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  • Archive for May, 2011

    IMGP1597
    With Meghan and Jesse on the Potomac Bridge. I had pink hair. *kinda wish I could dye it again…then again, maybe not* Meghan’s Blueberry was just a glimmer in her eye.

    IMGP1594
    Oh, hot and sweaty…almost half way.

    So long ago, yet not.

    See who else is making it to the mental half way point this year.

    A few weekends ago, on our Sunday off, Chris and I went to the Watson Preserve. It’s about an hour from Beaumont and well worth the drive. In fact, it has such a diversity and beat the Sundew Trail at the Big Thicket that day for having more blooms and plants worth seeing. I’d love to meet Geraldine Watson sometime (you must watch the video that is the link!). If you are ever in the area I highly recommend stopping by this place and checking it out.

    I’m breaking the trip down into several posts as I took a zillion photos. The photos on this post are with three areas on a section of upland trail near the parking area, mesic slope forest, arid sandyland and longleaf pine upland. Check the map on the link to the website.

    w8

    w1

    w2
    Gotta love Smilax.

    w3
    Geraldine’s house in the background. The trails wind right up to the house. We didn’t see anyone at home.

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    w6

    w7
    Maybe a coneflower?

    w9
    Sassafrass and ferns.

    w10
    Grasses can be beautiful.

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    w12
    Trillium, reminding me of the AT, and Hexastylis arifolia or a related species. Thanks Prem for the correct i.d.

    w13

    w14

    w15

    Lots more to show you in more posts in the future!

    More on Geraldine Watson.

    Holy Moly it is hot! Heat paired with humidity and oof, it is going to be a long summer. In Florida I would’ve hibernated for much of the summer. I remember going a few weeks not mowing our backyard because I just didn’t feel like doing it. The grass would get tall and inch up between the container garden and then at the end of the summer we’d do a gigantic trim from the humongous growth that had occurred.

    Texas is similar in heat and humidity, though the humidity varies depending on the region. Since we’re working on the coast the heat might not be too high, 90s instead of 100s but the humidity sucks the life out of you. Our field work has switched habitats just recently from shadier areas to open cut grass marshes (and yes it does cut you, worse than saw grass) that are in full sun. The balance to the sun will be that we’ll be wading in water/mud/floton much of the day. I’m hoping we get to a floton area so I can get a video of us bouncing on a layer of thick vegetation with water underneath. It’s pretty cool until you fall through it!

    Today was our day off, thankfully, and we took a trip out to a tract at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge and only did a three mile loop but it was hot and there was a profusion of sweat. Not much wildlife either, I think they were in the shade somewhere. Now we’re bathing in the air conditioning of our hotel and relaxing as much as possible. I’ve got plans to finish up most of the hollyhock pastel today so I can get working on my scarf again.

    A few things of note:
    everglades providence
    I’m really excited about this book. I wrote last Sunday about this book and I am happy that I was able to snag this in a giveaway from the Suwanee Refugee! This is only the second giveaway I’ve ever won, once I got seeds from Chiot’s Run but that’s it. Most of the giveaways I try for are cameras or camera bags and are entered by about 500 other people…or more. I even caved for the Kelly Sauer Ephiphanie! bag giveaway. Which I know I will not win, but why not try?

    Anyway, I’m glad I was able to get this book and will have to crack it sometime in the next few weeks. I’ve got some other books on the agenda and one I need to finish. It is as thick as a Diana Gabaldon book so I know it will be slow going. Thanks for the book SR!

    Let’s see, what else….
    +Remember the blankets I made for my friend Connie’s twins? Well, you can see them in their new home now!
    +Baxter State Park and Katahdin are now open for hiking! SOBO season has begun! Patrice and Justin have one week left before their 2,181 journey to Georgia starts! I am very excited to follow these two.
    +I’m planning a 2011 summer interview series like my 2009 series. I’ve already sent a few requests out for folks to be interviewed and I’m excited about the ones I’ve chosen. I’m still scouting a few others out that I think would be of interest here. Some are crafty, some are foodie, some are garden-y.
    +Love Jennifer Pharr Davis’ tumblr blog. She has a book out regarding her AT hike, Becoming Odyssa, and also has a speed record for the AT.

