Jan 17 2011

Florida Trail Hike

One day a group of us decided to hike miles 9-27 of the Florida Trail.  At the time, we couldn’t find a detailed map concentrating on that point of the trail.   After spending years hunting loop unit with my father since I was a little kid, this seemed like a good idea.  I knew the terrain as far as snakes and ‘gators, but what none of us knew, was that an estimated 10 miles on Google maps turned out to be a weaving 16 mile hike….During a bone-dry season…through dry, bare, mucky, cypress land, and shadeless pine land.  It was beautiful, and this is our story.

Day 1
We started in from the Tamiami Trail Entrance and went North.  Covered maybe two miles before it started to get dark, and decided to relax, and set camp.  If anything was to go wrong or someone forgot something, this was the place to find out.  First camp night went fine, not too many mosquitoes.

Day 2
Up at daybreak, some cereal and processed milk for me, and we were on our way.  This was probably the best day of the hike.  The scenery was beautiful, lots of greens. At this point, overall morale was still positive up until the end of
the day.

Day 2 (con’t)
Eventually, the sun began to beat down hard enough, and the walking became tiring enough that some people began to consider turning back.  This was around the 5th mile down, at the 13 mile camp.  Remember, we thought it was a 10 mile hike.  So there was no point in turning back, not ONLY for pride, but for common sense.  About two miles down trail, walking through Slash Pinelands, we needed another break.  The sun was beaming strong, after all, it was April.  Some slept, some entertained themselves, some basked like if it was Miami Beach.  We were in the middle of it now, it was hot, water was being consumed, and we still had a lot more miles to cover if we were going to do this in 2 nights.

Day 2 (con’t)
A few miles later, we decided the sun was too much, and since we had a moon, we were going to hike at night.  The only thing to worry about was snakes.  I figured if we walked one behind the other, we would be OK.  I was used to getting on and off tree stands in the dark and walking blocks in Loop unit.  And we were making so much of a ruckus tripping on stumps, and coral holes, and palmettos, that I figured any snake hanging around would get the heck out of the way.  So I walked in front, with a flash light pointing forward.  And realised something, you can’t see the orange blazes of the trail at night, let alone the trail itself! LOL.  We covered a mile that night.  I don’t know how, I was on autopilot, but we did.  I followed what made sense to be a walked trail and it worked.  But after a mile, it all looked the same, so to not get really turned around in there, we set base camp.  At this point everyone realised that we were not going to make it out on schedule.  And to make matters worse, water began to run short for some.

Short on water, not getting out in time, and not looking forward to a long hike, the majority rule in the group was to call for help.  So a phone call was made, and help was going to be sent.  Speaking for myself, I didn’t want to be lifted out of there for reasons of pride and pocket, so I called dispatch and told them we were NOT in an emergency state, and that if it came to it, we would go and get help.

I guess they ignored me (or wanted to make sure I wasn’t a psycho) so they sent a chopper to look around.  In the middle of the night, we heard it fly over and land nearby.  They brought us some MRE’s and some water.  Morale was back up, were were ready to take one more day and finish the trail.

Day 3
The day started strong.  Just cover the distance and finish was the motto.We said goodbye to the pine lands and made are way through the cypress mud.  By 12:00, the sun was beating us from the top, and the normally cypress wetland, was sticky mud.  At that point we were taking 15 minute breaks every hour.  One of the members couldn’t go any further, and a few miles later, we stopped to set up camp.  He was feeling sick, and majority rule was to call for help.  So we waited.

First, a chopper came by and dropped off a  gallon jug of water. An hour later, it came back around, but couldn’t land in the cypress.  So they dropped off a couple of rangers who cut a clearing for it to land by us.  They took our weakened member and came for us in the morning.

Day 4
We woke up strong and waiter for the helicopter in the morning after breakfast They came, and asked we we were ready to go.  I said, “yea, ready to walk out of here”.  After a few nasty looks from the rest of the party, the ranger felt it was more important for us to do what’s needed then what we wanted.  And “getting back to work” was a want.  So we took a few pictures, they flew off, and we were on our way again.

Less than a mile down, lush, green, vegetation and water appeared.  A little further down, we took our last break, enjoyed a snack, the scenery, and continued down the trail.

In the end it was an accomplishment, and though as a group we were unprepared for the walk, it was worth while, and I’d recommend it.  In the winter : ).