Sherlock, lighting a cigarette, once told Watson his assistant, “You see, but you do not observe.” Hiking long distances has taught me, if anything, to observe the world around me more carefully and from an entirely new perspective. There are so many things one may pass every day and yet can only be seen, observed, and appreciated from walking. Locomotion by foot slows a person down to three miles per hour such that one is more perceptive to all that surrounds.
After hiking just a day north of the Lake Okeechobee, I met up with a hiker named “Tank” at a local general store. Tank is an avid hiker himself and a triple-crowner. Since Tank started in Key Largo and is headed to the Smokies in North Carolina, I will likely be bumping into or hiking with him for the remainder of the Florida Trail, the Alabama roadwalk, the Pinhoti Trail, and the southern Appalachian Trail. It’s nice to have some companionship, especially in these more remote sections. I’ll no doubt make friends on the AT, known as a “tramily” or trail family but it’s also nice to have some social interaction in the meantime. More than likely, the Nova Scotia and Newfoundland sections will be the most remote areas since trail life drops off once one gets north of Katahdin in Baxter State Park and into Canada north of Maine.
The Florida trail has steadily become much more isolated as I head northbound toward Orlando. Hogs are ubiquitous in the Kissimmee Prairie and are the most destructive creatures on this precious earth! They move about in packs with their boisterous snouts and absolutely excavate everything in site. Now I know why hog hunting is a year-round activity in Florida. These animals can also be aggressive toward humans so keeping some distance and using common sense can go a long way. The tree life is truly amazing in central Florida with live poetic oak trees and palms of every size. White tailed deer abound as do birds and reptiles. And of course alligators are everywhere but I’ve learned that they are not so photogenic, crawling into the water before having a chance to turn on the camera.
Roadwalks are all too common on the Florida Trail and wading water has become an almost daily activity. The condensation on my single wall tent is so extreme that part of my morning routine is to wipe down the cuben fiber with a chamois and wring it out multiple times. Tank and I recently received some trail magic from a local— several fresh Florida oranges and a pound-bag of walnuts. Trail angels always provide when you least expect!
Homesickness has perhaps been my greatest obstacle, especially missing out on my first Christmas and New Years ever. I’ll also be celebrating a number of other holidays on trail including Easter and Fourth of July and will even be celebrating my birthday on trail! At least I get to pick up a box of homemade Christmas cookies. The cookies, sent from back home, will be picked up at the post office in—out of all places— Christmas, Florida!
All in all, hiking the ECT is going extraordinarily well and I anticipate much excitement ahead as I move northbound toward Alabama.