Okay, Enough With the Canals and Levees! Can We Just Move on in Life?

So after eight days of walking along and above long stripes of blue on the Florida Trail, the thrill is waning. I’m not really complaining, but I’m hoping that something new will present itself when I return to the trail after a restorative zero day in Okeechopee. Symbolically, it feels like progress is being made because I’ve now covered 150 miles of the Florida Trail and am switching my Far Out app setting from southern to central Florida.

Leaving the comforts of my hotel in Clewiston, I resumed doing what I had done the previous 3 days, walking along canals.

As usually happens, I was walking on my own.  I continue to not use earphones for listening to music, podcasts or audio books during the long hot days under Florida’s sunny skies.  Somehow, I am able  to get lost in my thoughts while observing whatever I’m passing.

This day turned out to be the Day of the Gators.    I was able to see at least nine of them sunning themselves on the banks of the canal to my left.  It had been down into the low 40’s the night before and the day was still cool.  We mammals enjoyed this fine hiking temperature, but the reptiles needed to warm up their cold blood.  I was very pleased to see so many of these unique animals.

Okay, so they all look alike. Just be happy I didn’t include the photos of the other 6. Hypothetical question: would their mothers recognize them? And I have to wonder if they each would be identifiable in a police lineup?

The gators were sunning themselves on the banks of a quiet canal on the opposite side of the levee from Lake Okeechopee.  Often there was a canal on the lake side which presented a nice show of various boats.

A mid-day break at funky,  old time Uncle Joe’s Fish House was well earned from lots of walking at exactly the same incline (as in, 0%) all day. I had the opportunity to spend time talking with another hiker I knew and meeting a woman also from Cincinnati, identifiable by her Bengals sweatshirt.


I had good fortune of having a third night in a row in a bed, but let’s just clarify that this most definitely wasn’t a Hampton Inn.  This little beauty certainly earned its one star, but the owner and her daughters were friendly, three hiking buddies were there to greet me and we had use of one of the golf carts.

One of the hikers, Kelly, really took to driving the cart and dubbed the vehicle Kelly’s On Call Kart Service (“Kocks)”, guaranteed to provide satisfaction.

The top notch entertainment was watching takeoff of a space shuttle vehicle from the nearby space center, my first launch to observe, so cool!  You could even see the boosters drop away after a couple of minutes.  This stuff is real!

It was nice to start out with them the next morning, but eventually everyone found their own pace. Yet more burning of the sugar cane fields dominated the horizon.

A lot of the walking moved from canal walks to paved bike trails by a busy highway, and, due to work on the levee,  several miles on the shoulder of this road, not the most comforting of situations.

Lodging was camping again at a private RV park.  It’s nice to have clean running water,  bathrooms and electric hookups for our electronics.

From atop the levee again the next day, it was interesting to see a range of residential development along its banks, as I approached the more populated town of Okeechopee on the north shore of the lake.

Water control systems continue to sprinkle themselves along the now paved hike/bike trail.

A few moments of entertainment: watching a lock raise 2 fishing boats up to canal level. Or was that down? Okay, truth be told, I wasn’t really watching. I was just enjoying good natured banter with the fishermen.

Just because there was civilization on the other side of the canal didn’t mean there was chemical-free water available for hikers.  Sometimes there was a spigot on the side of the pump stations, but, coming from the canal,  that water needed filtering.  It was nice to still be able to depend every now and then on the gallons of clean water left by trail angels by intersections or at small picnic spots.


After 17 miles of walking, I came to the campsite I had planned on, Buckhead Ridge, apparently named for a ridge that wasn’t obvious to me.  But Lake Okeechobee was visible in the distance from up on the levee.

At last I was to have my first night of camping alone on the FT. I had truly enjoyed each night I shared a campsite with other hikers, but I do love my alone time.  But I certainly didn’t feel completely alone, being able to wave at hikers and bikers as they passed by on the trail while there was still light, and hearing speed boats at all hours on the canal on the other side of the canal.


The sunset was lovely, as I scurried into my tent to escape the voracious blood sucking mosquitoes….

…as was the sunrise.

As planned, I knew I had only about a mile of walking this day till I would reach the highway leading 4 miles to the town of Okeechobee,  so I spent an extra hour at the campsite letting my tent try completely from the usual overnight dew. This way I wouldn’t have to string up a dripping wet tent in my hotel room, the usual operation.

ET call home.

Not wanting to walk 4+ miles along a fast moving highway to my destination, I did what any self-respecting backpacker would do:  I took my sunglasses off, put a big smile on my face and stuck out my thumb.  A few cars and trucks whizzed by, but then I saw a guy on a scooter!  Pointing at him and then holding my hands as though in prayer, he couldn’t resist my siren call.  My added weight and that of my backpack made us the slowest vehicle in traffic, so he soon found a slower side road that got me safely to my motel. Which won’t surprise any of you, I chattered in his ear the whole way.  What a fun way to wrap up two weeks of hiking!

Maddie and Caitlyn, don’t you do this till you’re my age. Better yet, never.

Arriving at my hotel that was somewhere between the levels of Rice’s Motel and the Hampton Inn, I was ready to enjoy a nero day and a zero day, with a king sized bed, good wifi, cable tv and a great treat planned for the zero day.

Welcome, but to where?

Visiting Publix supermarket was fun, finding all sorts of healthy goodies to supplement my new shipment from home of dehydrated meals and snacks that awaited me at the motel.  All my favorites!

Maddie and Caitlyn, as long as I’m  giving advice, please add more foods like these to your diet. You’ll thank me later.

And that special treat planned for today, my zero day?  A wonderful deep tissue massage that completely hit the spot.  I’ve been so pleased that my plan of starting with lower mileage days, stretching in the evenings and more frequent zero days (and a dose of good luck)  has resulted in my body feeling at ease with all the walking and slinging around a heavy pack I’ve subjected it to.  I consider it front end loading.  When I leave this hotel tomorrow morning, I’ll begin a stretch of 8 days straight of hiking around 12-15 miles a day till my next zero day.  I’ve already been doing that kind of mileage, but this time I must wait longer till I come to a suitable place for a zero.

I can’t believe how the time is flying. I’m so glad I’m doing this. My hearing is nearly restored, my body is functioning at 100% and I’m eager to see what’s awaiting me in central Florida.


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Comments 4

  • Jay Fann : Jan 23rd

    Liberals whine about anything.

    • Ariel Winegar : Jan 23rd

      Get a life

  • Terry Parsell : Jan 23rd


    • Ruth Morley : Jan 25th

      That’s what I keep saying too, Terry! I often feel I am in another country, maybe one in Central America, although I haven’t visited there yet so I’m only guessing. The US is so amazing with its wide range of topography, vegetation, climate, etc. I hope for many more years of being able to explore other regions, such as deserts. Maybe the Arizona Trail?


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