At the outset, the decision for me to hike from Key West to Newfoundland involved only two self-administered rules: 1) I can’t skip miles and 2) I can’t quit. As a “purist,” I simply maintain that every mile of open trail (or alternate route called a “blue blaze”) must be hiked from beginning to end within a one-year period. In other words, an end-to-end hike involves a completion of the whole trail without intentional omission of sections one may feel are undesirable. Of course one is free to hike wherever and however they wish but the term “thru-hiker,” if it is to have any meaning preserved, should be used judiciously for those who put in the blood, sweat, and tears to complete each and every section through to the very end. That is my view but of course there are detractors to this view who employ the term “purist” as a pejorative such that one can have recognition without doing all the work. Thru-hiking is not all butterfly-chasing and campfires, it is physically strenuous and mentally taxing. Nothing this big can come without tremendous effort and persistence. In the end, long-distance hikers know deep down what it is they achieve and that is what really matters!
Just a few miles from Crooked Hook RV Park was Clewiston. This town is where I’d planned on taking a “zero” (zero miles) or in this case a “nero” (near zero miles) since I did technically walk a few trail miles that day. I arranged to meet up with Hype, another ECTer who had started from Key West. After resupplying at Save-A-Lot and conducting the usual town chores such as charging electronics and eating lots of protein, I crashed. Leaving from Clewiston the next morning at around 3:30am, I began the arduous roadwalk around the west side of Lake O. Arriving at the lake, a hiker is presented with the option to either go west or east. Although most hikers seemed to be taking the eastern route, I chose to go west mainly because it seemed to be the traditional route; also, a stopover in Clewiston sets one up to keep going west. The trouble was, however, that much of the dike was under construction thereby involving lengthy roadwalks due to the construction closure. Although I was able to get glimpses of the lake, much of it was disappointing out of view from the roadway. This was one of those instances where there was an alternate route set in place at times but at other times involved some creativity to reroute back to open trail. Despite the inconvenience, I did manage to walk the levee on the northernmost portion and completed the Okeechobee walk to the point where the east and west routes rejoined.
Now it was time to start heading north again. Southern Florida is complete—it’s time to check out central Florida and hightail it to Orlando! Maybe I can make “Christmas by Christmas” (i.e., Christmas, FL by Christmas day).
The ECT hike continues on!