First Time Seeing My Family in 10 Months
ECT Day 301&302
Day 301: 21 miles
This morning I woke up fairly early and got packed up. I was walking sometime just after 7:00 a.m. Today I only have to go about 21 miles to get into Okeechobee. This will be my shortest day on the last week!
Within the first 20 miles of the morning, I ran into Beer Run and Cottonmouth. They were walking down a blue tail from their camp site last night. Initially they scared the crap out of me! I just wasn’t expecting to see anyone this morning. I figured they would probably be just ahead of me.
I began walking with those guys and talking to them. It was nice to be able to chat with someone to start off the day. I’ve been by myself for the last week. Even though I have crossed paths with a whole bunch of people in that time, I haven’t hiked with anyone.
All of us walked through the woods for a couple of hours. We took a quick break under an oak tree at one point. I haven’t really been breaking a lot lately or going slow by any means. So it felt good to take today nice and easy. Then we kept on walking. After walking along the trail for a while our route connected us onto a road. For most of the remainder of the day we were road walking.
The weather was perfect for walking today. It was a bit overcast and felt like it could rain. But it was holding off, making it the perfect day. After walking for another few hours all of us stopped off at a water cache. At this point we were about 8 miles out from Okeechobee. We had gone about 13 miles already. The time wasn’t exactly flying by, but it wasn’t dragging either. I couldn’t complain.
It sprinkled rain on us very briefly but then stopped. I was glad that it didn’t start dumping. Leaving there the trail continued along a dirt road. It wasn’t a road that was open to vehicle access. So while I walked, I didn’t have to worry about cars or anything. That was really nice.
One of the water sources that we walked by in the afternoon had a big ole gator in it. Yesterday I walked by a pond that literally had almost 10 gators in it. One of them was massive and the rest were a range of smaller gators. They are certainly out here! For a long time, we were so far north I wasn’t too worried. But this far south the weather is much nicer, and I know gators are everywhere.
Before the end of the day, we stopped off for one more quick break. The first road went up over a bridge and it seemed like a good spot. Then we pushed out the remaining 4 or so miles to Scott Driver Park. The Florida Trail went right past the park. From there you either had to walk the 4.5 miles into Okeechobee or get a ride. Okeechobee is technically not on the Florida Trail.
Just before we got to the park, I called a taxi driver named Leo. Sparkle had actually given me his information. She said that he helped her and her crew out a bunch when they were hiking through Florida. He was apparently a really nice guy, so I figured I’d rather support Leo than some random Uber guy. After I called, he said he’d be at the park shortly.
The three of us got there and waited for Leo to arrive. He didn’t take too long and by 4:00 p.m. we were in Okeechobee. Originally, I had wanted to go straight to the motel. But at this point I was absolutely starving. Leo dropped us off at the King house buffet in town. It was a Chinese buffet! Everything that I could have ever wanted and more. I was ravenous.
We got there and I immediately piled up a heaping plate. I got noodles, some different chicken and vegetable dishes, and so many crab Rangoons. Those are my absolute favorite. The food was shocking good. Some hikers had left reviews about the place on FarOut, so I didn’t want to miss it. I’m always down for a Chinese buffet. But especially a particularly good one!
I wound up eating a few plates of food. All of it was fantastic. Then I ended off with some cakes and ice cream. It was the perfect meal. After leaving there I went to a dollar tree to grab shampoo, conditioner, and what not. Everything there is $1.25 so I was able to get big bottles for so cheap. It’s usually more than $1.25 for a travel sized shampoo.
Then I walked over to the Flamingo Motel where I had booked a room for the night. Beer Run and Cottonmouth were gonna share a room. I hadn’t even known how close they were on trail until last night.
Before getting into town, I realized that tonight might be my last solo motel stay along the ECT. I’m gonna stay with family around Christmas. Then Trucker and I are going to meet up the 28th. So I probably won’t have a room to myself again on this journey. I wanted to treat myself and have one last relaxing night all to myself.
