The Final Week of a 5,500+ Mile Journey

ECT Day 316&317 

Day 316: 24 miles

This morning I wound up waking up super early, excited for Fresh Ground to feed us breakfast. I got packed up and talked to Caboose and Trucker as we started the day. Then we headed over to the parking area with Fresh Ground was already getting situated and ready to feed all of us hungry hikers.

A beautiful and bright sunrise this morning.

One of the really cool things about Fresh Ground is that he carries a deep fryer. The french fries that we had at trail magic yesterday were fried on the spot. So the home fries that we were going to be having for breakfast were going to be fried and delicious. He even fries the bacon. 

Sitting on top of Tripod’s motorcycle this morning before we rode over to the bathrooms.

Trucker took a picture of me from the passenger window while I sat on Tripods motorcycle.

Tripod, Trucker, and I wanted to head over to the nearby rest area to use the bathrooms there. I rode over on Tripod motorcycle, which he was towing behind his truck. It was only a short distance from one parking lot to the other. That was such a fun way to start the day. I don’t think I’ve ever sat on a motorcycle before. Especially one that was moving.

Sitting on Tripod’s motorcycle which was on a trailer. He drove the truck down the road and I sat on the motorcycle while he did.

Sitting on Tripod’s motorcycle.

After we went over to the bathrooms we came back and hung out with everyone. Fresh Ground made fried potatoes, eggs, bacon, and blueberry pancakes. I had a hot chocolate and an orange juice. Even after eating a really big plate, he just kept on feeding you. I had so much fun hanging out with everybody. I’m feeling so grateful that the timing worked out to meet Fresh Ground and hang out over the last couple of days.

Everybody hanging out by Fresh Grounds van this morning.

I truly cannot express how much I feel like this was meant to be. The last few days at the kickoff event and spending the last day with Fresh Ground has been really wonderful. Coming to the end of my journey I think I appreciate all of this now more than ever. The last week has been a truly exceptional way to send off the end of this massive thru-hike.

Fresh Grounds and I.

All of us wound up hanging out and talking for a long time after breakfast. We got to get some background on Fresh Ground and his story. He’s a really incredible guy who has gone through some awful things. But here he is on the other side, and all that he’s doing for thru-hikers is just incredible.

Everybody getting fed by Fresh Grounds down in Florida!

It was so nice hanging out at breakfast with Fresh Ground, Learning Curve, Tripod, Trucker, Caboose, and Fred. All of us wound up talking for hours. I wish we could’ve just stayed all day talking and hanging out. I know the Fresh Ground was going to be staying there and doing trail magic all day long. But eventually I have to finish this damn Eastern Continental Trail.

After 9:00 a.m. we said goodbye to everyone and packed up to head out. Tripod was going to drive us the hour or so to get back to the Miccosukee casino. It was really nice of him to be driving us around and helping us the past couple of days. It’s been so cool to see him again. I’m hoping that we might get a chance to see each other maybe even one more time before I leave the Florida.

Tripod and I.

Before we knew it, we were getting dropped off by the Miccosukee casino. I felt kind of sad to say goodbye to Tripod. I’ve had such a good time the last few days hanging out with all these hikers and old friends. I think it’s been helping with my denial that this trip is truly coming to its end. The last few days made it feel like it was just getting started. Maybe that’s because for so many people their hikes really are just getting started. But for me a 10+ month journey is coming to an end. I’m having a lot of trouble wrapping my mind around it. I’m so close, I can reach out and touch it.

Navigating traffic as we hiked along a pretty busy road.

At this point there is so little mileage left. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be completing this hike. In the week ahead I will become the second woman ever to walk the entire ECT from key west to Newfoundland. When you’re thru-hiking, you often don’t know if you will finish. It really isn’t until the way end of a hike that you can really say for sure that you will.

If you’ve ever completed a thru-hike, you know that eventually you reach a mileage where all doubt fades. It becomes clear to you that no matter what happens you will be completing your thru-hike. A lot of hikers will joke that with only 100 miles remaining in a hike, that you could literally “Crawl to the end.”  That’s how I felt last year on the PCT when I was injured for the last couple hundred miles. I knew that no matter how bad my limp was and how much pain I was in there was no chance I wasn’t going to finish. You’d literally crawl there if you had to.

Here I am now at that exact point. I have about 150 miles to go to get to Key West. Absolutely nothing could stand in my way. When I was sitting around with everyone at the kickoff, I just kept thinking about the fact. That as long as I was there hanging out this, this hike never had to come to an end. As soon as I started walking again, I knew it was gonna be over in the blink of an eye. But I can’t avoid it. This hike is about to end, whether I like it or not.

When we got back to the Miccosukee casino, we said goodbye to Tripod and got back on the road. It’s all road from here to Key West. We didn’t get back to walking again until around 11:00 a.m. We have to do 20+ miles today so it’s going to be a long day. I didn’t mind though. I was happy to have spent as much time as possible with all of my friends. Seeing everyone over the last few days has been so good for the soul.