    Think that’s it for this week! I’ve got a week of blogs already scheduled so I am going to kick back and do some Trail Tale blogs for next week (three more left on the FT! *sniff sniff*), get some art and crochet in and maybe start actually running. I’ve a hankering to train for a 5K and maybe get the guts for a 13.1. I just like walking so much—running…well, I lose motivation much easier!

    Happy extended weekend (I’ve gotta work! BOOOO!)!

    clematis pod

    bf3

    bf4

    bf5

    bf6

    bf2

    bf1

    This is another plant I learned in my Coastal Plant Ecology course in college, Borrichia frutescens. Found in dunes and salt marsh areas this is a colorful favorite for those areas. This salt tolerant coastal native is a perennial and has a slight succulent feel if you pierce the leaf. This large colony was found at Texas Point NWR, but anywhere along the Texas coast you can find sea ox-eye daisy.

    I imagine that the yellow flowers are great wildlife attractors, particularly butterflies and the brown seed heads would make interesting inclusions to cut flower arrangements. If you’ve got a bright sunny spot in your garden and are looking for natives, this is a great one to take a look at. Propagation by seed seems to be the method of choice, though cuttings are also listed in several sites.

    There’s a similar plant, Borrichia arborescens which according to the USDA plant database only grows in Florida.

    +Dave’s Garden page
    +Florida Nature page
    +Richard Lyon’s Nursery potential place to find this plant. I’ve been to this nursery in the Homestead area of Florida before and love it. Lots of unique plants that you won’t find elsewhere.
    +Mellow Marsh Farm potential place to purchase this plant
    +Black Olive East Nursery another place to check for availability
    +IRC Natives for your Neighborhood page

    hollyhock
    After more than a year and a half hiatus from drawing I’m trying my hand at it again. I’ve been toting around some art supplies every time we went to a project but it had been gnawing at me to do this for awhile. So, here it is.

    I go back and forth from thinking I’m doing ok to wanting to say it sucks. If I look across the room at it I think “oh, it looks good”, and then I look at it up close I think “who am I kidding?” So there it is.

    I’ve had the photo I am working from printed for maybe three years. Yep. It’s been on the horizon to work on that long. I’m using some cheap pastel pencils and some cheap pastels. All my ‘good’ stuff is in storage. Still.

    It works. I’m having fun. I like short sentences! heh!

    I’ll repost when it is finished. Still have the crochet to work on and some books I want to read. Man, being bombarded with creative ideas is difficult.

    Preparing for our first 30 mile day, we got up well before dawn to start hiking in the dark. We’d informed the motel managers that we’d leave the key in the room since we were leaving so early. It was pitch black when we left the hotel, our headlamps on full blast. This was our first night hiking adventures since summiting Katahdin back in August. We followed S.R. 20 for a mile or so before trying to locate a bike path that went through the north end of Blountstown, through neighborhoods.

    The sky was starting to lighten as we made it to the edge of town and we finally extinguished our headlamps. We were attempting to make it halfway to a gas station/grocery store for an early lunch. The main road out of town was fairly busy with morning commuters and a few school buses picking up rural kids. The sky was cloudy for some of the day and seemed to threaten some sprinkles, which we did feel for a short minute or two later on in the morning. All along the road walk I kept looking for places that would be good stealth sites but it was quite lacking. After the busy road we mostly followed quiet farm roads that were mostly pleasant to walk on. We would rarely have to ditch to the side of the road but it was funny to see several cars pass us several times throughout the day. Some of them must’ve thought we’d gone incredibly slow.

    Road walking makes you take notice of trash and debris on the side of the road. By far the most drank beer in the countryside was Natural brand and the most smoked cigs were 305s. Not sure why these are the choice of Florida country folk, but this was by far the most common type of litter we saw.

    At about 10:30, maybe a little earlier than that we arrived at Shelton’s Store on the northwest corner of the intersection of SR 73 and CR 274. It was definitely a country store, the bathrooms on the outside of the building and vintage gas pumps out front. The inside looked to be lost in the 70s with items that might have been that old lining the shelves, particularly beauty products and car reapair parts. The food items were sketchy looking hot dogs and microwaveable burgers. I went for the burger because at least it was frozen for awhile.

    Florida Trail 110
    We sat outside for a good hour eating our food and drinking soda before deciding to get the next 15 miles out of the way. At one point an antique looking fire engine roared passed heading for a fire that we saw smoking a few miles behind us. Maybe an hour later they came back, this time driving normally.

