The Florida Trail, Part 3: The Trail Provides

As I sit down to write this, I realize it’s been over a month since my last update. Time flies! Apologies to anyone waiting with bated breath on a new post, the trail journal has been serving as tinder on cold nights more than for writing. The pages do light up nicely, though.

I’m just a couple days away from the halfway point of the trail, and I’m thankful to be feeling the best I have since I started. I wake up on most days with relatively little pain and happy to turn on airplane mode and focus on the trail. It won’t get easier, as a fellow hiker who recently completed the Florida Trail told me (Congrats, Sound FX!), but I’m ready to deal with the curveballs that will come my way over the next 550 miles.

Feeling the Suck 

In my last two posts, I covered my first week on the trail. By Day 9, I was feeling pretty worn out. My feet ached, my pack seemed to get heavier every day, and I was feeling deep pangs of loneliness. I cherish solitude when I’m at home, but solitude is the norm on the Florida Trail. Unless I’m passing through a town, I see fewer than a handful of people on trail every week. As a woman hiking alone, I’m also apprehensive about being too friendly or chatty, and I have a blanket rule not to accept help from strangers unless they’re a verified trail angel. The combination of pain, frustration, and isolation felt overwhelming, and I was more attached to my phone than I expected. Aren’t I supposed to be disconnecting and enjoying nature? Wasn’t that the point of all this?

I realized that thru-hiking wasn’t something I was doing just because I like hiking. It’s something I’m doing because I feel the need to test myself in a way I’ve never been tested before. I hike past the point where it’s fun and enjoyable and keep going because I promised myself I would get to the end. Through rainstorms and freezing nights and tears and aching feet until every single step of the 1,100 miles is complete.

But, as I’d quickly learn, I’m not an island. And the trail doesn’t need you to be.


I was only about 63 miles into the trail, but I desperately needed a break. Dirty, tired, and sick of camp food, I asked for a ride from a trail angel that Sound FX had vouched for. Lil Cub scooped me up from Canoe Cemetery and kindly drove me to a nearby hotel. I would zero at his awesome hiker hostel the next day, but tonight I needed a bed. Having thru hiked himself, he understood it was one of those days.

The next day I walked a few miles to Lil Cub’s. He had an outdoor covered patio with couches, a well-stocked fridge, a charging station, charming decor, and a trail log with entries from other grateful hikers. I could set up my tent anywhere in the yard. After a quick afternoon walk into historic Crestview, I came back to a delicious dinner (including an Abuela-grade beef stew) and a warm fire.

In the morning, he drove me to the trailhead and offered to take a few photos of me. I couldn’t have asked for a better first trail angel. It’s sad to say, but I was a bit stricken that he had been kinder to me in just two days than my own father had in my life. As I would continue to learn later on the trail, there’s a different level of good in the hiking community. I’m still getting used to it, but it’s been a special thing to experience.

Eglin East and Defuniak Springs

I continued on through the eastern section of Eglin Air Force Base. The next 70 or so miles were pretty and hilly (for Florida). I crossed creek after creek on cute wooden bridges, spotted Super Mario mushrooms and tiny frogs, and enjoyed the contrast of fall leaves against a still largely green landscape. I reached a sign announcing the highest elevation on the Florida Trail: 272 feet.

After realizing I had miscalculated how far the next campsite would be, I decided to take another zero day in Defuniak Springs. But first, food. Trail angel Aaron El picked me up and kindly drove me straight to Whataburger. From then onward, burgers became my comfort food.

I was still in a lot of pain, felt like a slowpoke, and hated the cold. Aaron was encouraging and reminded me I’d come a long way already. Hikers have a lot of sayings, one of them being: “The trail provides.” So far, I’ve found it to be true. Whenever I’ve needed a boost, a pep talk, a burger, a moment of relief from “the suck”—I’ve gotten it. And it’s always been enough to keep me moving.

After a very welcome day off in Defuniak Springs, I got back on trail on Day 15. I felt a bit of pride that I was moving on to the next section of the map: the Eastern Panhandle.

(The one good thing about taking so long to update the blog is that I got my film photos developed during that time. Enjoy!)

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Comments 3

  • Matt : Feb 24th

    I love reading about your adventures. Please keep posting!

  • Mike : Jul 14th

    Great stories and pictures! Looking forward to seeing your progress.


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