Over the last week or so I fell behind a bit on my writing. Typically in Florida I’ve been able to say pretty up on it. When I’m walking on the road it’s very easy to do voice to text while walking. But the last couple of days when we were in the swamp that was not possible. You really couldn’t spend any time on your phone. Then we got to the Florida Trail kickoff and all I wanted to do was hang out with friends. I honestly didn’t even take a lot of photos over the weekend. I wound up having to get some photos from other individuals at the kickoff because I didn’t take any.

I thought this sign was pretty hilarious.

When we set out walking today, I decided to be productive right off the bat. I wound up voice to texting and writing out a bunch of blogs. I even got some of them fully typed up and added the photos in. It’s not exactly the most time-consuming thing, but it definitely takes time. I’ve just been doing this all year, so I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Writing a detailed blog about every single day of your hike certainly isn’t an easy feat.

Trucker walking the bike path up ahead of me.

Within the first hour while we were walking a car pulled over right in front of us. A woman opened her door and called me over. She knew me as “Peg leg” and said that she had been reading my blog over the course of the year. Before I could say or do anything, she shoved $20 into my hand and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Angel and her husband Bruce were both incredibly nice. It was so cool to meet them even if just for a split second. Before I knew it, they were waving goodbye and driving down the road. That was such a wild and unexpected encounter.

Not long after that I called my dad and caught up with him for a little while. When events like that happen, I always want to talk to someone after. I’ve been spending so much time this year with myself. You celebrate moments alone over and over again. It’s a unique thing to learn to celebrate things all by yourself. Even when there’s no one around to see you accomplish something. It’s really more about the feeling inside anyway. There’s some sort of voice inside which is what’s getting hikers through difficult times. That’s what’s making you get to the finish line.

I wound up catching up on the phone with my dad for a while. I filled him in on a potential living situation that I may have worked out. A friend of mine lives in a pretty major city and is walking distance from a lot of things. I can move in the end of January and could probably find work right away. Then I could work for 3 to 4 months and save up enough money to do some hiking again in the summer. I haven’t really found any alternative plan from this. So it seems like I’m gonna be living with this other hiker and his roommates.

Walking along a bike path heading toward Homestead.

We kept on road walking all the livelong day. The major struggle of the day was finding places to go pee. We were walking in the grass alongside of road. And just passed the grass was a fence on both sides of the road. So there was absolutely no place to go to get out of sight of the cars. At one point I popped my umbrella out and peed behind the umbrella. I knew the people driving back could probably see my ass, but I had no choice unless I wanted to pee my pants.

We walked for about 3-4 hours before stopping. Around this time, we began passing by fruit stands that were selling all sorts of things. We wound up walking past one farmstand in particular. It had a porta potty outside, which was super convenient. And it also sold tacos! So we had to stop off there for a break and to grab a late lunch. We each got a plate of tacos which were absolutely delicious. And they were served with a big half of avocado each.

Delicious tacos from a stand alongside the road.

The cute kitty from the fruit stand.

While we sat there a cute little black kitten was walking around our feet. I got to give some love to the cat before we continued along. Leaving there we walked for another couple of hours along the road towards Homestead. Once we got closer to Homestead, we stopped off at a gas station. I got a f’real milkshake which hit the spot! I drank it as we walked the road the rest of the way into Homestead.

I couldn’t resist getting a f’real milkshake from a gas station.

We had heard from another hiker who already went through the area that Homestead can be pretty rough. The trail doesn’t go right into town, but we took an alternate route so that we don’t have to hitch into town. Rather than walking along a canal for most of the day we just routed straight through Homestead. That way we can just walk right to a hotel for the night. Stealth camping in an area with a large homeless population is probably a bad idea if you can avoid it.

Trucker walking the bike path.

Originally, we had thought it was going to rain all day today. The forecast did not look good. But the weather kept on pushing off. Not long after leaving the gas station though the skies began to get dark. Looking behind us we could see a big front rolling in. It was very clear that we were going to be getting hit with some weather soon. We walked as fast as we could to see if we could somehow miss getting hit by the rain. But about a half an hour after we saw the clouds, the rain hit us.

A sign for a Monkey Jungle.

Some really rough looking clouds began rolling in later on in the day.

It started to absolutely dump. It was super windy, so even with an umbrella you still got super wet. My shirt stayed dry, but my butt was completely soaked. We had no choice but to continue walking through the rain. It was much easier knowing that we would eventually be getting to town and would be able to dry off at a motel room. The rain went on for a really long time and then wound up letting up just before dark.

The sky got super dark. It wasn’t long before the it opened up and began pouring rain.