Once I got situated in the room I showered. Then I had to go down the street to grab laundry detergent. I luckily got my laundry going before a huge group of laborers checked into the motel. There were maybe 10 guys all trying to do laundry. And only one washer and dryer! My timing was perfect.
The rest of the night I laid in bed and ate a bunch of snacks from the grocery store. I got a bunch of writing done and watched some movies. It was such a nice relaxing night. My body was pretty sore today and yesterday. But I did hike about 235 miles in the last 8 days. So that shouldn’t be too surprising. I’m looking forward to being able to rest for a few days though.
Day 302: zero day
Last night I wound up staying up until almost 3:00 a.m. I just got wired and wound up writing for a long time. Then I watched a whole movie between 1:30 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. Eventually I went to bed. But this morning I didn’t wake up until 9:30 a.m.! And it felt like it was so early.
I got up and began to pack my things. I didn’t plan to check out until 11:00 a.m. But I wanted to be fully packed up first. Then I could just lounge until check out.
Around 11:00 a.m. I dropped off my keys and then headed next door to McDonald’s. I got in just before breakfast stopped! So I was able to get hash browns and a McGriddle. I also got a big iced caramel coffee. I wound up sitting in the McDonald’s for hours. After I ate, I wrote for a long time. I got a couple blogs completely written up and edited. The last few ones have been super long and eventful, so it’s been taking longer to edit.
While I was in McDonald’s I talked to my mom on the phone for about an hour. There was music on in the McDonald’s, so it wasn’t exactly quiet. But I was able to chat with her while I ate. We talked for so long and it felt amazing to catch up. She’s so happy that I get to see my dad and some family over the next couple days. Even though I can’t see her she’s just happy I won’t be alone.
I was inside that McDonald’s until around 1:30 p.m. Then I finally set out and began to walk down the road. I wasn’t really sure where I was going. I had nothing better to do though! The road went right past a fruit stand. I went to ask the guy inside if they sold Quenepas, or Spanish limes. I’ve been craving them for so long but can’t find them anywhere. This shop didn’t have them either though.
After setting out I wound up walking a mile or so down the road to Walmart. A couple cars tried to pull over and give me a lift. But I’m not gonna hitch hike and risk my life to shave off a mile. At Walmart I wandered around inside. I decided to finally buy a new ace bandage. My current one is so gross. I’ve been wearing it every day for about 3 months. Time to start fresh! I’m not sure whether or not I even need to wear it anymore. But I’m too nervous to take it off and risk injuring myself again. I’m too close to the finish line now.
Once I shopped around Walmart, I wound up sitting at the subway inside for a while. I really had no place to be. My dad wasn’t going to arrive from the airport until around 4:30 p.m. He was flying into Orlando and then coming to get me. Then we would head to Tampa together. I sat in that subway for an hour or so. Over the time that I was there I got completely caught up on journaling. Then I just had to kill more time until my dad arrived.
After I shopped around Walmart, I just wound up sitting out front for a while. People were looking at me like I was nuts! I guess it’s weird to sit outside of a Walmart with a backpack just before Christmas. Around 4:30 p.m. though my dad arrived to pick me up! It was a 2-3 hour drive to go from Okeechobee to Tampa, FL. I can’t remember the last time that I sat in the car for so long.
We got driving and went for an hour or so. Then pulled off to grab something to eat. I was starving already when we first got in the car. When we passed a rest stop, we pulled off to get coffee and food. I got a bunch of Wendy’s and a Dunkin coffee. Then we continued along. A wrong turn almost added an hour to the drive, but my dad was able to maneuver to get us back on track.
Just before 9:00 p.m., we arrived at the Airbnb in Tampa. It was so amazing to see my aunt, uncle, and two cousins. I haven’t seen them all since I was back home in February. All of us hung out for hours talking and catching up. When we’re together everyone just shares funny stories and I wind up laughing for ages. There’s never a dull moment.
Everyone stayed up till after 11:00 p.m. talking in the kitchen. Then eventually I headed off to bed. I wound up laying up in bed for hours before I called it a night. While I laid there, I wrote a bit and watched TV. Then I called it a night.
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