Hikers Sleep in a Bar
ECT Day 277&278
Day 277: 22 miles
This morning we broke down camp around 7am just as the sun was beginning to rise. We had no issue last night camping just off trail in the park that we found. I slept great and stayed nice and warm even though it was quite cold.
Once we packed up, we made our way over to Bo Lynn’s Grocery Store. It’s been open since the 1930s and is the same original building. Ownership has switched hands 3 times now and the most recent owner is so nice. She clearly loves the place and wanted to buy it to maintain it.
We grabbed a small resupply and something for breakfast. It was so cold sitting outside! My hands were hardly working. But the lovely lady who owns the store let us sit inside and stay warm. There was music playing and it was a great place to sit while we waited for the post office to open.
I got a couple things done on my phone. Then just before 9am we grabbed our bags and headed to the post office. Beer Run had a box to pick up. And I’m actually mailing my mom a surprise. She loves these Zapps voodoo pretzel sticks and can never find them anywhere. The general store sold them, so I bought a bunch of bags to mail home to her. Just a small surprise because they made me think of her.
After we go to the post office, we have to arrange a ride with the marina in town. There is a river between St Marks and the land on the other side. You have to get a boat across because the river is impassable otherwise. I called this morning to schedule us a ride. We’ll just have to call again once we’re there and ready to get across.
At the post office I mailed the snacks home to my mom. Then wound up checking my credit card and realized that the best western that we stayed at the other night double charged me. I paid through a third-party site and then got charged again by the hotel. So that resulted in a ton of annoying phone calls and emails. But before we left St Marks, I seemed to have the ball rolling. There was no resolution, but hopefully once someone reviews all of the confirmation information one of the two charges will be refunded. What a trip.
Then we waited for the boat at the marina in St Marks. It will drive you across the St Marks River for free, it’s just suggested to tip the driver. Just after 10am a worker from the marina drove us across the river. It was only a stone’s throw away, but we certainly couldn’t walk it. Because of the low tide she could only pull the boat up so far. We had to jump off and wound up sinking our feet into deep mud when we did. But it was still better than fording the river!
Once we were on the other side we began walking. The views over the course of the next few miles were fantastic. It felt like a true swamp. I could have easily pictured alligators in an area like that. We walked along dirt roads for a while. Eventually we were on a raised road with water on both sides. That water led out to the ocean! It was absolutely beautiful. There were loads of different birds in the water and flying around.
Those next couple of hours were exceptional. It was warm and sunny but with a perfect breeze over the water. Beer Run saw an alligator in one of the large rivers. I’m still waiting to see one on this trail. Though I have seen them before in Florida.
I wound up calling my mom when I had service and we talked for over an hour. It was so nice to be able to catch up with her! On trail no less. Before I knew it a whole hour had gone by.
After I got off the phone with my mom, I caught up to Beer Run. He was sitting by a trailhead junction. We took a break there for a little while which felt nice. So far, we have pushed through the whole day without stopping. We had gone about 12-13 miles already. Our goal was to make it 22 miles to get to a gas station just off trail.
Even though we only started walking sometime after 10am we still thought we could make it there. Food was our motivator! As it usually is. So after our break we continued along. There were still about 9 miles to go to the store.
The next few miles were pretty nice and easy. Then we got into a much more overgrown stretch of the trail. It was a wilderness area and there was a sign indicating that it wasn’t regularly managed. The trail began to get pretty wet at this point.
We managed to hike through the woods and avoid the flooded areas of trail. But that often involved getting far off trail to go around the water. The two of us kept that up for a while. And my feet stayed dry with all my effort. That was taking a whole lot of time and effort though.
Eventually I got both my feet a little wet even trying so hard to keep them dry. At that point I gave up entirely and just committed. I began trampling through the swamp. That saved so much time and energy. I should have been doing it all along.
Looking down at Far Out we realized that we would be cutting it close. The store closed at 7pm, it was after 6pm, and we still had over 2 miles to go. The swamp had seriously slowed us down. But now we were motivated to make it to the store. We picked up the pace and after a short distance in the woods we were on a road. That meant we could walk a lot faster.
The sun had set while we were hiking in the swamp. That was a little nightmarish and not intentional. But the trail took us a little longer than we had expected. So it was after dark by the time that we were walking the road.
We got to JRs Store 15 minutes before closing. That was quite the relief! I got a water, ginger ale, and a Powerade. I also got a pint of ice cream for dinner and a couple snacks. The guy who was running the store said that we could camp out back. Apparently, there was a covered building out there. The two of us were so happy to be able to camp there. It had been a long day. The last few miles in particular were overgrown and wet.
The covered area that we were able to camp in was perfect. It was a full bar with tables and booths. There was a stage in the back. That’s where we set up our cowboy camps. It’s going to be around 30 degrees Fahrenheit tonight. Being able to be a bit enclosed by a building is going to help. The building isn’t fully enclosed though. Two of the walls are almost entirely open. It’s the perfect summertime barn style bar.
We were just happy to get a roof over our heads though. I got set up on the stage and put on my layers. It was already ridiculously cold. But then I laid on my thermarest and ate a pint of ice cream! It might be cold, but it’s never too cold.
I was able to charge my electronics which was great. Then we hung around for a bit before calling it a night. They have a kitchen in the back of this building and will be selling breakfast starting at 5:30am. That will probably have us up nice and early!
