Things are still looking up on the Florida Trail

Since I last checked in with you, friends, countless steps have been taken, yet more water has been waded in, mud has again gripped my shoes and my tent has been set up six more times. Florida continues to present both beauty and bothers along the way, which is part of the picture of every long-distance trek. And I love it.

We last left off as I said goodbye to my restorative zero day in the town of Okeechobee. A local trail angel very kindly gave me a 4 mile lift from my motel to where I had left the trail.

Rather than going through the past week day by day, let me share with you, in general, what I have experienced.

A few more levees have been trodden upon, one large and long between a busy canal and pastureland

other very modest between marshes.

Birds have been seen every day, most often water birds.  I wish I had memorized their names in advance, but I can still greatly appreciate their beauty and gracefulness when flying alone or in flocks.

Other animals have certainly been sighted, but not nearly as many gators as I would have liked.  Breach of contract, Florida!

At least I saw two more. C’mon guys, don’t be shy!

If there are other hikers somewhere ahead of you, this can frighten the animals away.  I have seen but missed capturing photos of a raccoon and a fast, plump wild pig who darted across the trail.  Not a real beauty, but fun to see.  I suppose his mother loves him.

This armadillo did have a head. He was just digging for some goodies and then raced out of there.

At least this guy couldn’t run from me.

The landscape varied from huge expanses of prairies, such as the Kissimmee River Plain, which I spent two days walking across.  It switched back and forth from swaths of grasses to short saw palmettos as far as the eye could see.

I particularly recall one cool afternoon when its openness particularly entranced me in the late afternoon lighting.  Every so often, the trail takes the hiker into a palm or live oak hammock, meaning a grove of trees.  So lovely!  I felt like I was in a hushed cathedral or a dense green oasis.

Several times I found an orange tree or two in the hammocks. They’re not native to Florida, but were planted by early settlers and these are lone remnants of earlier dreams of success.

The prairies could also be sloughs, pronounced “slooze,”  meaning marshes that often are flooded by nearby rivers, giving the hiker wet and muddy shoes again.  You just get used to it, and on a hot day, the wading in water is refreshing and trail runners and light wool socks dry quickly.


The roads can be super sandy, difficult to walk in for long.

In the prairie, they can also be flooded or muddy, so that’s when we hikers move onto the rough grassy area beside the road. In the practices of Leave No Trace when hiking or camping, this wandering off the trail is normally frowned upon, but since it regularly floods here, we’re not changing the trail permanently.

As mentioned, live oak trees, some amazingly wide spread,  and some long-needled pine trees have come to the party, joining the tall royal palm trees that reach for the sky.

Clusters of shorter saw palmettos cover the prairies and taller cabbage palms (surprisingly evergreens) cluster in the forests and some fields.

Spanish moss has entered the picture now and gently sways in the breeze like lace curtains.

And, as an aside to native Floridians who know their plants, I apologize for any mistakes I make. I often forget names or precise facts.

Five “official” campsites were camped in this week, meaning hikers are supposed to register for free with the South Florida Water Management District (I usually did)  for camping at a certain site, where cleared areas are available for tents, a picnic table awaits (yay!) and often a pitcher pump which required priming with some water left in jugs by previous users.

Yes, the water in my bottle is tinted yellow, but I filtered it and it tastes fine.

Often these are hike-in only with no road access, which keeps them quiet and free of partying locals.  I really appreciated these places, almost always in a lovely wooded setting, although the ones also managed by SFWMD that I stayed at by the levees were tree free since that’s how levees are.  Still very appreciated.

However, I found one campsite, Cowboy Crossing, to be rather creepy.  Wild pigs routinely tear up the ground there (and everywhere else) as they search for nuts and other goodies, and barred owls communicated with each other at any hour with their spooky, non-traditional owl hoots.

Pigs tear the heck of campgrounds, trails, farms. No wonder outdoorsmen are encouraged to hunt them.

I was very happy to have a pair of thru-hiking men show up for the night.  We ended up walking and camping together the next day too. Leaving camp with them helped me get up earlier and speeded up my process of breaking camp.  I now start packing up by 5:30-6:00 am to the light of my headlamp, and try to get going by sunrise at 7:15, a magical time to be on the trail.

It’s easy to get up early in the morning since it’s pitch black by 6:30 pm the night before, and hikers settle into their tents.

