Hiking With a Random Dog For Miles

ECT Day 291&292

Day 291: 35 miles

This morning I slept in until 6:30am and then got packed up. Setting out from camp we were only about 3 miles from Juniper Springs. Back in 2021 I lived down in the Orlando/Ocala florida area for about 5 months doing work for stay. While I was down there I went to just about all of the springs in Florida that I could. Juniper spring and Alexander springs were some of them. Now today, over 2 years later, I’m back here on foot. It’s funny how things work out.

Fog rolling in over a pond in the distance.


When I passed the junction for the springs I was surprised not to see Beer Run. I figured he would want to go over to the springs to take a look. I’d seen Juniper springs before, but he’s never really seen any of the Florida springs before. He had continued along the trail so I decided to do the same. I remembered juniper springs was beautiful but I didn’t feel like going out of my way. Especially since he had continued along.

A damaged Ocala National forest monument.

I wound up walking for hours before stopping next. It was a beautiful day and I was feeling great. I put some music on and was cruising along the trail and singing to myself. I was in my own little world and enjoying myself. One of my favorite things to do is sing to myself while I hike. That’s one of the nice things about being far behind other hikers along the trail, or about hiking solo. I don’t like to belt it out with other people around. I’m definitely not good at singing and just do it to entertain myself.

The time was flying by and the trail was beautiful. I walked by some more marshy areas and ponds. The trail was sandy and covered in pine needles. After walking for about 4 hours I passed an incredible recreation area. I was surprised that Beer Run wasn’t there. We hadn’t stopped yet for the day so I expected I’d run into him there. I figured he must just be pushing hard and doing his own thing.

A beautiful lake at the recreation area. Boats could enter the water from this ramp.

I sat down at the picnic area and laid my tent out to dry. I was curious so I texted Beer Run. He said he hadn’t stopped yet and wasn’t going to for another few miles. So I enjoyed a nice break on my own. I was able to throw out my trash, use a pit toilet, and dry my things out. It was a really nice break.

I found this balloon in the woods. Clearly someone released it and it wound up out here. I carried for a few miles and then threw it in the trash at this recreation area. My good deed for the day!

Leaving there I was feeling rejuvenated. I’d gone about 12 miles already and it felt like the day was just flying by. At this point I was thinking I probably wouldn’t be seeing Beer Run again today. He didn’t say anything this morning about pushing hard or heading for town. But I figured that was what he was doing. That’s alright though. Sometimes you gotta do your own thing. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Hiking by myself brings me a surprising amount of joy. I just wind up singing and talking to myself. I talk to any strangers that I see. You’d think it would be lonely or boring, but somehow I always manage to entertain myself. Over the last couple years I’ve spent probably cumulatively months hiking alone. It’s a unique experience quite different from hiking in a bubble on trail with lots of other hikers. It might not be for everyone, but I don’t mind it. When I’m alone I feel like everything aligns perfectly and I always wind up having amazing experiences.

Leaving the recreation area I continued along the trail. The weather was great and the trail was wide open and perfectly manicured. The miles came easy and the time flew by. I listened to some “Two Hot Takes” podcasts. They are basically the trash TV of podcasts. Listening to them always makes me laugh and has my jaw on the floor.

Couldn’t resist posing with this florida trail marker.

Around 2pm I was about 18 miles into the day. Soon I’d be coming up on Alexander Springs. I hadn’t decided yet whether I wanted to go off trail to see the springs. I’ve been there before and actually hiked about 15 miles through the area back in 2021. I remember it was beautiful. But there’s also only so much time in the day, especially only so much daylight. There’s gonna be some road walking today and I don’t really want to hike the road alone after dark. That’s just common sense to me.

Around this time I passed a trailhead and could see something in the parking area. I almost kept going but decided to stop to see if it was Beer Run. He was hanging out there drying out all of his things. I was surprised to have caught up because he was pushing so hard. I joined him there and hung out. I’d already dried my things out so I didn’t have to worry about that.

Clouds of smoke from a controlled burn in the area.

When we were getting ready to head out Beer Run let me know that he wanted to push on. He wanted to hike his own pace and get to town as soon as he could. At this point we were still 40 miles out from Lake Mary. I wasn’t sure how much further I’d make it today, so it was hard for me to say for sure when I’d get there. He wanted to get into Lake Mary early tomorrow morning. I figured that even if I hiked hard the best I could do is get in tomorrow some time in the afternoon. I didn’t want to put pressure on myself or rush myself. Personally I prefer to just go with the flow.