Day 278: 28 miles
This morning workers began coming into the bar building pretty early. The heavy door would slam behind them every time they came in and out. I thought it was so funny that customers began coming in to buy sandwiches. And there we were, laying in our sleeping bags on the stage of the bar.
We began packing up around 6am. It was freezing cold, so I was moving slow. I put my layers on and then got my rain pants on too. The gloves even came out! That’s how you know it’s cold. Once I got everything packed up, I headed over to the store.
I still had to grab a couple things to resupply for today. We’re 27 miles from another gas station. So we just need food for all of today. Then we’ll get to that store by tonight. I got a few things and then paid for a sausage egg and cheese. Beer Run and I sat on the floor inside the store to get out of the cold.
Our feet were soaking wet this morning from our socks and shoes. Because we ended yesterday slogging through swamp our socks and shoes never got a chance to dry. It was brutal putting them on this morning when it was literally 30 degrees out.
After we ate, we started walking just after 7am. I was so cold! Even with my fleece on, gloves, and my rain jacket and pants I was still cold. Walking made it a little bit better. But I definitely didn’t warm up or anything. Once we got moving my feet actually got colder. I don’t know how that’s possible. Maybe the cold air blowing on them as we walked? My toes burned from the cold.
By around 8:45am the sun had come out a little bit. We sat down on some rocks alongside the road and soaked in the rays. It felt great to not be freezing anymore. Then by around 10:30am the sun had fully come out. I finally was hot enough that I had to take some layers off. It only took 3 hours of hiking for that to happen!
We took a break along the road and took off the many layers that we were both wearing. I packed everything away and then pulled some snacks out. After sitting there for a little while though we both started to get cold again. If you aren’t hiking or sitting in the sun, then you’re cold.
Leaving that spot we wound up walking for another 2 hours just about. The trail followed along the Aucilla River for a handful of miles. It was really fast moving in some places and seemed quite deep. Being able to walk alongside the river made for a lovely time. The trail was a bit overgrown with palm leaves and prickers. I kept having to pull little prickers out of my socks.
When we came upon a nice spot alongside the Aucilla River we decided to stop off again. I ate a couple snacks and did my stretching. It felt good just to chill out and take our time. At this point we were able 12 miles in. Only 15 miles remained until we would be at the store in town.
After sitting there for a bit, we continued along. The trail followed along the Aucilla River for the next 4-5 miles. It continued to be so beautiful. This has been a great day. Once it warmed up, I’ve really been enjoying myself. It was just brutally cold this morning. But by the afternoon it’s hard to remember that it ever was!
Those next couple of hours really flew by. I was daydreaming a lot over the course of the day. I’ve been thinking a whole lot about this journey. With less than 1000 miles to go I still have zero plans for after trail! I feel like there is going to be some perfect situation that comes about. I’m just not sure what that is yet. I’m waiting for it all to unfold I suppose. It’s not something that is stressing me out though. Everything happens when it’s supposed to. I still have about 5-6 weeks of this hike remaining. It sure ain’t over yet!
Around 2pm I caught up to Beer Run and thought that I heard him talking to someone. But we’ve literally seen zero hikers the whole time we’ve been on trail. But by god, it was another southbound hiker! Her name was Siesta and she started in Pensacola at the northern terminus. She’s actually hiked the FT NOBO before though.
It was so nice to sit down and talk to another hiker for a little bit. We enjoyed a pretty long break there which was great. Hopefully we’ll be seeing Siesta along the way south! We’re trying to make pretty good miles. But in reality, we actually can’t go “too” fast. If we are doing 25-30 every day, we’ll be too early for the Kick Off event at Big Cyprus. We really only have to average 20s to get there for the kick off. That means we’re able to reign it in a bit or enjoy some more rest days and half days.
Beer Run and I said goodbye to Siesta and continued on. It was so cool to meet our first south-bounder. Leaving that break spot we still had about 10 miles to go to get to the store. It was only 2pm though and the store was open until 8pm! Unlike yesterday, today we have all the time in the world.
Those next 10 miles we were following along roads the whole way. When we left that break spot the trail continued along a dirt road. That made for some nice and easy walking. We’d be at the store in no time.
The temperature began to drop pretty quickly after it got past 4pm. We continued along the road but had to stop off to put our layers on. It wasn’t long before we were approaching the gas station. We wound up getting to the store just before 7pm. Plenty of time to make it before close at 8pm. But to our disappointment the store had closed early for the day. The lights were off and no one was there.
We weren’t really sure what to do at this point. Both of us had plenty of food to make it over night. But we needed to camp someplace and also come back to the store tomorrow. The next store isn’t for 27 miles, so we can’t afford to miss this resupply. We were hesitant to set up camp behind the building. The area was perfect and grassy. But we didn’t want to bother anyone by being there.
Before setting up we walked up and down the road looking for an alternative option. But the land nearby was clearly all private property and homes. I don’t want to risk camping on some guys private land and having him shoot us. In the end we thought it would just be the safer option to camp behind the store. If someone comes over and asks us to leave then that’s ok.
We got set up there in the grass and then I was quickly in my tent. It’s going to be another freezing night tonight. Actually even colder than last night. So I got bundled up and prepared for the cold!
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