Trail Magic Three Times in One Day
ECT Day 295
Day 295: 22 miles
This morning I woke up early around 4am and was surprised that it wasn’t raining. Last night the forecast had shown rain all night and all this morning. Then on top of that it’s supposed to rain all day today and most of tomorrow.
I went back to bed around 4am and told myself that I’d wake up another hour or two later. If I could beat the start of the rain I was going to try. Especially if that meant keeping my tent and other gear dry the entire day. I wound up sleeping in until after 6:30am. I woke up kind of frantically realizing what I had done. But it wasn’t raining yet so I was still in the clear.
I got packed up fairly quickly anticipating the start of rain anytime. Then I headed out of camp. I was so excited all of my gear was bone dry. Even if it’s going to rain all day today at least I know everything is currently dry. I set out on the trail and weaved through the woods. I was getting smacked in the face with spiderwebs all morning. It was a really nice start to the day.
The trail was beautiful and clearly had been maintained recently. There were a lot of little wooden bridges to keep your feet dry. I even passed some areas with picnic tables. I had planned to go further last night but I got nervous that the trail might be flooded. Luckily though the trail was completely dry those first few miles of the day.
As I walked I listen to music and thought about yesterday. Yesterday was one of the best days that I’ve had in a really long time. I got to see a great friend of mine and I also got to talk to tons of awesome strangers. I will say that the one in counter I had with the guy who followed me into the woods was a bit of a negative. That was probably the sketchiest thing that’s happened to me in the last nine months. But lucky for me it had a good outcome. I also got to meet one of my blog readers yesterday named Gary! He was such a nice guy and that was really one of the highlights of my day.
I checked the weather while I was walking to see what it had in store for me. It looks like by the afternoon today it’s gonna start pouring and it’s going to keep pouring until sometime tomorrow morning. The biggest problem with that the worst of the rain is going to be between 5pm and 5am. Around the time that I would want to stop to set up my camp and sleep for the night. I can set up my tent even if it’s raining. But if it’s pouring rain it can be pretty hard to get a good pitch. It’s also supposed to rain 2 to 4 inches. So I’d have to be pretty thoughtful about where I set up for the night. Otherwise there’s a chance that the tent could flood if the water level gets too high outside.
I’m going to be getting into Christmas, FL sometime around 3pm-4pm today. But sadly it’s a small town and there isn’t any place to stay. There’s a campground but they actually only allow RV parking and no tenting. As I was looking through the map I noticed that there was a church in town. I decided to read the comments to see if the church might have a pavilion or something. And I was so glad that I did.
I saw some comments that the pastor has some kind of a fellowship hall that he opens up for hikers. It would only be a 22 mile day or so for me to get to Christmas. But if I could stay dry overnight it would be worth the shorter day.
Around 9:30am I decided to call Pastor Ken. He answered right away and said I was the first hiker of the season coming through. I said that I read the comments online about potentially a dry place to stay in town. He happily said that he had some place where I could stay. And just to call or text him when I got into town. That made me so happy. The worst part about today was going to be knowing that I would get soaked and stay soaked. It is going to rain all day and there are no shelters or anything ahead.
Not long after I sorted all of that out I also was talking to my dad. I wanted to let him know that I would probably be in Okeechobee around Christmas. Originally my plan was just to stay in a hotel in Okeechobee for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. But when I was talking to my dad he mentioned that he might be able to come down in that time window. My aunt and uncle and cousins are going to be staying in Tampa for the holidays. My dad was invited to go as well, but didn’t plan on actually going. When I told him that I’d be in Okeechobee he changed plans quickly.
My dad called my aunt and sorted everything out really fast. So now there’s a new plan which is super exciting for the holidays. When I get to Okeechobee sometime around Christmas my dad is going to come and pick me up. Then he’s going to drive me to Tampa where my family rented a house. So for Christmas I’ll get to see my dad, my aunt, my uncle, and my cousins. I might even get to see my brother if he gets work off. Sadly I won’t get to see my mom, but I wasn’t expecting to see anyone. So this is still an amazing surprise.
I was high on life after learning that. I didn’t mind the idea of spending Christmas alone in Okeechobee. I was actually pretty excited that the dates lined up to spend Christmas in town. But even better than that is the idea of spending Christmas at a rental house with my family. I’ll be able to stuff my face with food and talk to my family. I normally spend every Christmas day with my dad and the family who is going to be at this house.
As the morning went on I was surprised that it hadn’t really started raining yet. I checked the radar earlier and it looked like it was going to start dumping around 10am. I pulled out my disposable rain poncho and had it ready. It seems like it would be the type of rain that started fast and was heavy. But hours went by and the rain didn’t come. It wasn’t until around noon that I finally started to sprinkle.
The rain was so light though that a poncho really wasn’t necessary. Just the umbrella would’ve worked. In the end I actually wound up just wearing the poncho though and had the umbrella put away so I didn’t have to hold it. The trail was really well-maintained but incredibly muddy and wet. I was trudging through some sections that were knee deep water. Then for miles I was walking through ankle deep mud.
I really don’t mind getting my feet wet so that wasn’t a big deal. More so I was worried about losing a shoe in the mud or slipping in deep and accidentally falling over. In the end I just had to go slower than usual which was fine. Luckily the rain was holding off still. I managed to take a break someplace dry and get some stretching in. I could feel the wind rolling in and had a feeling that the rain was starting to come. I wanted to be able to stretch before it was too late.