    Our afternoon break was next to a ditch by someones house. The owner, a man, drove up shortly after we sat down and chatted with us for a second. Moseying down the road we came to a road crossing at SR 167, crossed it and followed a dirt road before getting to US 231, a four lane divided highway. At the intersection was a shop, I can’t remember if it was auto repair or something else, but the workers noticed us and chatted with us for a second having seen us road walking several times throughout the day.

    We crossed the highway easily and found ourselves down a another dirt road where there were signs for several churches where we thought we might try to refill our water but found the churches were quite a ways off the trail. We passed trailers and rowdy dogs tied to chains, homes you didn’t want to linger by. Finally we found the Econfina Creek WMA where we decided to make camp right inside the gate. Speaker had thought we’d really done 31 miles since we’d started outside of Blountstown that day.

    Florida Trail 111
    In the parking lot, initially empty when we arrived, we found an unopened bottle of water. Score! Now it wouldn’t be too bad and we’d have extra water for dinner instead of using what we’d need for the morning too. Speaker had taken a longer break at the ditch and caught up to us about thirty minutes after we’d been there. Shortly after we’d arrived a car showed up and idled in the parking lot for awhile. Then another car arrived and the person, I think a woman, got in the car of the, I assume man, and they sat there for awhile. A long while. Like an hour. Not sure what was going down but I didn’t want to know. They eventually drove down the dirt road where we could still hear the car idling but at least were out of sight of us. Eventually, after we’d already gotten in the tent they drove off. Speaker had decided to head to a supposed campsite down by the creek for the night, wanting to put in a few more miles to top off his all time mileage. We probably could’ve done it but I was just feeling done from the day. The road had put a blister on one of my feet, the first in awhile.

    Florida Trail 112
    The next morning we made it down to the creek and it was a beautiful hike. The trail meandered along the creek, crossing beautiful spring fed tributaries into the creek and made me think of the AT a lot. We got to the first major bridge where we found Speaker still sleeping in his hammock. We stopped for a second to chat and told him where we were planning to make it for the night, somewhere near a gas station down S.R. 20. He was going back and forth as to where he wanted to stop for the night and after we left him that morning we didn’t see him again until the following day.

    Florida Trail 113

    Florida Trail 115
    So many beautiful spots abounded along the creek. We came across a small waterfall, our first on the trail, where we could have gone across on a homemade zipline. We opted not to use the zipline but got a few photos of the waterfall. Had it been warmer this would have made a great swimming hole.

    Florida Trail 116

    Florida Trail 117

    Florida Trail 118

    This section of trail was great, mostly worth the ridiculous roadwalking. We found several drive up type campsites that would have been great spots for a backpacking campsite as well, complete with trash cans at the sites. Most of the morning was spent just meandering along this creek and at one point we came out of the creek to the top of the bluffs and into a clear cut area. It was hot up there and we were glad when we finally ducked back into the woods.

    Florida Trail 122
    Along the way we came across something that I very nearly stepped on. It was a baby turtle! Of course we stopped and took a lot of photos of this cute friend. We’d been on the top of a hill so we decided to help the fellow out and carried it with us until we got closer to the creek, giving it a bit more of a chance in life. We never got back to the main creek but found a side creek that had some steep ups and downs that really made me think we were on the AT. Taking a short break on some tree root type steps we let the little turtle hang out near the water for its chance for freedom. We’d check every few minutes to see if it was still there and it was until finally we checked and it had swam away! So long little buddy!

    Florida Trail 121

    Florida Trail 124

    Florida Trail 125

    Florida Trail 127
    Up at the top of the bluff we entered a few open pine areas and I was disappointed we’d be leaving the creek until we ended up going back down into another spring/creek. Again, so much was reminiscent of the AT. This was not the Florida we knew! This was a whole ‘nother trail!

    We took lunch in the middle of a planted pine forest where the pine needles created a great cushion for napping. We were just short of the Little Porter Pond campsite but had no idea. We’d finally left the creek areas and started climbing up onto large, old sandhills in planted pine and scrub areas. At one point, almost out of the WMA, I looked back over where we’d hike to see hills! Hills, people, in Florida! This wasn’t like the hills of Ocala, this was much more terrain than we’d seen so far.

