Huge Thru Hiker Reunion

ECT Day 312&313

Day 312: 37 miles

This morning we broke down camp fairly early by the oasis center. Originally I was planning on walking directly to the Florida Trail kickoff. The kickoff starts tomorrow, so my timing was pretty perfect. But we’re a day early. So we could hang out all day and do nothing, or we could do some hiking today. Then we’ll just have to get a ride back to the kickoff tomorrow.

We decided to do some walking, because the idea of sitting around for 4 consecutive days sounded crazy. So we’re going to walk to the miccosukee casino today. That way we can get in somewhere, take a shower, and maybe even do laundry, before the kick off. But the miccosukee casino is a 37 mile walk from here. So it is going to be a long day.

Smiling in the bathroom, because today I officially begin the ECT connector trail which will take me down to the Keys.

The morning began along the road, leaving big Cypress oasis center. We walked along a canal for most of the morning. I was on the look out for alligators. I didn’t see any but I did hear a giant splash in the back of a swampy area out of sight. It definitely was an alligator splashing around, but I just couldn’t see it.

We are going to be on the road all day long today. For the most part it will be main roads like this. Later on though we will be walking along a levee of sorts. It was pretty boring walking, but I was trying to keep myself entertained and let the time go by. At least we were following along the canal for most of the morning. I was watching it nonstop hoping to see something.

Trucker walking along the road as the sun rose.

At one point some sort of bird was diving in the water. It would dive down and then swim under the water for 20 feet or so. Then it would pop back out and do the same thing. I watched as the bird dove in the water over and over and over again. It continued until it came to the end of the channel it was swimming through. The water went through a pipe and popped out on the other side. Once the bird got there it turned back and flew the other way. That was some of my morning entertainment.

A bunch of shoes thrown over a power line.

As we continue along the road, we got close to a small town with a gas station. We passed multiple northbound hikers over the course of day. I was really surprised to see anyone coming up from Key West. Most hikers don’t start the Florida trail down in Key West. Typically the only people who start down in Key West are people who are doing the eastern continental trail.

We got to a gas station in the afternoon and decided to stop there for a break. It was our first break of the day and the perfect spot to do so. Inside there was a bunch of hot food. I got some empanadas and other things to pack out. Then I ordered some sweet potato fries and a quesadilla for lunch. We sat there and ate a bunch of food and drank some drinks. Then we grabbed what we needed to continue along to the casino.

A section of the road walk which went over some kind a channel.

Before we left the station we use the bathroom and then went past a covered area. I was surprised to see a couple hikers hanging out there. It was Loins of Arabia and Trash Panda. A friend of mine had actually told me about them, and said that they were coming up from Key West. They own a hostel in Millinocket at the end of the Appalachian Trail. It was really cool to meet the two of them. They both are super nice people. I’ll be seeing them tomorrow at the Florida trail kick off!

After talking to them for a little while we continued along on the road. Within the next couple miles we passed by even more hikers. Two guys went past at a distance, so we didn’t get to talk to them. But three hikers went by us and stopped to talk. All three of them are attempting the eastern continental trail. Two of them, a couple, said that they’ve been reading my blog this year. They are doing a flip-flop hike like I am. They already did a big chunk of the Appalachian Trail from the northern terminus to New Jersey. Now they’re planning on going all the way up to New Jersey from Key West.

Walking along the levee with water on either side.

We talked to them for a little while, but then had to continue on. I wanted to talk to the hikers all day long, but we had 20+ miles to go for the day still. Today is a long one. We’re gonna be getting into the casino super late and really don’t have time to spare.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind of exhausting hiking. The road was tedious. After walking along a pretty busy main road for most of the day we eventually got up onto a levee. The levee did allow for through traffic, but there really wasn’t anyone out there. We walked by canals full of water and looked for alligators all afternoon. My feet are feeling really sore today. I think that the last two days the ground has been very gentle on my feet. We haven’t been pounding pavement or hard trail by any means. The swamp is a lot harder on the legs and it was on the feet. At least in my opinion.

A bunch of old cars alongside the road.

Before we knew it the sun was setting on the day once again. And we still had so far to go. We continued walking along the levee. Luckily there was enough moonlight out that I didn’t have to put my headlamp on for a long time. At one point we walked by some residences on the reservation that we were on.

The memorial for the plane which went down in the Everglades right by the florida trail.

We continued making our way to the miccosukee casino. I think the hardest part of our walking to the casino was that you could see it in the distance for 10+ miles. We could see the casino pretty much for the entire last 3 to 4 hours of walking. It was just haunting you in the distance. You knew that it was incredibly far away but at the same time, how far can it be if I can see it?

A beautiful sunset this evening.

After dark my feet were tired and I was so ready to be done. I was working on some of my breathing exercises that I do when I’m in pain. Sometimes I just try to control my breathing and my thinking. I try to will away some of the pain when it starts to overwhelm me. My feet were just really sore and I was ready to be done. We were on the levee for a while longer. Then eventually the levee brought us out to a road which was under construction.

