Thigh Deep in a Florida Swamp

ECT Day 273&274

Day 273: 25 miles

This morning when I woke up I thought it was so late. I must have dreamt that it was almost 8am. But when I actually rolled over and checked my watch it wasn’t even 7am yet. We had a slow start to the day and were walking by 7:45am.

Once we got moving, we cruised along. From the start of the day, we could hear loads of dogs barking in the distance. It’s hunting season here in Florida. And most of the hunters that we’ve seen are hunting with dogs. You’ll hear the dogs running through the woods. Then when we pop out at a dirt road, we’ll see the hunters parked there. Luckily, I have an orange vest that I sent to myself back in Alabama. The last thing I want to do is get shot when I have about 1000 miles left to go for the year.

Walking through the beautiful pine forest this morning.

Early on in the day we ran into a bunch of hunters and dogs. Sometimes when the trucks would drive by they would have a big cage in the truck bed with a bunch of hunting dogs in it. They were pretty darn cute. I love a working dog.

Today was the perfect weather. It was a bit overcast but just enough to be comfortable. The sun still hadn’t come out by 10am! That was pretty crazy. But lately the sunrise has been around 7am which feels super late as well. The time changed definitely has messed me up a bit.

Endless rows of trees!

When we passed by a designated camp site with benches, we decided to take a break. It was nice to be able to sit at the bench and lounge. I pulled out some more snacks to put in the outside of my pack to eat while walking. Then we sat for a bit before we kept on walking.

Blue skies through an open field along the trail.

The walking was nice and easy today. But for some reason I was feeling pretty damn slow. It just felt like we hadn’t gone far at all by the afternoon. Sure, we started a lot later than usual. But still. The time was just not flying by today.

Smiling everyday!

Later on in the day we stopped to dry all of our stuff out. I just have to dry out my tent typically which isn’t bad. While we sat, I looked at Far Out and saw that we’d been walking through swamp most of the day. But for us once again it was bone dry! I don’t wanna jinx it but I’m feeling blessed. We could be wading in waist deep swamp. Instead, we’re walking on dry ground.

Covering my pack in a hunter orange vest so that I don’t get shot.

After we dried out our stuff we continued along. We still had a ways to go and wound up walking for a couple hours without stopping. Then we stopped one last time for the day before pushing to camp. By around 4:30pm we had only gone 20 miles so far for the day. I really don’t even know how that’s possible. But that’s what the Far Out map indicated.

Delicious clear drinking water.

It got dark around 6pm but we kept on walking. Lately I’ve been feeling energized in the evenings. Tonight in particular part of me just wanted to keep on hiking. I feel like I could have gone all night. We wound up finding a nice place to camp around 7pm though.

An epic pink and orange sunset tonight.

The camp site that we stopped at for night actually wound up having dozens of RVs and tents set up there. It was some kind of a family and friends gathering and camp trip. We had planned to stay in the actual campground, but it was insanely loud. Everyone had generators running and music going. So we walked back into the woods a ways to get away from the noise. There was a perfectly nice camp spot there to stop off.

Day 274: 32 miles

This morning when I woke up I thought it was still so early. But it was almost 7am! Because it’s dark so much later in the mornings I’m getting all messed up. No wonder we have been getting in fewer miles by the afternoons.

The campground we camped by last night had a pit toilet. Someone lit candles inside for light, but it gave the toilet a romantic vibe.

We packed up and got moving. Then within the first few hours of the day we finally reached our first swamp. We entered into the Bradwell Bay Area which I’ve heard so much about. All of the sudden the trail in front of you just turned into a deep pond that went on as far as the eye could see.

Fog rolling over a river.

A cute preying mantis statue at the Mantis Campground.

Before embarking into the swamp, we stopped off for a quick break. I took the ace bandage off of my calf and right leg so that it wouldn’t get wet. This will be my first time hiking without it in months. But I don’t want it to get soaked and then be super uncomfortable all day. After sitting around for a bit, we decided to bite the bullet and get into the water.

Twisty tress in Bradwell Bay.