    Back on SR 20 we continued our road walk west, seriously hoping for the promised gas station at SR 77 and SR 20. The book had said that we might get permission to stay behind the gas station but when we arrived and asked the cashiers they promptly said no and looked at us like we had two heads. We instead filled up on chicken tenders and thick cut french fries, soda and bought a gallon of water to refill our water. We’d scouted some potential stealth areas along the way, all on private property but with potential to duck far enough in to not be seen. After the gas station we walked about a quarter mile before we saw a thick pine plantation where we waited for the traffic to quiet down before ducking into the woods. We walked in quite a ways and set up our tent where we made a second dinner and got ready for bed. Our stealth rules were to not use our headlamps unless it was on red and to be very, very quiet.

    Florida Trail 129
    I got a little nervous because at one point I thought I heard a dog relatively close but decided that I was being a little paranoid. I mean, we were tresspassing, but what else were we going to do? This is my biggest point of contention with the Florida Trail, the lack of camping anywhere in roadwalks. The campsite turned out to be a nice place to stay and luckily I had my ear plugs to drown out the nearby road traffic.

    The night went well and we were up and gone relatively quickly in order to bypass getting caught by an angry landowner. Off we went for more of our roadwalk. At this point we weren’t sure if Speaker was nearby or ahead of us as there was no way of really following footprints on the road.

    The book explained that the trail had once gone through a private pasture but had asked the FTA to remove the trail from their property, instead making it a roadwalk. We’d failed to look carefully at the map and the book to see where the trail been rerouted so whereas the book said the trail followed the road through Ebro, where we had a maildrop, the map reflected the trail entering the Pine Log State Forest. We’d planned to do the east section of Pine Log despite it being a bit out of the way, and then roadwalk up S.R. 79 to Ebro to pick up our maildrop.

    Florida Trail 131
    Several miles before the turn off to Pine Log we took a break by the side of the road. About ten seconds after getting back on the road a white van passed us and honked, slowed down and then turned around. It was Gatorade Gordan. We’d heard about him from Speaker and Chuck Norris. He was an older man who frequently helped support hikers on various long trails throughout the U.S. He was supporting a hiker that was half a day behind us now, having taken a few days off to nurse his feet. He’d been ahead of us for a long time and we never thought we’d see either one of them.

    Florida Trail 135

    Florida Trail 137
    Gordan pulled over and we introduced ourselves and he gave us a soda and we talked to him for a few minutes, explaining how we needed to get to Ebro for a maildrop and where we were intending to get to for the night. He was incredibly nice, but he has health problems and lives out of his van. This guy is incredibly sweet and bends over backwards for hikers and deserves to be repaid in kindness and in money. We set off, not sure if we would see Gordan again in the future.

    Florida Trail 138
    Down the road we saw him pull over to show us where the trail got off the road and onto a power line right of way before crossing into the Pine Log State Forest. I was a bit nervous how the forest would go, if it would slow us down or not but it turned out to be a great place to hike. Local Boy Scout groups had done great trail maintenance, creating bog boards and keeping the trail clear. It’s too bad we didn’t get to see the other side of the forest, but the east side was quite nice.

    We came up to S.R. 79 where a great pedestrian bridge for the trail had been built. The road was still under construction so we had the east side of the road to ourselves as we walked north to the post office.

    At the post office Chris picked up the box and the woman running the office had said she was getting worried for us since the ETA on the box was for several days prior to when we’d actually arrived. Oops! I’d forgotten to tell my mom what date to put on when I told her to ship it. It was our last maildrop on the trail. We sat in the parking lot sorting everything out, dumping things we had too much of and carrying a few extra things than needed. It was not fun having a heavy pack again!

    We’d just left the post office and was heading back towards the S.R. 20 intersection when we saw Speaker walking towards us. He’d stayed on the roadwalk instead of following the trail into the forest and had stayed the night before back in the woods of Econfina Creek, so he’d had even more of a roadwalk that morning than us. He was looking for the library, which we said we didn’t see, so we went to the intersection and found a Subway at the gas station and had a sandwich for lunch.

    We were making good time for the morning and had decided to walk past where we’d thought to stay for the night, somewhere near Bruce, potentially behind the cafe. We left the Subway and crossed the Choctawhatchee River where on the bridge we heard a high pitched sound and found bats tucked into a hole in the side of the bridge. Pretty cool! I wish I’d gotten photos of them!