Taking a break with new hiking buddies, Grits and Steps, at a ranger’s station. It’s nice to have chairs at our disposal sometimes.

Great people were met along the way, so often surprisingly from our state of Ohio.  Maybe not surprisingly, since there are 8” of snow back there and it’s 70 degrees here.  We’re not stupid.


It was great to have camping neighbors like Deb and Dick, plus their two sweet pups. They camp in style with a spacious tent and comfy inflatable bed. Nice way to spend the winter! I really appreciated the water they gave me, since there was no pump or other source at this site.

Along the way, I met these three great guys, self dubbed the Quack Attack Outdoor Adventures (QAOA), due to years of duck hunting together. They couldn’t do enough for me: cold bottled water, charging my phone and battery pack and a whole lot of fun conversation. It’s encounters like this that add so much pleasure to my treks.

Even though I wish folks wouldn’t kill animals, I did enjoy meeting quite a few hunters on the trail, bedecked in their camo  and orange, with guns (yuck) and interesting modern bows (not as yuck, but still deadly).

They were all very polite and interested in what I was doing.  Two guys, one of whom was Seminole, were training their dogs who had antennas on their necks.

The trail had me climbing several times, but nothing major at all.

The only real downer of the past week was a 5 mile road walk beside a very busy two laner.  For two hours, I had cars, trucks, motorhomes and strings of semis rushing past me. When there were lulls in the traffic, I hightailed it as fast as I could walk in the 4 foot wide paved shoulder, but quickly jumped off to the side onto the uneven grassy strip when traffic approached.  I wore my orange neck sun neck-guard in front like a bib just to aid a bit in my visibility.  Time passed, I wasn’t hit, and I welcomed the deserted dirt road I eventually turned onto.

After 5 nights in the wilderness, so to speak, I passed a nero (arriving before noon, nearly a zero mile day) at the unique Westgate River Ranch Resort, because of a food drop from home awaiting me at the registration desk.  This fancy dude ranch has it all for those who want it all and are willing to pay for it.


My poor tent had an inferiority complex from being situated between a Nashville star’s massive bus setup and dozens of spacious glamping tents on platforms.


I appreciated the campsite, the hot showers, the spacious, clean bathroom where I washed my filthy clothes in the sink using their hand soap, did yoga at 5 am, and helped myself to reams of their high quality Scott paper towels to use for wiping down my tent after an overnight rain shower. I got my $50 worth.

Having received a mail drop from home with two more days’ of food, I had one more night of camping, this time at a large oak hammock where folks camp but not at an official campsite, which is quite common.  I actually find it surprising how comfortable I have become with camping alone the past few years. It’s not like I go out into the jungles of Brazil, never to be seen again.  I’m in Florida and I could be at a road within an hour or two of hiking. Or three. Once I go in the tent at night, I don’t go out and wander around to get spooked by the dark. I  only step outside of the tent  briefly when nature calls during the night.  And by nature calling, I don’t mean those spooky barred owls.

And now, here I sit in my sweet little motel room at Lake Marian RV Resort, enjoying a nero followed by a zero, the best way to really rest up, in my opinion.

    Can you believe this bald eagle sat here for 10 minutes and let me get within 10 feet of him before flying off? Amazing!

I have to say, though, that I’ve been so very pleased with how well my body has performed on the trail.  I’ve gradually increased many of my days to 16-20 miles, and I feel fine. I don’t walk faster, I get up earlier and simply have more hours to hike. Nothing hurts.  I sleep very well, be it in a bed or in my air mattress.  Why?  The food.  The advance training.   Stretching every evening and yoga when possible. I am grateful for all of these.


I’m enjoying two nights in a bed,  more nice people to talk to, laundry facilities,  and some variety in my diet with some canned, frozen and fresh options from the modest camp store to add to my dehydrated food while I’m here.




This is my final zero day for this year’s 370 mile section of the FT.  Each has been restorative and enjoyable.

