Hiker Completes 4 Thru Hikes in 1 Year

ECT Day 311

Day 311: 20 miles

This morning we were up around 6am. Today is the first day of 2024. I think it’s very fitting that I ended 2023 hiking through the big Cypress swamp. And I started 2024 hiking through the big Cypress swamp as well!

I love that that’s how I get to start the new year and end last year. 2023 was an epic year of hiking. I’m excited to see what 2024 has in store for me.

This morning it was rough putting on my soaking wet and sandy shoes and socks. Eventually, I finished getting packed up and was ready for the day. My thru hiking Florida trail back of the day is that I’m not wearing my insoles in the swamp today.

When we were hiking through all of the mud and sand, my insoles were getting big chunks of dirt under them. After walking on that for a while, it started to really hurt the bottom of your feet. Multiple different times yesterday I had to rinse my shoes out to get all of the sand out from under the insoles. Today I’m seeing if I can fix that by eliminating the insoles entirely. I’m gonna strap them onto my backpack so that they can dry. I’m thinking walking through the swampy water my feet won’t miss the insoles.

Strapping my insoles to my pack so they could dry out. In my opinion, you don’t need to wear insoles in the swamp!

We were walking just before 7:30am. My feet were soaking wet, but it wasn’t long before we were back in shin deep water once more. Today is going to be a long day in the swamp. We’re 20 miles from the end of big Cyprus and there’s no way we’re gonna be walking faster than 2 mph. It’s going to be a race to get out of the swamp before the sun sets.

The morning was slow going as we continued through deep water. Someone had told us that the water would be getting a lot less deep once you were about 10 miles into the swamp going south. I was surprised though that the water was still consistently shin deep. I guess it was a little bit easier relative to the other sections yesterday. But we were still going around a mile and a half an hour at best.

Trucker walking up ahead on the trail.

Most of the water was continuous with just fleeting dry land in between. Though the further and further we made it south, the more dry land there was periodically. The dry land became more frequent, and was also longer as we were walking through it. That trend kept up over the course of the day. Though the water was at least ankle to shin deep all day long on and off.

About 5 miles into the day, we passed an icon marked “gator hole“. Apparently, during the dry time of year this gator hole filled with water is an invaluable water source. It also is the home of a pretty large alligator most of the time. Two hikers who we passed yesterday said that when they went by the hole, the gator was inside. Apparently, if the gators inside it will hiss at you. Then you’d have to walk around so you don’t have to go right past the gator hole.

The Florida trail somewhere in the last 20 miles.

I was anticipating this goddamn gator hole for the entire start of the day. When we finally passed it by there was no gator in sight. But the hole itself was really deep and full of water. I could completely understand why an alligator would live there in the middle of a dry section of the swamp. I was just glad that we didn’t have to go past the alligator.

With the gator hole out of the way I was no longer anticipating it for the rest of the day. The more we walked the dryer the terrain got. But by the afternoon today I was pretty comfortable walking in deep swampy water. Once again today the water was pretty much clear the whole way. It was really beautiful and I spent most of the day walking up front. That meant the water was completely undisturbed when I was walking through it.

I thought these “foot traffic welcome” signs were hilarious when they were in deep water.

I wasn’t expecting to go through any sections today that were knee deep or higher, but there actually were a couple areas. It was a hot day out, so the cool water was really refreshing. When you walked through the shady portions at least. The shallow water that was in direct sunlight was actually surprisingly warm. In the heat of the day it was not refreshing at all charging through the hot swampy water. Those shady portions through the water were nice and cool which was refreshing.

Walking up ahead of Trucker through the swamp.


It’s crazy to think that today we are going to finish the swamp and complete the Florida trail. I realize that it’s not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea to walk through swamp like this. But this style of hiking is truly unlike any any other I have done.

I’ve enjoyed my time on the Florida trail. Especially the last couple of days going through the crystal clear and beautiful big Cypress swamp. I’ve so enjoyed walking past the air plants which grow along the large cypress trees. Some of the trees roots grow through the water similar to stone. I don’t know that I’ll ever do another hike like this one, unless I do this one again.

Yesterday I got a pretty bad sunburn, so today I’m wearing my buff all day!

In the late morning we went by 13 mile camp. 13 mile camp is actually almost 17 miles from the end of big Cypress swamp going south. The camp marks that you are 13 miles into the swamp. So for us it meant that we still had a little over 16 miles to go for the day. It was already pretty late in the morning so we knew that we’d be cutting it close to get out of the swamp before dark. But that will just help to keep us motivated as the day goes on.