    Since we were ahead of schedule we took an extended break on the side of the road and then another longer break with dinner at the Ebro Cafe. The Ebro Cafe is a very small mom and pop restaurant with red and white checked table cloths. The locals inside asked us about our hike and of course had all sorts of questions. After eating and refilling our water Chris and Speaker checked out the gas station/grocery across the street for ice cream and other goodies and then we went on our way down the road. The trail splits from S.R. 20 and up S.R. 81 where we were searching for a place to camp for the night. We kept passing places that just looked not so great and weren’t as far as we wanted to go for the night.

    Eventually we saw a man come out of the woods on an ATV from the east, cross the road and go to a house across the street. After we’d passed this man’s land, a fence, we found a few paths leading into the woods on the east and decided to make that our campsite for the night. It was probably the more nervewracking sites we chose because after we’d set up a truck drove past down the dirt road on the other side of the fence, luckily not spotting us.

    The next morning we got out as quick as possible despite the threat of rain and a small bit of rain before we got out of the tent. We ate quickly and got the heck out of there before the guy made his morning round of his property. The last thing we wanted was him to alert whoever owned the property we were on that we were there!

    Down the road we went for the Nokuse Plantation.

    Similar posts: Swamp Work & More Swamp Work.

    More happenings in the woods and swamps of SE Texas:

    misti water crossing
    So, I love my job, even when I’m wading in chest deep water. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do! Luckily we didn’t see any alligators or water moccasins!

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    You know it’s a good day when you are canoeing at work! We had a nice canoe, though it got a little bit tough when we ended up in a thick mat of salvinia…talk about friction!

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    Look at that view!

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    The salvinia we paddled through, tough stuff!

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    Frog on salvinia.

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    Driving down a canal road we saw our first softshell turtle, a spiny softshell, Apalone spinifera.

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    Not sure what the yellow goo is, though. Anyone have an idea?

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    For size…my foot.

    Love what I’m doing just wish it was 8-5 (or 4), weekends off, permanent with insurance, vacation and holidays! Should be working this through sometime in June and who knows what we’re doing after that!

    Apalachicola National Forest is a wonderful little place in the panhandle of Florida that has a very unique ecosystem. Carnivorous plants can be found and vast ti-ti sloughs stretch across the area. The day had started off drizzly and cloudy at St. Marks NWR but by the time we’d entered ANF it was clear and beautiful. We knew that there was potential for being wet in this entire section, particularly in Bradwell Bay, a well known swamp that the trail goes through. Chris and I had been arguing about doing it or not and during the afternoon we played phone tag with the ANF office trying to find out the water levels.

    The difference in water from Big Cypress where we did get into some water is that that area does tend to dry up in the winter and that the panhandle and south Florida have very different climates in winter. While that is the dry season in south Florida, winter can be another wet season in the panhandle. Plus, it didn’t help that the guidebook said that extreme care should be taken in the swamp as it could be ‘as deep as a tall man’s chest’. Hello, a tall man’s chest is over my head! So, when we called the office and they said it was closed we wondered if they meant the whole area or just the wet area. Apparently they’d just burned and finally at the campsite that night the park ranger had left a message informing us to stay out of the entire area. Score for me! Chris had wanted to follow the FT until the blue blaze off the Monkey Creek came up but I didn’t see the reason to bother hiking all of that out of the way instead of following forest roads around to the west side of Bradwell Bay. Speaker had already decided that was what he was doing and the phone call about it being closed sealed the deal that we’d do the same, too.

    The night before skirting Bradwell Bay we stayed at the Sopchoppy River, near a dirt road and bridge where the river goes by. It was a perfect little campsite and only one or two people drove by that night. The following morning we did our best to piece together a way to follow the forest roads to get back to the Florida Trail. Part of the legend covered the roads on the map so we had to figure out based on the direction the roads turned. Speaker left before we did and so we followed his arrows in the dirt. Soon enough we’d caught up to him.

    Florida Trail 087
    We saw several pines with these weird growths patterns on them.

    Florida Trail 089
    Down the forest roads

    Florida Trail 090
    At the corner of the Bradwell Bay area. We did see along the roads that there were signs posted for future burns, but it sure would be nice if burns were noted at main entrances or more than once along the trail.

