Trail Journal

Date: February 17 2001
Trail Day: 262
Miles Today: 0
Location: Suwanee Motel, White Springs
Section Mile: FNST 478
ECT Mile: 3939

A zero day. Feeling better today and should be back on the trail tomorrow.

Went to the library to check email. Best Man, whom I met in Maine or New Hampshire has signed the guest book. I hope his IAT hike went well. H. Monster has also signed in. He's an interesting guy. Glad to hear from both of them. Hi Best Man and H. Monster.

Date: February 18 2001
Trail Day: 263
Miles Today: 16
Location: Osceola forest, FS 237
Section Mile: FNST 494
ECT Mile: 3955

I think I have fully recovered. Back on the trail. A few miles along the Suwanee River. This section has a lot of trash and is poorly maintained. Then road walks to the Osceola forest. Most of the road names shown on the map are wrong. However, there are double blazes at all the turns.

Had lunch at Milton's store. Really loved their potatoes. Bought another meal and ice cream to carry with me. Stopped about 1.5 miles inside the forest. Also saw a black snake today - about 5 ft. All the 3 snakes I have seen in the recent past have been sunning on the trail. Need to watch out for such places.

Finished reading Thomas Hardy's Sussex Tales. Really liked Three Strangers, The distracted preacher and the The Sorrowful Legion of Hussar. I had got a book from the White Springs library - Louis L'Amour. I don't like action or thrill novels. But that's all they had in the swap rack. I have now read about a third of it. Book's called "The Sacketts" - its OK.

Sleeping in the open tonight. I think I have also gained weight in Florida as the hiking is easier. Not able to eat as much also. I need to cut down the binges. Tomorrow my attempt at a hitch hike into Lake City to pick my mail drop. I have chosen a smaller road to do so thereby increasing my chances. Drivers have been friendly and are aware of hikers. So I think it should not be very difficult. Let's see.

Date: February 19 2001
Trail Day: 264
Miles Today: 10
Location: Motel, Lake City
Section Mile: FNST 504
ECT Mile: 3965

Short day today. The trail in Osceola National Forest is disappointing. Sections are poorly maintained and most of it runs on jeep roads.

Saw a raccoon run up a tree on hearing me approach. Took a shot. Tried to get a ride and got one after about 2 hours. Very little traffic on SR 250. One truck stopped and the driver wanted to know if I was broke. He offered 5 $.

Tomorrow, I pick up my last set of trail maps !

Date: February 20 2001
Trail Day: 265
Miles Today: 1
Location: Shelter, Osceola forest
Section Mile: FNST 505
ECT Mile: 3966

Got some passport photos made. Looks like they need photos for the Indian reservation in the Cypress forest. My face seems to be almost all hair.

Went to the library to check email. Got an email from Kumar. This is his best written letter so far. About a year ago his emails would be full of spelling and grammatical mistakes. There would be no coherence or rhythm to it. So this one knocked me for a loop. I wonder if he has been kidnapped and is sending such a letter to indicate that something is wrong. I have to keep a close eye on this :-)

Also bought Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance and George Orwell's 1984. I was extremely happy to find the Zen book. I have been looking for it for a while.

Picked up my mail drop. It also contains my cooking stuff. But I have lost all interest in cooking. So I have sent it on to Suriyan and he will bring it with him when he joins me. I also have maps for the rest of the FT now.

Had to walk about 5 miles or so before I got a ride. Decided to stop at the shelter 1 mile on the trail. This is one of only 3 shelters on the entire FT.

4 backpackers joined me about 2 hours later. They were Joan, Florence, Larry and ---. They are out on a 9 day hike and have 1 more day to go. Joan is the author of the Florida Thru-Hiker's guide. She has thru-hiked the FT twice. It was nice to meet all of them.

Date: February 21 2001
Trail Day: 266
Miles Today: 17
Location: Near Black Creek Rd
Section Mile: FNST 522
ECT Mile: 3983

Walked with the group for a while. I got a little ahead of them and waited for them near their cars. I think they must have taken a break because they did not show up for 10 minutes or so. I decided to continue.

The southern section of the Osceola Forest is good. Started the Georgia-Pacific section. I thought it would all be forest road walk. It was much better than that. Most of the roads were very old and narrow and some where proper trails.

Met Ed Talone. He is also attempting an ECT thru-hike. He knows a lot about trails and is a man of firm opinion.

Decided to set up tarp as I felt a few drops of rain.

Date: February 22 2001
Trail Day: 267
Miles Today: 17
Location: Near SR 235
Section Mile: FNST 539
ECT Mile: 4000

Did not rain last night. Continued the hike out of Georia Pacific land and into Lake Builler. Checked e-mail, tried calling Vivek. Called FTA to get permission to cross Desseret and Seminole Indian Reservation. Had lunch. The restaurant and food was good. Met one of the guys from the Hike for Hope group. They are a group of 6 doing the ECT.

Decided to take an abandoned rail road bed to Hampton. I did not know what to expect. It was very over grown in parts while at other places it was easy walking. The map shows a New River and I was nervous if the bridge would still be there. It was, but the last 5 or 6 secions had been completely burnt. Had to wade the river. Because there is a drought all water levels are very low. So I managed to cross the river getting only one sock partially wet. The railroad bed shows a faint trail. So someone has used it not too long ago.

Forgot to put down some of the future trail conditions that I learnt from Joan. She is extremely knowledgeable in this area. It looks like the Cypress Swamp is dry. In fact the problem seems to be a lack of water. It also looks like they are blazing it right now. Good news! Everyone I have talked to who has hiked that area has been lost there.

I am enjoying this rail road bed. I have no idea what to expect or even if I will get to Hampton by this route. I like this uncertainty. Gets the adrenaline pumping.

Also a long day today - mile 4000 and the last MNK celebration. The FNST is also more than half done.

Date: February 23 2001
Trail Day: 268
Miles Today: 22
Location: Near SR 100
Section Mile: FNST 561
ECT Mile: 4022

Got a very early start. The railroad continued to be an adventure - at times impossible and at other times wide open. Every once in a while I had to jump on to a parallel road and get back on. At one such point a hunting dog started following me. It was with me for about 5 miles to Hampton. Went to a convenience store and got groceries for 3 days. Got the lady there to call the number on the dogs collar. She left a message at the number.

Called Vivek. Everything is set for us to meet on 2nd March. Looking forward to it. While I was talking to him the dog started following 2 locals. I made my escape.

Continued on the railroad but so far no signs of the trail at the end, as the map shows. I looked at the guide and it shows a different route about 3 miles north. Walked to it and saw some faint blazes. Decided to stop.

A tiring day. Bushwacking is hard work. Some of the track is overgrown with briars and it is impossible to walk through without long shirts and pants. I had started with shorts yesterday but put on the longs in 5 minutes.

Water has become scarce. So I am carrying 3 water bottles. That and 3 days food makes for a heavy pack.

The soles of my shoes have collapsed although it feels good.

The hike is rapidly coming to an end. In a week I meet Vivek. One more week and I meet my brothers with whom I will hike for 10 days to Lake Okeechobee. 10 more days will finish off the FNST and another 10, the ECT. I am already feeling sad.

Completed Louis L'amour's Lonely On the Mountain. Its a Sackett series apparently. Poor ending. I am now reading George Orwell's 1984.

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