At 13 mile camp there was an abandoned car on the dirt road nearby. And at the campsite itself there was tons of clothing. There was a sweatshirt, sweatpants, shorts, multiple shirts, shoes, and a gaiter. When we get into big Cypress I’ll definitely be reporting the car and the clothing to Rangers there or to an FTA individual. Clearly, the clothing had been there a long time because it was a growing green leaves on it. But that’s still a bit of a concerning scene to come across.

All of the clothing that someone abandoned at 13 mile camp.

We hung out at the 13 mile camp for a little while but then we had to keep it going. If we want to get out of the big Cypress swamp before dark, we can’t kill too much time. At this point it was only the late morning and I was already pretty exhausted. Between trudging through the deep water and the intense heat of the day, I was feeling really tired.

By 1:30pm we had only gone about 10 miles for the day. Sure, we were on track to get to big Cypress oasis center just before dark. But that was the most tiring 10 miles of my life. And we had to do it all over again before the end of the day.

10 miles left of the Florida trail!

After going for another hour or two, we went by a log going across the trail. At this point I had a raging headache, so I dropped my pack to pull out some Excedrin. I was so tired. We just sat there for a little while and took a break. Walking through water like this is surprisingly exhausting. You’re using muscles that you would never ordinarily use hiking on ground. My hip and back or sore in a way they have not been all year.

Walking through deep swamp up ahead of Trucker.

Overall, my body feels pretty good. I don’t think the swamp walking is gonna do any damage to me. But I’m just overall exhausted. It’s gonna be really nice to get through the swamp and then be able to take a few days off for the Florida Trail kick off.

There on the ground I ate some cookies and did my stretching. I drink some water, which I definitely have not been drinking enough of. Hopefully the excedrine I took will help my headache go away. I know that I really just have a headache because I’m dehydrated and it’s so so hot. I also think walking through the swamp somehow is dehydrating. The skin on my leg is really dry and ashy from going through the swamp water.

A sign indicating that this section of trail can be hiked or canoed! That’s a good way to know that a trail is going to be wet.

After a while we continued along. Around this time of day, the sections of dry trail began becoming more frequent and longer. It felt so good to be able to make good time walking on actual ground. You’d walk on dry trail for 100 feet or maybe a few hundred feet. Then, just as you were getting comfortable, you’d be back into muddy deep water. The water kept up for the entire day.

Even on the last mile of big cypress swamp you were in ankle deep water. But we got rewarded with lots more dry land periodically over the course of the day.

Trucker trudging through swamp in the final miles of the florida trail.

Those last hours of the day definitely felt a lot easier than the morning had. I was really appreciative for the growing amount of dry land. Over the last few hours of the day our pace definitely picked up. It was so slow and muddy at times. The water was pretty much the whole way. But with dry patches here and there we were making good time.

By 4pm we still had over 4 miles to go. I knew those 4 miles were probably gonna take us at least two hours. We were going to be cutting it close to get out of the swamp before dark. Those next couple hours dragged by. There were sections of the trail through there that the water was up to my thighs. I really thought that it was going to be getting progressively shallower as we got closer to the southern terminus. So it shocked me to the in some of the deepest water of the entire swamp so late in.

3 miles left of the florida trail!

The swampy water was still crystal clear and really beautiful. It was particularly nice walking through the swampy water in the last bit of daylight of the day. The swamp looked lovely in the last light of the day. Before I knew it, we had less than 2 miles to go. We were going to be finishing the Florida trail just as it became dark. I thought that was pretty fitting overall.

As we completed those final miles of the Florida Trail, I was surprised that the water really didn’t let up. It wasn’t until the last half mile of the Florida Trail that the land became dry.

You were going through some pretty murky ankle to shin deep water, even in the last couple of miles. Of course, the Florida Trail has to start with a bang and finish with a bang. Just before 6pm as the last light of the day was on its way out, we completed the Florida Trail. I was able to get to the terminus just in time to get a photo before it was dark. The whole situation felt very fitting.

Completing the florida trail! 1100 miles completed of just the florida trail alone, not including Alabama or all the ECT connector segments.