Walking past a dam and some kind of water management building by the Miccosukee casino.

We turned onto the road and then proceeded on that for another couple of miles. At this point the casino was so close it was looming over us. It felt like we were 10 feet away but you knew that it was gonna take another hour to get there. That was brutal.

We wound up getting to the casino around 9pm. I was so tired after going almost 40 miles today. We checked in and luckily there was food for sale 24 hours a day. I actually got some papa relenna pan de bono. Then we headed up to the room to relax. I was exhausted and knew that once I laid down I was not going to want to get back  up.

Finally arriving at the casino around 9pm!

I laid in bed and ate food. My body felt so incredibly sore from our long day. Luckily, we won’t be hiking again for a few days. It’s gonna be so great to rest and relax at the Florida Trail kick off. After eating food in bed for a little while I eventually took a shower. Then I hung out in the room. I felt so good to do nothing at all.

Even though I was super tired I still wound up staying up pretty late. Eventually I called it a night and went to bed. it’s looking like we’re going to be able to get a ride with someone who helps with the Florida trail association tomorrow. Bryon is going to come get us from the casino and bring us to the campground for the kickoff.

Day 313: zero day

This morning we slept in a bit at the room. I was really glad that I set an alarm though for around 8am. My body was so tired I think I could’ve slept forever. But I had coordinated a ride with a guy named Bryon who helps with the Florida Trail Association. He’s helping to set up the event this year and said that he can bring us over to the campground today.

I got up and packed my things. Then I took another shower before we left the hotel. Around 9:30am Bryon came to pick us up. He had another hiker with him named Twig. She has a really impressive hiking resume and has done just about everything you can think of. I enjoyed talking to her on the car ride over.

Along the way we stopped at a gas station so that Trucker and I could grab some snacks and drinks. It looks like there’s gonna be a lot of food and drink provided for hikers at the kickoff event. But I still wanted to bring a couple things just in case.

Arriving at the campground for the Florida trail kick off event.

Then we drove over from the campground. The campground where the Florida Trail kickoff event is held is down the road from the oasis center. It’s not held at the oasis center itself. By the campground there is a small store with a reptile exhibit. And they have a large camping area with all the facilities. We got a ride over and paid for a campsite for the next two nights. Originally I was thinking we were going to spend three nights here. But it seems like most people are going to be heading out on the 5th. So I’m not sure what we will do that day.

Signs for the campground and other facilities.

When we got dropped off at the campsite I was pleasantly surprised to immediately see a familiar face. My friend Caboose was sitting there with a bunch of other hikers. He hiked the PCT last year and we’ve been corresponding a lot this year on Instagram. He just finished multiple hikes already this year. A couple of which was the El Camino, the Natchez trace, and now he’s hiking the Florida trail starting at Key West.

Once I got settled in and set up my tent I began talking to loads of hikers and people assisting with the kick off. I met a guy named mud duck who hiker on the Appalachian Trail. There was also a hiker named Machine there.

One guy was named Sir-Enity, and was there with his two sons. He hiked the Appalachian Trail back in 1995 and then hiked it with one of his sons in 2022. Now he’s hiking the Florida trail with another one of his sons. I thought it was so cool that he hikes with his kids. As someone who comes from a family of non-hikers, I can only imagine how cool that would be. With your parents or children that would be a really neat experience.

Eventually there would be dozens of chairs around by the fire pit.

For the next few hours I talked to all of these people. I spoke with Ari who has been putting out a lot of the water caches along the FT. His son has a 3-D printer and made little tags for the Florida trail. He also made stickers and was giving those out. It’s amazing that so many people want to help out with the Florida Trail community. The FT gets so much love that it reminds me a lot of the Appalachian Trail. I think for the proportion of people supporting the trail down here it feels like everyone is putting a lot more energy into the trail. It’s really amazing to see.

The 2nd biggest python in captivity. This photo makes her look so small. But the main portion of her body was much thicker than my thigh. Apparently it takes 8 people to move her.

Later on in the day two other hikers arrived named Woods and Sprinkle. They both hiked on the PCT last year too. I actually crossed paths with Woods when I was southbounding a section from Timberland lodge down to Mount Shasta. Earlier in the year I’d skip that entire section because wildfire. Then once we finished up in Washington myself and a few other people went back to do that section. We crossed paths with her when she was going north through the section and we were going south. I never met Sprinkle last year but she did look familiar, probably from photos. It was just so cool to talk to other hikers.

There was another hiker named Reboot there. She runs the hostel in Hot Springs. She was really funny and got a mohawk shaved there on the spot at the kick off. I had never stopped at the hostel when I passed through Hot Springs this year. We were fortunate enough to get trail angeled in Hot Springs; someone put us up in a room and bought us all dinner. But it seems like she really loves her hostel and has done a good job with it over the years.