Beer Run headed out ahead of me and I knew I probably wouldn’t be seeing him again today. I wasn’t really sure when or if I’d be seeing him again. That’s the name of the game though out here. Everyone has to hike their own hike, and that’s totally ok. I’ve had a great time hiking together. But I also know that I’ll be ok on my own and have my own adventure. That’s all just a part of it.

I headed out on my own which was a unique feeling. It’s been a while since I’ve been solo on trail. The last time was on the international Appalachian trail. I hiked about 300 miles solo across Maine and New Brunswick. Then when I got injured in Quebec I hiked for a week solo through the Matane reserve and Gaspesie National park. Both of those occasions I had a really great time and it was quite the adventure. Everyone I met treated me great and I actually experienced a lot of trail magic too which was unexpected. Now I’m solo once more! For now at least.

Leaving that parking area I continued along the trail. It went on for a few miles through the woods. Then I got up to a section of the trail that was flagged and blocked off. It was actively being burned as a controlled burn. Some of the area was literally on fire as I walked by. I wound up having to road walk around to avoid the closure.

Because it was getting late I decided not to stop off at Alexander springs. That was a bit of a bummer, but I have been there before. I hiked there, enjoyed the springs, and even camped there back in 2021. So I didn’t feel like I was missing out too much. I walked along the road for a while. A bunch of forestry vehicles drove by as they were monitoring the controlled burn.

The florida trail burning in the distance.

Later on a bunch of hunters drove by too. They must have been waiting around to see if any deer ran out of the woods to get away from the fire. What a strategic move on their parts. One guy stopped and talked to me briefly. Then I continued along. I was walking along a sandy road for a while. The road went by some houses and at one point I looked down and realized there was a dog at my heels! At first it made me nervous, because I know you can never trust a random dog. But I let him sniff my hand and it was clear that he was a sweetheart.

My handsome little dog friend.

This big black and white spotted dog followed me for ages. He was right at my heels and walked alongside me. Then he would run up the road to sniff stuff and pee on stuff. But he always came back! This went on for about 3-4 miles. Literally over an hour. It was an amazing experience. The dog was so cute and it warmed my heart to get to hang out with him. It did make me a little nervous when cars went by. Every truck that passed got the dog so excited. I figured that his owner had a truck.

After an hour or so a truck finally drove by and pulled over. I asked if it was his dog and it was! Apparently he lived about 4 miles back. The man was a little mad at me for some reason. I knew it wasn’t my fault though that his unleashed dog followed me down the road. I was just glad that someone came to get the dog. Especially before I got off of the dirt roads and onto a busier main road.

Within the next half hour I was getting into the town of Paisley. The timing couldn’t have been better for the dog to get picked up. I walked through town and stopped off at a dollar general. It was just about to get dark and I’d be getting back into the woods soon. That felt like great timing as well. I got an ice cream sandwich and water in the dollar general. Then continued along the trail. At this point I finished the Ocala Northeast Far Out Map and started the new map, Central Florida. I’m getting closer and closer to the end of my journey!

A giant agave plant. I’d never seen one with these colors before.

Before I knew it I was back in the woods. It got dark and I put my headlamp on. Then I played some music out loud to keep my energy up as I walked through the dark. The trail went past a boys scout camp. Then it bounced between dirt roads and actual trail. I walked for another hour or so in the dark. Then found a nice secluded place to set up for the night. When I’m hiking alone I’m a bit more cautious about where I camp. I try to be tucked away a bit just in case.

Walking along the florida trail in the dark.

Ok I got my tent set up and then got inside. I charged all of my devices and then did some writing. Today I did about 35 miles which was great. That means tomorrow I’ll definitely be getting into Lake Mary. The timing was perfect too, because my power bank finally died tonight! I plan to have a nice early morning tomorrow so I can be in town at a reasonable hour.

Day 292: 26 miles

This morning my alarm went off at 4am, but I didn’t have it in me to get up yet. I wound up sleeping until about 5am and then finally got up and packed my things. It was pitch black out but I was eager to get going so that I can get to town as early as possible.

I began hiking through the woods in the dark. I played my music out loud to entertain myself but also to make me feel safe. That’s a hack for all of you guys, if you’re hiking in the dark and you’re feeling scared play some music. It’ll help to make animals aware of your presence and also just makes you feel much more safe. At least that works for me.