When you first get to the oasis visitor center in big Cypress, there is a canal with a viewing platform. So just as we left the swamp, we got to view some of the largest alligators I’ve ever seen. I was so happy to be seeing them after we got out of the swamp versus before we went into the swamp.

They were some big ugly guys and I was glad that we hadn’t seen a single alligator in big Cypress. I’m sure that there were alligators and many other things out there while we were walking through.

Checking out the giant gators by the oasis center.

Two big gators by the oasis center.

We got to the oasis center around 6pm. That meant that the center was closed for the day so we couldn’t get a drink or anything. That was fine though because I was completely expecting that it would be closed. Instead we were able to use the bathroom, which are open 24 hours. Then we asked one of the people working there doing maintenance if we could camp there for the night. They said that we could camp right along the Florida Trail by the chain-link fence. That’s right at the start of the Florida Trail.

We went back to the chain link fence which we had already walked past. Then we got set up for the night there. Tomorrow morning we will leave the oasis center and begin walking towards the Miccosukee casino. That is on the eastern Continental Trail connector trail. I can’t believe that I have completed the Florida Trail. That is the 4th complete thru hike I’ve done this year. Not even counting the portions of other thru hikes that you have to do in order to complete the eastern continental Trail.

This year I completed the Pinhoti Trail, the Appalachian Trail, the international Appalachian Trail, and now the Florida Trail. Not bad for one year.

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Comments 17

  • Lisa J. : Jan 7th

    I have been following your journey for months now and just wanted to say Congratulations! You are amazing and brave and such a positive person. At 52 I have decided that now is the time for me to get outdoors and away from a desk and couch and experience what this great country has to offer. I am a US Army veteran so I plan to hike for a cause close to my heart. Again congraulations..you are an inspiration!!

    • Patrick : Jan 7th

      You popped up in my Google news feed and all I can say is…

      Holy crap, you’re a beast! Congratulations, that’s an amazing accomplishment.

  • Glenn Hunter : Jan 7th

    Congrats on your accomplishments. I’ve enjoyed reading about your exploits. What originally caught my attention was the title “Bama to Baxter. ” Most people start in Georgia. The AT should include Alabama. Hope to hear more about you in the future.

  • David O. : Jan 7th

    Not bad at all. 😉

  • Kirk Sherrill : Jan 7th

    Your journey popped up on my Google feed. Congratulations on your accomplishments and enjoyed reading the last couple days of your hike. Stay fearless!

  • thetentman : Jan 7th

    Glad it was you and not me. Congrats.


  • Flash : Jan 7th

    Peg Leg = Badass. Way to go! I’m so glad that you didn’t get munched by a gator. It’s nice to have a hiking buddy who’s got your back. Safe travels and thanks for sharing your journey with us.

  • Steve : Jan 7th

    Congratulations! Four thru hikes in one year is no small feat. But you still have time to go back to north Georgia and finish the Benton Mackay trail to make it five thru hikes. 🙂

    • Steve : Jan 7th

      Almost forgot. Don’t get that close to alligators. Don’t even get close. They may look slow and lazy on land but they are not. For short distances they can outrun most land mammals they encounter, i.e. you in particular. Stay safe

    • Dee Nerem : Jan 7th

      That would be make it #6 bc she is still hiking to Key West on the ECT. Amazing!

  • Jenny : Jan 7th

    I’ve been reading your posts since way back in the Great Smoky mountains- you are amazing. Thank you for showing me the beauty of Great Cypress Swamp and enjoy some time before you head to the Keys.

  • vango : Jan 7th

    We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy! This is flippin’ amazing. You a bad mamma jamma, Peg Leg! Way to go!

    AT NOBO class of ‘23

  • Jim : Jan 7th

    Hey, I’ve read your posts along your journey and I’ve really enjoyed reading about your adventures. I’m glad you’ve persevered through the many miles, and I think what you’ve accomplished is pretty inspiring. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Leah Love : Jan 7th

    If you haven’t hiked it, I recommend the Narrows in Zion NP. One of my favorite hiking days of all time and it was through water a majority of the “trail.”
    Can’t believe you’re almost there! I mean I can, because you’re amazing! Keep it up!

  • Paul : Jan 7th

    Great thing your doing, people dream about, keep it up ! All Positive Energy, All the Power to You

  • Lish : Jan 8th

    So happy for you Peg Leg! What an amazing accomplishment!

  • Jim Boyko : Jan 8th

    What an extraordinary journey plus a talent for writing. Congratulations.


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