Within 20 minutes of sitting down to stretch the rain started coming. And it was pretty damn heavy. This is what I’ve been waiting for all day and expecting. At this point I was still a couple hours outside of Christmas. I messaged Gary who I met yesterday alongside the road near Oviedo. He’s been reading my blog all year and had given me his information yesterday. He said that if I needed anything in Christmas he would come and bring it out for me. I texted him to let him know that I should be fine. There was a grocery store in Christmas and I said that the church was gonna let me stay there. Gary was so nice though and insisted on bringing me lunch.
That was so incredibly nice of him and gave me something to look forward to as I walked in the rain. He planned to meet me at the trail head just before I got into Christmas. And said that he was going to bring me Chick-fil-A! What an amazing treat. The last few days I’ve really felt incredibly grateful. I feel like everyone I’ve met has been looking after me and wanting to help me. I’m really feeling the love recently. And as someone who hasn’t really seen family and friends for most of the year that means a lot.
Gary and I wound up making plans for him to come and meet me around 2:45pm. That was the time that I estimated I would get into the Christmas area. After walking through mud and ankle deep water for a while the trail eventually got dry. But then after another couple miles of dry trail it got muddy again. That definitely slowed me down a bit. I wasn’t trying to hold Gary up so I was trying to go as fast as I could.
Over the course of the day I passed by so many little bridges. One in particular had a sign that said Christmas Creek which was absolutely adorable. The section was really well maintained and looked after. The mud is just something that’s unavoidable.
Between 1-2pm it rained pretty heavily. And just before 3pm I was getting out to the main road which went into Christmas. I texted Gary to let him know that I was there by the trail head. But he had actually gone to a different trail head by mistake. I felt really bad about that because I didn’t wanna waste his time. But it was a classic miscommunication. In the end he said he would just actually meet me at the Circle K in Christmas. That worked out perfect day because I had to walk right past there on my way to the church.
I continued along the Florida trail until I came across the main road. Then I veered off to head into Christmas which is technically off trail. There’s a grocery store in town but I didn’t really need anything. I did have to do a resupply but a friend of mine actually left a resupply box at this church for me today. What a nice surprise. So I definitely wanted to see what was inside before I bought anything at the store.
I blew right past the grocery store and headed to the Circle K. Right as I walked up Gary pulled up in his car. He had brought a bag of Chick-fil-A and a drink for me. He even offered to drive me down the street to the church because it was technically off trail.
While Gary drove we talked in the car. I got to pet his dog Poppy who is absolutely adorable. The church was just a mile down the road past the gas station. We pulled up and then sat in the car waiting for the pastor to arrive. I had texted Pastor Ken to let him know that I was on my way. Him and his wife live just a short ways down the road so they just had to come on over. Gary and I sat in the car until the pastor arrived
It was so nice of him to drive me over here and let me stay in the car to keep dry. Not only that, but he went out of his way today to bring me lunch! That was so incredibly nice of him to do. And it was great to talk with him again.
When Pastor Ken pulled up I got out of the car and said goodbye to Gary. I thanked him for everything and we took a picture together. It was so cool to meet him not just once but twice in the last two days. Then headed off and I went with Pastor Ken and his wife. They showed me into the fellowship hall which was a building behind the church. It was basically a giant studio apartment. There was a kitchenette and a fridge. There was plenty a room for me to sleep inside and even a television.
Not only was it the perfect place to spend the night and get out of the rain, but Ken and his wife also stocked it full of food and goodies for me. They brought a bowl of fruit as well as some pulled pork sandwiches. There were even cupcakes in the freezer and sodas and chocolate in the fridge. My friend Jay who I was talking with today on Instagram dropped off a big box of different goodies for me too. I was overwhelmed but all of the kindness that I was experiencing all at once.
A rainy day like today could’ve been miserable. The idea of continuing on the trail soaking wet and setting up camp in the rain sounded rough. Rather than that I got to get out of the rain and get into a dry building for the night. Plus I had plenty of food and anything that I would need for the next couple days. Everything worked out better than I could’ve imagined in my wildest dreams. I’m so grateful for all of these amazing people who want to help me along my journey. Without them today would’ve been so sad. Instead today is one of my favorite days of the whole year. The last couple days in general have all been really magical.
I really didn’t even know what to do first at the hall. I wound up taking off my shoes and socks and cleaning them out. Then I put them in front of the heater to dry. The pastor’s wife actually brought the heater just for me to drive my things. Then I took all the gear out of my backpack and laid that out too. Everything that was inside was dry because it was in a trash bag. But everything in the outside pockets was wet.
Gary had brought me two sandwiches, two sides of waffle fries, and a drink. I sat down and watched TV while I devoured the food. It was so good. I couldn’t have been happier. After I finished eating I called my dad. I really wanted to fill him in on my day because it was so unbelievably magical. Whenever I tell him stories like this about my travels it always blows his mind. He works with people for a living which can sometimes help you to lose faith in people. But from my travels all I’ve realized is how much more faith I have in people. In my experience people are amazing. The people are what make a journey like this so special.
After I talked to my dad on the phone I finished getting situated. I got my sleeping pad laid out for the night. Then I did some writing and got organized a bit. Between the bit of food that I had already and the resupply box that Jay brought I didn’t need a thing. I have to go about 100 miles to the next re-supply location and I should be all set to do so. That saves me from having to buy anything at the store which is awesome.
I wound up getting a lot of writing done as the night went on. I watched movies and laid in the fellowship hall. I could hear the rain pouring down outside and just kept thinking how lucky I was to be here. Tomorrow I get to set out with all dry gear. Even if it rains in the morning at least I know everything I own will be dry. And the rain is supposed to stop by the late morning or early afternoon.
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