The sun came up and I continue to walk through the woods. I was pleasantly surprised but I didn’t run into any spiderwebs this morning. I’ve had two encounters recently where I walked into massive spiderwebs. Both times I wound up with the biggest spider ever landing on me. That shit is horrifying. Fortunately this morning was smooth sailing with no animal or insect encounters.

Passing a sign in the darkness which states hunting is currently happening in the surrounding area.

Even after my 35 mile day yesterday I was still feeling a very good today. I was moving along fairly quickly and the trail was nice and easy. I wound up walking for hours and hours before stopping.

A picture of my head with the trees above me.

While I walked I passed by a hiker rest area. Someone had made a covered area with some chairs and a trashcan for hikers to utilize. There was also water and some first aid items there. It was a bit early for me to take my first break of the day so I just enjoyed it briefly and then continued to long.

Signs for the hiker rest stop.

Around this time the trail rerouted for about 5 miles. Some sections were a bit overgrown but nothing too terrible. I’m not sure exactly what the reroute is about or why, there was just a sign indicating such. As I walked I listen to music for a while and saying out loud. Then I really wanted to zone in and let the time fly by so I put a podcast on. Sometimes when I listen to music I pay too much attention to how many songs I’ve listened to. I know that might sound odd, but it often makes the time feel as if it’s going by slowly. When I listen to podcasts I usually zone out a lot more and the time flies by.

While I walked along the trail and various dirt roads I could see foot prints in the sand. I assumed that they were Beer Runs foot prints and he was up ahead of me somewhere. After our break together yesterday around 2pm I never saw him again. Last night was my first night camping alone on the Florida trail. Also my first night camping alone since Quebec on the international Appalachian trail. I wound up having a really nice day though yesterday. It didn’t feel like I was alone because I spent over an hour hiking with that adorable dog.

Later on in the morning I passed by some forestry guys. Some larger trucks drove by me while I was walking along a dirt road. I’m not sure exactly what they were doing out there but they gave me plenty of space and waved at me from the trucks. I also saw a ton of banana spiders today. At one point I almost went face first into a massive web. Banana spiders in my opinion are the most terrifying spiders in Florida. They are nasty looking and massive. Their legs are long and almost look sharp. Every time I see one it freaks me out a little bit.

After walking for about four or five hours I passed by a deer hunting station. There were picnic tables, a kitchen area, and what must’ve been a deer cleaning station. I was most excited because there was running water there. So I was able to splash some water on my face and run some water through my hair. I haven’t showered or done laundry in 10 days and I’m feeling pretty greasy. It was nice to feel a bit refreshed before continuing along. I sat there briefly and did some stretching. Then I kept on walking to town  

Jumping for joy because by the end of today I will have walked about 5000 miles this year along, all over the last 9 months.

I was making good progress and at this point I was only about 6 miles out of Heathrow, FL. That meant I was only about 9-10 miles from Lake Mary where I plan to spend the night tonight and probably tomorrow night too.

I left the deer cleaning station I walked along dirt roads briefly. Then got out onto a more main road. Fortunately there was a paved bike path that followed along the road all the way to Heathrow. It was great not having to worry about cars as I walked along the road.

The hunting and deer cleaning area.

I saw this bird and initially thought it was fake because it sat so still.

I’ve been seeing these birds a lot lately. I love their red heads!

The sun was out in full force so I used my gossamer gear sun umbrella as I walked. By god did I miss that thing after I lost it in Suwannee. The umbrella is great for rain but I use it even more for sun. After a couple hours of walking I arrived in Heathrow. It was a pretty busy town with restaurants, hotels, and a grocery store.

My gossamer gear sun umbrella.

I passed by McDonald’s but decided to go to Publix instead. The idea of getting a sub sandwich sounded great. But when I saw that there was a Starbucks inside I decided to get a Frappuccino. They are such an amazing source of calories and go down so easily.

The lady working at the Starbucks made a little bit of extra Frappuccino. She asked me if I wouldn’t mind bringing it outside to the girl who is ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. I brought the extra Frappuccino out to her and got to watch her face light up with surprise. Even though I was just the messenger it’s still felt nice to do that for someone.

A big bruise on my wrist. The other day I slipped on a wooden walk way and caught myself with my arm. It hurt my shoulder and left this big bruise.