    When we arrived at the other end of Bradwell Bay we saw a sign posted on that end that the area was closed and not far down the trail we saw water. I was glad we’d bypassed that area. I was glad until later on I found out it didn’t matter all that much. We entered the forest again on the FT and followed rutted out trail from pigs and it was overgrown as well. Then we entered a ti-ti slough where we tried to hop from mound to mound or find logs to bounce around on but many times our shoes dipped into the water along the way. We emerged to the other side wishing for bog boards. A forest road with a wide field at the end was our lunch spot for the day and as we dried out in the sun I noticed small objects moving a few hundred yards down the road. We finally decided they were pigs and more than likely piglets.


    We approached them slowly but finally we got close enough for them to notice we were there and they all quickly dropped down to the ground and eventually scurried off to mom.

    5578735004_4f6a63f914_b
    Nabbed from Speaker’s Flickr photos…We ended up back in the woods again and this time battling water again, finally tying our boots to our packs and opting for our water shoes. The water was quite chilly and numbing to the feet and I wanted to get out as quick as possible. Soon we ended up at Forest Road 329, a paved forest road that was for the most part very quiet. A little less than a mile and back in the woods we followed the trail up and down bluffs before finally paralleling the Ochlocknee River, a very slow moving river. The sky had become ashy from another fire to the west, hazing the sun out of the strong heat we’d been feeling earlier in the day. We’d been hoping to dry our boots out when we arrived at the Porter Lake campground.

    Florida Trail 092
    We reached Porter Lake campground after only about 14 miles for the day, 14 slow miles and we felt pretty exhausted. Certainly not the 20+ we’d been used to and all that water made it worse. Speaker had slowed down and was behind us when we arrived at the Porter Lake campground. I wasn’t sure what I thought to expect when we arrived but we found several trailers and cars at the campground. Great. Chris and I stood near the entrance of the campground when a tall man in his early 70s with big, white beard beckoned for us to come over to the water pump where he was standing. So we walked up to him and and he offered for us to stay at his site with the other folks with him. He’d been familiar with the AT and at first said he’d hiked most of the CDT and PCT but as the evening wore on it seemed more like small sections and bumming around rather than any attempt at thru-hiking or sectioning. It also seemed that he’d bummed around Uncle Johnny’s hostel on the AT for many months, possibly several times over the years.

    Florida Trail 093
    At the campsite was a guy in his 20s and a girl who seemed to be maybe late teens early 20s. The girl had met the older guy online (yes, this is strange) and since he just goes around the country staying at various campsites living simply at various Rainbow People events and other old hippie type things. The girl had dropped out of college and was just working at fast food or something like that and she found this guy and off they went. Definitely kind of strange but they didn’t share tents so maybe it wasn’t anything *too weird*. Anyway, they’d gone to the Rainbow gathering in Ocala National Forest and met the other guy in his 20s and he had a car so it was their ticket to move to another area. They’d been at the ANF for several weeks and were planning on staying there for awhile. They had a cooler and would go to town every few days for food or internet at the library and they cooked on the fire. They made cabbage and sausage that night and offered to share with us hungry hikers. They had very good stories to tell, stories of carnies who’d been at Porter Lake and seemed to hiding from the law, abruptly leaving one day and giving some moldy stuffed animals to them, which ended up being burned in the fire that night. The group of three would wash their clothes or hair out of a bucket, the only thing at the campsite was a composting privy and the water pump.

    The bad thing about the campsite was the plethora of hunters and a group of rude hunters that made noise late in the evening, well after 9pm and well before dawn, turning their generators on to cook food and talking like no one was sleeping. It was quite annoying, especially to be wakened earlier than expected.

    Florida Trail 094
    Speaker stayed behind that morning, lingering over a breakfast of pancakes he’d tried to cook up over the fire. He’d found the batter at the general store in St. Marks and had been debating how to cook them for awhile. Here he was able to borrow a pan from the three we stayed with (I have the names of these folks written in my journal back at home, they do have names!). Chris and I left to get a jump on the day and see where we would end up. We didn’t know what kind of water we’d be in again.

    Florida Trail 096
    Most of the morning was dry with a few stream crossing. We passed hunters in stands, trying to walk quickly and quietly out of their way. At FR 107 we got confused for awhile finding no turning blazes and no well marked blazes on the road either. The only possible blazes could have been at wooden markers along culverts but the culverts had been recently replaced. Eventually we decided we were on the right road and kept walking westward until finally we saw a blaze.