When we finally made it to our motel it was really late at night. We got into the room and got comfortable. Then I hung out and eventually took a shower. It was so nice to hang my clothes to dry. My shorts were soaked and my hoodie was a little bit wet. But my shoes and socks were the worst of all.

After I showered, I just hung out at the room and got some writing done. Then we watched TV before calling it a night. There really wasn’t anything nearby for dinner. I was a little bit hungry but didn’t want to eat anything from my food bag. In the end I just wound up calling it a night.

Day 317: 28 miles

This morning I wound up sleeping in at the room around 7:30 a.m. Eventually I got up and started slowly packing up and getting ready for the day. It looks pretty gloomy out but hopefully it’s not going to rain. It might just be crummy out day.

Once we were all packed up, we hit up the continental breakfast before we got walking. I just wanted to get a mocha to drink while we walked. We wound up talking to a bunch of people in the lobby of breakfast area. In the end we hung out for way longer than expected. A lot of people were curious about what we were doing, where we were going, and where we were coming from. We got caught up there for a long time before you finally got moving.

After that we were back on the road. Today we have to do probably close to marathon of walking. Our general route is going from Homestead to Key Largo. I’m excited for all of the delicious food along the way! Also, this is going to be a really beautiful way to end my journey.

Leaving Homestead we had to walk along some pretty sketchy roads. That’s what you get for doing an alternate route.

Within the first couple of miles of the day we went past a gas station. This would be the last store we went by for the day until we got closer to Key Largo. We went inside I got a couple empanadas to eat. I also grabbed a few snacks to eat over the course of the day. We both ate something outside and got some liquids in before we continued along the road. We also had to make sure that we have enough water to get us all the way to Key Largo. We won’t be going past any water source on the road walk.

Leaving there the walk began all the way to Key Largo. While walking I got a lot of writing done. I was also focusing on some planning for what I might do after trail. I’m excited for what the future holds over the course of this year.

Crossing over a bridge. For most of the day the break down lane was large. That made the road walk feel perfectly safe.

I got so much done over the course of the day. After going at it with writing for a few hours I was feeling so accomplished. But there were times when I had to stop writing and focus on the road. For the most part the road we were on had a wide shoulder. Typically, we were able to stay well in the shoulder or breakdown lane. But there were definitely sections of our route where there was very little shoulder or place to get away from traffic.

We spent pretty much all day walking along a really loud and busy road. It was honestly a bit of a sensory overload. When we would finally get a chance to get away from the road a bit, it was crazy how everything was quiet down around you. I’m much more used to be out in the quiet woods than I am to be out on the busy roads. The Florida Trail has been testing that over the past months though.

Crystal blue water just off the road. I’m so excited to get further into the keys.

Later on in the day, some bigger clouds wound up rolling in. I was hoping that it wouldn’t, but sadly it started to rain. I was a bit cold and actually put my rain jacket on before it started. I was glad that it did because it rained pretty heavily for a while. It was windy too which was a little bit annoying with the umbrella. Eventually the rain let up, but it still rained on and off a little bit over the course of the day. After around 4:30-5:00 p.m. and on it was clear skies for the rest of the night.

A sailboat out on some beautiful clear water.

Over the course of the day, so many people honked and waved at us as we walked. Honestly it had felt like such a victory lap as we make our way to Key West. It feels like everyone is cheering me on as I make my way to the finish line. That’s been a really incredible feeling these last couple of days.

Drinking a massive blue icee! It was so damn good.

By the time that we were getting further into Key Largo it was after dark. Before getting to our hotel, we stopped off at Key’s Chocolate and Ice Cream. I’m on a mission to try as many pieces of Key Lime pie as possible this next week. This was the first place along my list. I got a piece of pie and we continued walking along the road. Originally, I was planning on saving it until after we got waffle House for dinner. But I decided to try a bite. Then I wound up eating the whole piece. That was one of the best pieces of Key lime pie I’ve ever had. It tasted exactly how you think that key lime pie should. I’m curious to see how the other pieces will match up over the days to come.

The first of many slices of key lime pie that I’m going to eat down here.

Keys Chocolates and ice cream.

We walked over to a Waffle House from there and sat down to get some dinner. I was absolutely starving and ordered so much food. I got a two egg breakfast with eggs over easy, potatoes smothered and covered, bacon, and an extra side of potatoes that were smothered, covered, and topped.

The huge spread of food that we got from Waffle House.

The food came out and I absolutely stuffed my face. I could hardly move afterwards and the idea of walking a half a mile to the hotel seemed impossible. Eventually though we headed out and went those last 10 minutes or so of the day. We’re staying at a Holiday Inn near Key Largo. We got there around 8:00 p.m., which was actually a bit earlier than I was originally expecting. My feet were really sore towards the end of the day today, so I was glad to be done.

The decorative lobby at the holiday inn.