Before leaving the Publix I bought a new pair of headphones. The microphone on my phone has been broken for a while. The only way that I’m able to make phone calls is using headphones. But of course my headphone microphone is broken as well! That meant that I haven’t been able to make any phone calls recently. I’ve really been eager to talk to my parents and some friends. I felt a bit disconnected because of it. I got a nice five dollar pair of headphones at Publix and then continued walking the road.

As I walked from Heathrow to Lake Mary I called my dad and we caught up for a while. It felt really good to talk to him and fill him in on everything that’s been going on recently. I’m looking forward to getting into Lake Mary and being able to get clean and really relax. On my way towards the motel that I would be staying at I stopped off at a grocery store. I wanted to get travel size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and other things like that. It’s been about 10 days since my last shower and laundry so I really wanted to treat myself and get extra clean.

I got everything that I needed and then some. I even remembered to get laundry detergent to use at the motel. While I was there I also called and made a reservation at the motel for tonight and tomorrow night. I’m looking forward to resting today and then also taking the day off tomorrow. It’s been a while since a day off so I’m sure my body would appreciate it.

It wasn’t far to the motel from there. I got in sometime before 3pm and was able to check in right away. When I got up to my room I pulled everything out of my backpack and got situated. I began to gather all the laundry up to do a load in a little bit. Then before I took a shower I actually used my phone to order some food to the motel. Luckily there’s tons of different restaurants around so I had my pick of the litter.

The timing couldn’t have been better. I took an amazing shower and washed my hair. It felt so nice to get clean. I was also pleasantly surprised that I didn’t find a single tick on me anywhere. I’ve been trying to look periodically but it’s hard when you’re in the woods all the time. I have one set of clothes that I wear all day long and I even wear them to sleep. You don’t really look at yourself out there the way that you do in town with mirrors.

By the time that I finished up in the shower my food arrived. Then I lounge at the room and ate Indian food in bed. I got an incredible spread with paneer tikka masala, garlic naan, and an appetizer platter. There were tons of different appetizers and you got to try one or two of each which was perfect. That’s my favorite way to eat typically. Recently I haven’t been able to eat any sort of variety of food. It seems like I’m eating the same thing all the time. This was a nice change of pace.

The big spread of Indian food that I got delivered to the room.

After lounging at the room for a long time eventually I decided to head out. I really need a new pair of shorts and a couple other things. The couple of stores that I went to today didn’t have what I was looking for. In the end I wound up taking a pretty cheap Uber down the street to a plaza with a Walmart. I got what I needed at Walmart and then walked down the street to a dicks sporting good store. My current hiking shorts have about six holes in them. I was so excited to get a new pair of shorts.

The sunset in the Walmart parking lot.

Some of the snacks that I got in Walmart. I’ve been loving these recently.

By the time that I finished up shopping at the plaza it had gotten dark. I called an Uber and while I waited for it to arrive I talked on the phone with my mom. Then I headed back to the hotel to relax for the rest of the night. I felt accomplished that I got just about everything done today. When I got back to the hotel I put a load of laundry in and washed literally everything. I wore my puffy and put my new shorts on so I could wash everything.

My new shorts! I got my previous blue ones back in July on the Appalachian trail.

The rest of the night I laid in bed and watched TV. I felt so good to relax. The best part was knowing that I’ll be able to rest all day tomorrow too. I wound up staying up pretty late watching TV and also doing some writing. But I can sleep in as late as I want tomorrow so it doesn’t really matter. By the time that I actually went to sleep it was around one in the morning.

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Comments 17

  • Devil Dog : Dec 17th

    Thanks for posting. Stay safe. Love the new shorts.

  • Old Man Paul : Dec 17th

    Well…. you’re coming in the back stretch now….white flags out…. last lap.
    Alot of time to contemplate…. what’s next?
    What has Jesus called you to do next?
    He’ll tell you…..if you listen…..
    It’s awesome reading your posts.
    “Do what you can with what you got while you can.”
    Old Man Paul

  • Sally : Dec 17th

    The red headed tall birds are sandhill cranes. Their calls sound like they belong in Jurassic Park. Very cool birds.

    Safe hiking. Enjoying the blog posts!

  • thetentman : Dec 17th

    5K is a good hiking season to be sure.

    Congrats and cheers.

  • Phyllis : Dec 17th

    You are amazing! I thought driving cross country by myself back in 1980s was daring. Stay safe and healthy!