Two small alligators at the exhibit.

As the day went more and more hikers arrived. Lost and Found who was on the PCT last year arrived. I saw her this year at Trail days, but haven’t seen her since. It’s just been so amazing seeing so many familiar faces today it really fills my heart with joy.

As the day went on I ended up spending a lot of time with Loins of Arabia, Trash Panda and, Caboose. We all just talked for a long time sitting out by the fire ring. As the evening went on a bunch of people who were working the event got dinner going. I wasn’t sure what to expect with dinner, but was in awe of how much time and energy they put into everything.

Some of the Florida trail kick off set up. Tons more people kept on arriving as the day went on.

In the end there wound up being rotisserie chicken, potatoes, vegetables, macaroni salad, actual salad, bread, rice, and a few other things. It was a ridiculous spread. I piled my plate so incredibly high. It was like an add for a paper plate company, Hefty.

By the time that I walked back to my seat, I realized that Tripod had arrived! Tripod is one of my favorite hikers. We met this year around trail days. He picked me and some of the guys I was hiking with up from dragons tooth and brought us all the way down to Damascus.

That weekend we wound up hanging out with him and a bunch of his friends. At trail days I met so many people who to this day are just some of my favorite friends and hikers. It was a really amazing event and such a nice opportunity to meet so many people.

I wound up spending the whole weekend with Tripod and his friends as well as other hikers. Then Tripod brought us back back to the trail. And rather than heading home he dropped us off and then he ended up leaving his car somewhere and actually met us on trail. Then we hiked with Tripod for a few days around the Virginia Triple Crown area. He did McAfee knob and Tinker cliffs with us. We had together for maybe 4-5 days. Then he got his truck back and wound up driving us into town. The follow day he slacked packed us and watched the dog Roxy that I was hiking with so she could take a day. It was an amazing week or so hanging out.

A bunch of people sitting around the fire ring area. Over in the distance is myself and Tripod. This photo was taken by Eric Emery.

Those are some of my favorite memories from earlier in the year. Now about six months later, he’s driven down to Florida to go to this Florida Trail kick off. He hikee the Florida Trail earlier in 2023. It’s going to be really nice to see him and hang out there for the next couple of days.

The rest of the night wound up being such a blast. So many other hikers arrived. I just spent the whole night talking to a bunch of awesome people. I met a guy Shep, who I guess has been following my story for a while. He loves to help hikers. It was very nice to talk to him and finally meet him.

Later in the evening, Amelia Airheart and Learning Curve arrived. I met Amelia Airheart at Shaws. She was working there this year. I’ve never met Learning Curve, but I’ve heard a lot about him. I was happy to finally meet him. After that the people from Shaws hiker hostel arrived. I got to talk with Hippie Chick, Poet, and Long Shot. I love Long Shot. He was the one who brought our food drops out to us in the hundred mile wilderness. I had met him at Shaw previously and talked with him a bit. I don’t know what it was but he just had a great energy about him and I liked him a lot. It was really cool to see him again unexpectedly here.

The remainder of the night was just an amazing time. I bounced between groups and talked to so many different people. I had such a good time hanging out with everyone. The best part is that everyone’s going to be here for the next couple of days. Some of the hikers are going to get on trail tomorrow or the next day. But not everyone is going to hike out tomorrow. Plus more fun familiar faces are going to be arriving tomorrow too.

Then around 9:30pm another friend arrived! Boosted from the AT drove his dad’s truck and pop up tent down for the night. He even brought Roxy which was an amazing surprise. Things started to quiet down around this time. Some people are going to be hiking out tomorrow so they had an early night. The lights got turned off, but I wound up staying up pretty late with Boosted and Tripod. We were just shooting the shit and having a good time together.

Sometime around 11pm I finally decided to call it a night. I headed my tent and called it a night. Today was such a fun day. It made me so happy to see so many familiar faces an old friend. What an amazing way to get to my ECT journey.

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Comments 2

  • Old Man Paul : Jan 9th

    I don’t know what happened with Beer Run, but my hat’s off to Trucker. He’s one awesome gentleman. I feel that Trucker saw that you were going to be going through some of the most desolate and dangerous terrain in America and he didn’t just jaw about it….he stood up and did something about it. It’s awesome that he’s your companion and he has your back.
    You’re awesome girl. You’ll look back and tell your grandchildren about this trip.
    God bless you both. Be safe.
    Onward Christian Soldiers.

  • Alex : Jan 15th

    Peg Leg

    I loved reading about your hike thru Big Cypress Swamp. Glad you didn’t have any encounters with unfriendly gators. It was funny reading about all the people you get at the hiker reunion. You mention this person or that one and I would think she hiked with them on this portion of the trail. I am going to go into withdrawal when you finish your ECT adventure. I am looking forward to reading about your last part of the hike to Key West.

    Take Care and Keep on Trucking.



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