    Florida Trail 097

    Florida Trail 098
    The white bands on the trees are to mark red cockaded woodpecker nesting cavities in pine trees. We didn’t see any of the birds, though.

    Florida Trail 099
    The trail left the forest road and got back into the woods again, this time we spent the afternoon going a few hundred yards between wet ti-ti sloughs. Some of the sloughs had bog boards that were in disarray and the trail had overgrown a few old bridges and new trail had been rerouted instead of fixing the bridges. Eventually I gave up taking my shoes on and off and finally left my water shoes on the rest of the day.

    Florida Trail 100


    Speaker hadn’t caught up to us that evening as we approached Vilas campsite for the night. Vilas is a ghost town and the remnants are seen at the campsite in the form of clay pots from turpentine collection and the bricks from the roads.

    Florida Trail 102
    Ridley at the Vilas campsite.

    Florida Trail 103

    Florida Trail 104
    Chris went back to the last titi slough to get water for dinner and the next morning and I heard him talking to someone on the way back. Speaker had caught up to us. The campsite was quite nice and quiet, though we found an old jacket that someone had intentionally left at the campsite. The guys decided to burn it and built a small fire pit with the bricks. As the jacket burned out crawled a couple scorpions! Ack! I didn’t like that thought of having scorpions around the campsite.

    The following morning we crossed SR 65 and found the area directly across the street had been burned the day before and was still smoldering in places. Signs along the road notified work crews of proper turn around areas. We entered back into the woods and found tape across the entrance but no sign saying we couldn’t go in so off we went. Very inconsistent with how they notify areas of being burned. Most of the area we walked through wasn’t burned and we followed along the edge for the most part. I was a little annoyed at these little weave like jumps the trail would do, just to follow the perimeter of the ti-ti only to get right back on the road it had left. I just looked at the aerial and it is really ridiculous.

    Florida Trail 105
    Later that morning we encountered the longest set of boardwalks through Shuler Bay and we were very thankful for the bog boards—no wading! I just don’t understand the inconsistency in bog boards through the area. Why some areas are more important than others!

    Florida Trail 107
    We’d been planning on booking it to Camel Lake campground for a much needed shower and rest for the afternoon. We arrived just before lunch and spent about three hours showering and lounging. Chris and I had been there a few years prior for a long weekend so we knew what to expect. The campground was very quiet and we only really talked to one person across from where we’d set up for the afternoon. We strung a line across to dry out the clothes we’d rinsed out in the shower. It’d been pushing two weeks at least since we’d left White Springs and our last shower so a rinse no matter how chilly was perfect. I laid out on the ground on the pine needles drifting in and out of sleep, relishing the afternoon.

    Eventually we decided it was time to move on, following trail that Chris and I had done when we’d camped up here. We’d done a large loop, following the FT and then a blue blaze to the east, reconnecting with the FT to the south. As we’d come up to Camel Lake I’d remembered some of the trail and would try to estimate where we were. I did the same for the north section until it was time to split and take new trail. It stayed dry for a good while until we ended up in titi sloughs again, inching along the edge of the trail trying to skim the water or walking on top of bunching grasses. We found one area that couldn’t be skimmed and off our shoes went. Then we found one slough that had a fresh bridge built over it and we were again astounded as to why bridges weren’t built before. I understand that it is all volunteer efforts and funding for the most part, but geez, this is a known wet area and you’d think some bog boards would be placed.

    More water kept following when we’d least expect it and we realized we made a good decision to keep hiking as close to the road as possible to camp for the night. If we’d camped further out the next morning we’d of had to wade through. When we got to the road we contemplated trying to hitch up the road to get dinner and Speaker sat by the road for an hour to no avail, finally giving up and setting up camp on the blue blaze trail that leads to the parking area and trail head for this section.

    Overnight we’d left our fly off the tent like we’d done the previous night but this time the dew from the trees started dripping sometime early in the morning so Chris and I got up to put the fly on. We had a road walk the next morning to get into Bristol and Blountstown, the start of a 40+ mile road walk. We followed CR 12 through rural communities as large trucks and morning commuters whizzed past us. It was foggy but an hour or two later the fog cleared and the sun came out. As we got closer to Bristol we found the store we had planned to hitch to the night before and found it closed. Good thing we didn’t try! It’d been closed for quite awhile, too, as the gas prices were still rather cheap.