  • Gingerbreadman : Dec 18th

    I was always skin & bones after half what u done now. Of course I try to live vegan so had to carry most of my food rather than trail stores/ restaurants. On CDT04 I walked past a young Grizzly in Glacier Park…it just kept grazing grass. On the JMT (PCT93) the trees were tiny so we slept with our food. Woke up with a black bear laying on my legs in a coffin tent …screamed then threw rocks after which hung our food in the tiny trees. Climbing Mt. Olympus in Greece, one of the numerous stray dogs (Collie)adopted me. Helped it scavenge garbage etc… On the EUROALPS (EAT) from Bratislava to Nice (2000 km) a pack of cats followed me for miles like I was Pied Piper in Austria.

  • bob : Dec 18th

    I’ve been reading your posts daily and really enjoying everything you are doing, glad you get to take a couple of days off, looking forward to whatever it is you do next.
    you are a remarkable woman!
    stay safe and enjoy being young while you still are

  • Geeber : Dec 18th

    Great trail journal – living vicariously through your adventures as our hiking and biking world is only a 20 mile up and down the FT from our house – and most people have no idea even that 40 mile section has beauty, seclusion, some really cool mountain biking “orange” spurs and of course ever encroaching Florida development . You passed (almost literally) through our backyard that is adjacent to the paved SWT / FT section near Markham Woods – and I am sure went to the same Publix / Starbucks we patron in Heathrow. Would have left some trail magic if we realized. Stay safe and trek on – looks like the end is in sight!

  • KYLE J VON BOSE : Dec 18th

    I’d be a little upset too if my dog somehow slipped out and then someone took it on a 4 mile walk away from my house, instead of helping it find its way home 🙁

    • Al - NH : Dec 18th

      Hopefully, you’d be upset at yourself for letting it loose next to a major road.

  • Al - NH : Dec 18th

    Thanks for packing out the balloon. Once, there was a search for an overdue trail runner. He was wearing blue shorts. Unfortunately, someone had let loose dozens of blue ballons that were scattered in trees and bushes across the search area. It was annoying and time-consuming chasing down all the specks of blue. 🙁

  • Sunny Eberhart : Dec 19th

    Peg Leg,
    Regret I hadn’t found out about your remarkable journey earlier. I’m in Florida now for the winter, disperse camped next the FT in the Ocala Forest. You passed by my campsite two days ago—damn!
    JoJoSmiley, a dear friend who completed a NOBO ECT years ago lives here in Florida, not too far from where you are now. I can let her know if you’d like to get in touch.
    Very proud of you…
    God Bless,
    Sunny (Nimblewill)

    • Peg Leg : Dec 19th

      Hi Nimblewill! I was hoping our paths would have crossed in Ocala as well.

      We spoke briefly on the phone on your birthday this year when I was with. Chuck Norris and Tigger.

      When I was up in Canada I read some of Jojo Smileys trail journals. It would be very cool to meet/talk with her. I would love that.

  • Ruby : Dec 19th

    Hi Peg Leg, I have 2 little girls who love hiking and are following your journey from when you started the Bama to Baxter.
    You are a surreal dream like inspiration for them 😊
    We are in Florida from now till the end of January and they’d love to meet you even if for a few minutes.
    Please contact me if possible. I’d love to surprise them.

  • Leah Love : Dec 19th

    I love that pic of you jumping in the air!! I’m imagining that was fun timing it on your camera. 😀
    I hiked McAfee’s at the end of November and was the only person at the knob, so I had quite the experience staging my phone between tree branches and hitting the camera timer before running to my pic location. 😅
    Excited to follow the rest of your journey! Thanks always!

  • WolfoftheWoodandWind : Dec 21st

    Hey, I read posts here every now and then. I read yours because of the title and the friend you found that walked with you for miles. I dislike being the type of person that does what I am about to do but I feel compelled. I’m sure you have heard it before given your situation. The world is not a nice place. It is not rainbows and unicorns. I hope you are smart enough to be prepared to defend yourself and keeping aware of your surroundings and people you come into contact with. If you arent thinking this way, you are in the wrong place doing the wrong thing. I cant stress that enough. Also dont hate me for being the messenger on this, but if you really need to and it prompts you to think about it so bet it. If you are thinking this way, be serious about it and stay serious.
    Beyond that assuming you are being serious about your safety, amazing job. Learning the self reliance it takes to be on your own is a great thing in this day in age. I look forward to running across more stories from you.

  • Liaqat Ali Nizamani : Dec 25th

    Come to Pakistan so I’d like to show you the real beauty of Pakistan like silk route trail, K2 base camp trail and many more deserted trail


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