In fact, yesterday’s nero was full of hours of holding my breath (figuratively), drama, excitement and joy, as I watched on my Peacocktv app with my next door motel neighbor, Chris,

As Bill’s and my son Jon and his racing partner competed in their Audi at Daytona Speedway, just an hour and a half drive from where I am presently sitting.  Yes, that Daytona!  They have competed for numerous years in the series of races organized by the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) for high end specifically racing-equipped cars like these Audis and Porsches.  Jon and Gavin are a great pair of drivers.  Gavin first met Jon, a racing instructor, years ago as he learned the art of racing. He owns the car and hires the technical crew.  The races always involve two drivers and are either 1 hour per driver or 2.  The pro driver (Jon) is always the second to drive, but they’re both good.  Long story short?  They ****ing won!!!!  Second time to win at Daytona, one of their favorites.

Jon’s in the center. How did I mother a 6’4” guy?

We’re so proud of our son for following his heart and doing what he loves.  Want more?  Check out or go to and look for them and/or their team, Roadshagger Racing.  I sure had a hard time getting to sleep last night, because the race was a real nail biter.  Very exciting to watch the competition, but every mother just wants her son to be happy and WIN!

So that’s  it for now. I’m still really enjoying the Florida Trail and am already nostalgic for it while still ON it, go figure.  Just six nights of camping ahead of me till I scrub myself clean, clean, clean at a hotel near the Orlando airport.  But, truthfully, I do feel it’s just about time to wrap up this year’s section. Then I can begin anticipating the 480 mile Colorado Trail in August and my second third of the FT next January.  So much amazing time in nature still awaits me!  And thank you very much for going on this journey with me.

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Comments 10

  • Barb Scott : Jan 29th

    Great Post! Sounds like you have met some interesting people. Sounds fun!

    • Ruth Morley : Jan 29th

      For sure, some great people out there. Since I’m not seeing any other backpackers now thst they’ve all whizzed past me, I get a lot of enjoyment talking with other folks. Many are snowbirds down here for several months, and I’m certainly coming to understand that. However, I’d be restless staying in one RV park all winter and driving my golf cart to go get the mail, to walk the dog and to see my friend a block away, etc. But you’ve got to admit they sure are having fun!

  • Laura Budde : Jan 29th

    Hi Ruth! I enjoy reading your updates and all of the wonderful photos you share. Inspirational to see you practicing some asana as well!

    Just by walking and being you have an impact on all of the life around you.

    Much love and respect,


    • Ruth Morley : Jan 30th

      Laura, that is very kind of you to say. I’d love to help encourage others to “eat well, move more, stress less, love more,” to quote Dr Dean Ornish, MD, the highly respected physician and researcher who helped Bill Clinton reverse his heart disease and adopt a whole food plant-based way of eating.

      • Julie : Jan 31st

        You’ve encouraged me for sure! I love your spirit, wit, and writing style, and you make me chomp at the bit to eat more plants and let go of the deadening crapola engineered “food.” Thanks!

        • Ruth Morley : Feb 1st

          Julie, I’m so happy that you are motivated to move away from the food-like substances that make up
          our culture now and move towards more real foods. It truly makes a difference in your health, vitality, spirit. We’ve been given one body tor our time on earth. It deserves the best fuel possible.

          I recommend a couple of books, among many: “The Starch Solution” by Dr.John McDougall and “The Engine 2 Diet “ by Rip Esselstyn.

  • Jon : Jan 31st

    Thanks for the shout out! Great to hear that nothing is hurting!

    • Ruth Morley : Jan 31st

      You drove an amazing race, pulling up to first from further back several times. I just wanted it to end when you pulled into the lead, and get you on that podium!

  • Sarah Runyon : Feb 2nd

    I loved your posts and pictures! I am in the planning stages of hiking the palmetto trail in SC and , if all goes well, the Florida trail will be next on my bucket list. It’s so easy to get bogged down overthinking the trails till I end up putting it off. Then I read posts such as yours and I am reminded of the excitement and anticipation of seeing the world from a new perspective. You have relit the fire and for that I thank you!

    • Ruth Morley : Feb 3rd

      Sarah, what a great comment you wrote. Now I need to read more about the Palmetto Trail. I’m really happy that my post helped rekindle the fire for you. As I say also about adapting a whole food plant based way of eating, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It can also be all or something. For me, I’ve found that the trek doesn’t have to encompass months and months to be rewarding. It is equally rewarding when measured in weeks or days or hours. I find pleasure in three aspects of these outings: the anticipation and training, the actual hike and the lifetime ownership and memories of the experience.

      Go for it. We only have one life on this earth, as far as I know.


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