to walking until around 8:30am.
From this campsite we were about 19 miles away from the Seminole reservation. The reservation allows you to camp at the church, but other than that you’re not allowed to camp on the reservation. The church wasn’t particularly far away so we were going to probably have to do another big day today. But a friend of mine, Nana Man, wanted to see us today too. I think he’s going to meet us on the reservation somewhere. So I’m not sure how the mileage is going to work out today. I know I’m gonna want to hang out with him for a while.
We got back into the trail and it detoured away from the right side of the levee. There were obvious detour signs for hikers to follow. There was construction on the right side of the levee so the trail took you onto the left side. The views are basically exactly the same you were just walking on the opposite side of the canal. We walked along that levee following the canal for hours. I was surprised that we didn’t actually see that many alligators in the water. It was a bit of an overcast morning, so they just weren’t out.
Those next few hours went by fairly quickly. I watched the water all morning looking for alligators. It was a really nice day and the sky was beautiful. In no time we were getting off the levee and onto some actual road. This would bring us a bit closer to the reservation. In order to hike through the reservation you actually need a permit. And that permit needs to be notarized. It’s a bit of a complicated process for thru hikers, but it is something that they require.
Lucky for me Trucker’s mom is a notary so he got our permits notarized before he flew out which was very nice. I can see that if you’re on trail you would probably have to just find a hotel that had a printer and potentially go to a local bank branch to have the paper notarized. That’s definitely not an ideal process for any thru hiker.
We got the permits though out of respect for the reservation. Additionally I wasn’t sure what the reservation would look like. I wasn’t sure if we would be passing by individuals who would be checking for these permits. In the end though no one wound up asking to see them.
Around 1:30pm I was walking along a dirt levee again. This one ran parallel to the main highway. We would be following this all the way to the Seminole reservation. It was a much better alternative than road walking with cars the whole way.
Cars can drive on the dirt road which parallels the main road, but it was much less likely that they would be. All of a sudden while I was walking, Trucker pointed out that he saw someone waving. It was Nana Man! He drove over in his Subaru and parked on the dirt road. We all wound up hanging out there and talking for the next hour or so.
It was really really cool to see Nana Man. He’s a super fun and hilarious dude. I met him for the first time at trail days and haven’t seen him since. But we’ve been in touch periodically and I was hoping I’d be seeing him down here.
All of us hung out there for a while. It was really nice to catch up and it was such a fun time. At this point we were only about 3 miles away from the general store on the reservation. We plan to stop there to do a light supply to get some lunch. Nana Man headed over there and was going to wait for us to walk there.
It took a little over an hour, but eventually we made it to the big Cyprus landing reservation store. Nana Man was there waiting when we arrived. I grabbed some drinks and resupplied. I also got a big piece of chocolate cake to eat for lunch. The store ordinarily did hot food but they weren’t doing it today. The lady who works behind the counter was really nice and said that I should microwave the piece of cake that I bought. Then she would put a big scoop of ice cream on it for me. That was legendary.
We hung out there inside of the store with Nana Man and talked for a while. He’s gonna be going to the Florida trail kickoff in a few days so I’ll get to see him again. Along with hopefully a bunch of other hikers either from the PCT, AT, or some other hike. That’s gonna be really awesome.
Some time around 4:30pm we finally started wrapping up and saying goodbye to Nana Man. We still had a really long ways to go for the day to make it off of the seminole reservation. But I knew that it was gonna take time. It was gonna be a late night no matter what, so I was in no particular rush to head out. I was having a really good time hanging with Nana Man, and he drove all the way out to see us.
Eventually we said goodbye and then continued along through the Seminole reservation. The trail followed along the road through the reservation for another hour or so. Then eventually, it picked up back onto an actual trail. We continued on a trail for the rest of the night. There were definitely places that you could’ve pulled off and set up a camp sooner for the night. But we wanted to do the 8 miles past the store to get off reservation land.
It got dark and we continued through the woods. It was gonna be a late night, but a little bit earlier than last night. After another hour or so, I was pretty tired and ready to be done. I’d had some caffeine at the general store which helped. Finally we got to the gate which marked the end of the Seminole reservation. I didn’t want to go any further at this point. So we went onto the other side of the gate and close the gate behind us. Then we set up our tents right there on the trail. I haven’t really seen anyone in the last couple months so I wasn’t worried about about anyone coming through.
We got set up there and it wasn’t long before I was in my tent. Today was another long day, and I was excited to lay down. My body felt really good though. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that my right leg has felt great ever since I took that ace compression wrap off. It seems like my muscle tear has completely healed itself. I’m so happy about that. I don’t know if I’m more happy about the tear being healed or the fact that I can finally even out this horrible tan line.
Once I got into my tent for the night I ate a snack and did a bit of writing. Then I called the night. We are going to be entering into big Cypress national preserve tomorrow! We have a little bit of time on dry trail and then we’re going to be in swamp the whole rest of the Florida trail.
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