We got checked in and got to our room. I took the first shower and then got into bed afterwards. Then I stayed in bed for the rest of the night. I got some writing done and we watched TV. I stayed up for a little while but I was really exhausted. Eventually I rolled over and called it a night.

The windows for our room were reflective. I couldn’t resist taking my picture in the reflection.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 12

  • Pcs : Jan 10th

    The Monkey Jungle has been around for ages…the visitors walk around in cages and the monkeys are loose

    • Jesse Long : Jan 12th

      I’m a 66 year old man never been married, never had a car, never had a driver’s license and retired from janitorial work but I’ll do a little janitorial work to pick up money for traveling, batteries for my radio and everything else I need. If a woman talks sex to me, I shut the door and never speak to her again. I try to live the way God intended for me to live. I’m into music and writing. I’ll carry a guitar with me or buy one at a pawn shop.

  • chris : Jan 10th

    That’s a great photo of you giving the peace sign on the bike,..

  • Gingerbreadman : Jan 10th

    Congratulations…well now that AT has become ECT I wonder if the PCT or CDT will follow in the footsteps of George Meegan & be Tierra del Fuego to Tuktoyuktuk? GM hiked from 1977-1983 & did 19,000 miles or about double the actual distance. Perhaps that is better left to bicyclists! Or for a more exotic adventure, follow in the 19th century footsteps of Ewart Grogan from Capetown to Cairo, just to impress his future pa-in-law. Europe is much easier with a valley town every 2 or 3 days & lots of huts, but you better join British Alpenverein if you hike the length of Austria or the huts will gouge you nonmembers. Other countries like Switzerland allow you to camp outside the huts. Europe can be done on the cheap; but no one cares much about a thru hike & get rid of trash @ the store you bought the stuff!

  • Kelli : Jan 10th

    I know your family lives in FL, so not sure that you will find this special, but look out for the tiny key deer on Big Pine Key. Only 1000 left in the world.
    They are so sweet and precious.
    Enjoy the journey’s end. There is always another.
    Bright blessings.

  • Nikki : Jan 10th

    “It’s a unique thing to learn to celebrate things all by yourself.” This totally resonated with me as a mostly solitary person. I’m so excited for you to finish- I just “discovered” your blog about a month ago and look forward to your posts- enjoy all the key lime pie and congrats on such huge feat!

  • Jim : Jan 10th

    Well, you might be done by now, which seems really weird! When you were heading north on the AT, I felt I would be reading your blogs forever, but I guess forever just got here. Congrats to you on doing something that I would have thought impossible. But it’s not because you just did it. I’m already dreading not having your adventures to read. Maybe you could write about your non hiking life too? Ha ha!

  • Nellz : Jan 10th

    Peg Leg! Your journey has been one of my favorites by far! I’ve checked in each week to catch up on posts I’ve missed. You’ve inspired the hiker in me to take the plunge on longer hikes and or eventually a thru-hike! Being a woman, there’s always that stigma and or fear of hiking alone on thru-hikes, you’ve changed that for me!

  • AmaSue : Jan 10th

    I have really enjoyed your posts and have been following along with your hike since Bama, I am so glad I was able to be “a fly on the wall” as you made your journey. I am positive that your parents are so proud of your accomplishments and so am I, looking forward to following your next hike! Congratulations on being one of two women to complete a hike of this magnitude. Thanks for posting your adventures.

  • Banda Nadeau : Jan 10th

    I just stumbled across your post and so glad I did! I am in awe of you and will start following you and also go back to read your posts from the beginning. What an amazing adventure. I have done little sections of the AT and plan on moving to NC in about 4 to 5 years to do more, but this is so inspiring to do the ECT! You go girl!

    • The Lone Ranger : Jan 11th

      Hi Peg Leg! I am new to following your blog. I think it is amazing what you have accomplished!

      I hiked a 50 mile stretch of the AT back in 1962, with my Boy Scout Troop 85, from Brilliant, Ohio, along the Ohio River, just across from West Virginia.

      We started the hike in Caledonia State Park (Pa.) Which is about 10-12 miles due west of Gettysburg on US30. I was 11 years old. We did jusover 50 miles in 5 days. We all carried packs of about 30 pounds. It wasn’t too much for the older scouts but it was a load for a short little far kid (me)!

      We ended our hike in Harper’s Ferry and I

  • TIMOTHY Popham : Jan 11th

    Congratulations you’re finishing up super cool. Been following you after the mushroom on the trail on the AT. Your journey is inspiring. I live in Melbourne Florida, I’ve been wanting tothe Florida trail forever and you’ve now inspired me. I’ve camped at Jane Green a bunch of times. I bike in then walk from there. It’s a great walk over the bridges. If you’re ever around Melbourne throw an email you’ll get much love,and respect! Thank you for your blogging, your pictures. And love the trucker! You guys kick more ass than a donkey!


What Do You Think?