The swamp was freezing cold and about ankle/calf deep to start. But it wouldn’t be long before the water was above your knee. The swamp was super murky and full of leaves and sticks. Your feet would slog through the thick muck as they pushed their way down to the ground below. In some places the ground beneath you would give way. There was some sort of unseen hole beneath you. Then your leg would sink maybe thigh deep or deeper! Every now and then I had to use my trekking pole to prevent my foot from going down infinity.

Trudging through swamp in Bradwell Bay.

Before this hike I had a pretty major fear of swamp and murky water. Alligators are a huge fear of mine. Even last year I vividly remember telling someone that I would never do the florida trail. And now here I am. I think it’s a lot easier to do it than to think about it.

When we’re walking through the woods I haven’t been seeing any snakes or other animals. So when you come upon a flooded stretch of trail I’m not expecting to see them either. I was surprised that hiking in the water didn’t feel much different than hiking on land. As long as I didn’t think too hard about it I was ok.

A big tree growing up out of the river near Bradwell Bay.

After slogging through the swamp for ages we finally made it to dry land. It took much longer to walk in the swamp versus on actual trail. We eventually came to a dirt road and decided to sit down and take a break there. I took my soaking wet shoes off and aired out I my feet. Then laid my socks and shoes in the sun to hopefully dry a little bit.

A little road walking along the florida trail.

Leaving there the rest of the day we were able to keep our feet dry. Obviously they weren’t dry, but they didn’t get wet again. We continued along through the pine covered trail. Listening to the sounds of hunters and dogs off in the distance. We passed by so many trucks with hunters. You would hear them radioing to the other guys to let them know we were out there. I wonder if we were messing up their hunting.

Following along the trail.

In the evening we passed by the first other hiker that we’ve seen on the FT! She was set up at camp for the night. The sun was just about to set. Beer Run talked to her briefly before I caught up. I had so many questions about who she was and where she was going. But I didn’t want to freak her out. It’s just exciting seeing another hikers. It’s just been Beer Run and I out here so far.

A trail register along the trail. I’ve been enjoying reading back to early 2023 to see the names of some of my friends!

Once the sun set we continued walking along the trail for a bit. Then popped out at a road as we made our way into Medart. Around 6:40pm we made it to a gas station just outside of town. I got a Yoo-hoo to tide me over because I was starving. Then we kept walking the road to get to a BBQ restaurant in town. I was so excited for a big meal. The last few days I haven’t eaten very much. I had no appetite for any of the food that I packed out. It was literally like pulling teeth trying to convince myself to eat it.

Hamaknockers BBQ in Medart.

We got to the BBQ place just after 7pm and sat down. It was a long day and we were both tired. But I was so excited to eat. We ordered quickly and the food came out even quicker. I got a 14oz rack of ribs, beans, and Mac n cheese. Everything was delicious. Especially the baked beans. That’s one of my favorite foods of all time. Baked beans from BBQ joints in particular are always the best.

Ribs, baked beans, Mac n cheese, and a roll.

Leaving there we had originally planned to walk a ways down the road and get a room for tonight. But when we finally pulled up the hotels online we saw they were crazy expensive. It was a Saturday night which wasn’t helping us. In the end we decided to just try and stealth camp somewhere in town. Spending a ton of money at 9pm to check into a room was a really wasteful idea.

For reference, this is where I’m at currently in Florida!

We found a nice flat place to camp over by a cell tower in town. It was quiet and got the job done. I set my tent up there and then called it a night.

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 5

  • Robert Sartini : Dec 6th

    I did the FT twice and I’m impressed with you starting in the short days when every day gets colder. I did Feb to March.

    Bamboo Bob FT 03 and 07

    Reply
  • thetentman : Dec 6th

    Beans can be an adventure if you are sleeping in a tent. A bad one at that.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  • Jeff : Dec 6th

    I have loved following you for months. As you venture into Florida there are animals way worse than bears! An…the farther south you go the more dangerous, pythons are a real threat if you are sleeping outside and gators…there is a reason gators are the only prehistoric threat…don’t drop your guard, ever!

    Reply
  • Jt : Dec 6th

    U are an animal. A true inspiration. Check the renegades out in crescent City!!! It’sMy favorite bar awesome food if u go in land. Keep on crazy!

    Reply
  • Theodore Poull : Dec 6th

    I like reading all of your posts.
    Keep on trucking and have fun

    Reply

What Do You Think?