    Once in Bristol we started talking about the food we wanted to eat in town as we made a beeline for the library. The Bristol library was very friendly and easy to use, no i.d. required! After we had our fill of internet we made our way to Apalachee Restaurant, a down home cooking buffet. Mmmmm! We picked a booth in the back hoping to keep our stench away and to avoid weird conversations but someone sat in the booth in front of us an the inevitable questioning happened. Everyone was always friendly about it, despite some of the curious looks. The buffet was great, typical buffet food, but I really liked the cobbler.

    With full bellies we continued on our way down S.R. 20 where we were looking forward to getting an extra hour in the day as we crossed the Apalachicola River.

    Florida Trail 108
    We said goodbye to the Eastern Time Zone and entered the Central Time Zone! WOOHOO! The river was pretty cool, the bridge across it much longer than expected, and we found some rather large cypress trees that were pushing 500+ years old or more, somehow bypassing the logging days.

    The Airport Motel, our destination for the night, came closer than expected. We knew it was on the outskirts of town but it seemed a bit further outside of town than we thought. The hotel was mostly deserted and the Indian-American owners were very friendly and when we asked for a ride into town for a resupply they were obliging since they had an errand in town, too. We got showered up and ready for the trip to town for laundry and resupply.

    Florida Trail 109
    At the laundromat the soap dispenser was stuck thus requiring Speaker to bum some soap from a lady doing her laundry. She looked a little strangely at us at first but ended up kindly handing the bottle over. We shopped at the Piggly Wiggly for the first time, just next door to the laundromat and the Chinese restaurant, our dinner of choice. I’d of loved to have walked around Blountstown but the other motel in town was closed and so we had no choice.

    After a well rested night we got ready for our first 30 mile day!

    Lots of good things I’ve read in the past week or so on the ‘net. Thought I’d share:

    +Dr. Who Regenerations: A compilation of all of the Dr. Who’s through the years. I’m personally fond of David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston. That’s when I first started watching, however sporadically I watch.
    +Sour Cream and Onion Kale Chips. I tried making kale chips about a month ago or so and while some tasted well they didn’t come out how I imagined. Chris turned his nose up at them and while they didn’t taste bad, they weren’t as crunchy as I thought they’d be. Not sure what I need to do next time, maybe less oil and longer in the oven? This recipe is for dehydrating but a lot of the recipes I’ve seen are for baking.
    +Review of An Everglades Providence: a biography of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. I have Everglades: River of Grass in storage to read some day. The Everglades will always be important to me even if I don’t live near them. What can I say, I like swamps and marshes!
    +2010 2,000 miler list published by the ATC. A few people we know aren’t on there because they haven’t submitted their sheets yet. I wonder about Birthday Suit, Ceviche and their dog White Blaze, the SOBOs we saw in Vermont. Didn’t see them on the list though I did find out they had at least gotten as far south as Virginia. Love having my name on that list!
    +RJ’s Cactus Portraits: cool stuff! There are cypress and tupelo where I am working that have their own personalities, hollowed out in the middle but still alive and kicking after hundreds of years.
    +The True Cost of Motherhood regarding jobs and pay for mothers vs non-mothers. Something I think about from time to time (for the future!).
    +I’ve decided that I really want to see Jenny Lewis live some day, either playing by herself or with Rilo Kiley. Really decided this while running/walking yesterday and thought it would be great. I’d also like to see Florence + the Machine.
    +Cornflake Girl and Jackson on heavy rotation.
    +Gopher Urine and Motorcycles at Pure Florida. Cute little gopher tortoises!
    +Mandy’s Giving Oneself Completely and Unapologetically to an Obsession. Mandy always writes awesomely!
    +Elise’s pita bread. I’m totally going to be making pita when I get to an oven again!
    +Chel’s Common Miracles meme. Need to participate in one soon! Drop by her blog and give her some love, she’s got some awesome work and makes incredible beads.

    I think that’s about it. Just working around here and inching away on the moss fern shawl. I’m getting a lot of blogs written early this week so I can focus on doing some art. Been craving it and it has been well over a year and a half since I’ve drawn anything! Will be whipping out several more Florida Trail Tales.

    What are you doing this week? Share your favorite links with me, too!

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