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.
Date: February 24 2001
Trail Day: 269
Miles Today: 19
Location: Near Bellamy Rd
Section Mile: FNST 580
ECT Mile: 4041
Got a very early start. The blazes in this secion are not good. Some are new, others are very faded. Blazes are also far in between. So its hard to tell if you are on the trail or an old abandoned trail section. Looks like some new fences have been built that cut the trail off. I tried to work my way around the property and came to a road. Didn't know what to do then. Saw faint blazes paralleling the road. Took that. It ran right into another fence. Got back to the road. The problem here is there are 3 versions - one is the trail I was on, another as shown in the map and another shown in the guide. None of them match.
I took a guess and headed north on the road for about 3 miles. Ran into a closed gate. Walked back and then a little further the trail picked up again. So I did about 6 useless miles making for a long day. This entire section from SR 100 to Etoniah SP needs to be blazed consistently.
Even the section near Lowery lake is not adequately blazed. At least once I went off on old reroutes.
Any way, Goldhead SP is a beautiful park. Its small but pretty. The soda machine gave me 2 mountain dews instead of one. I was extremely happy.
Stopped near the junction of Bellamy Rd and CR 315. Bellamy Rd seems to be rutted here. Vehicles make a racket when they go by.
Date: February 25 2001
Trail Day: 270
Miles Today: 17
Location: Near Etonia Creek, Bardin
Section Mile: FNST 597
ECT Mile: 4058
Got an early start. The days have now become hot. Early starts are hence a good idea. A mix of trail and road walk today. About 50-50. Most of the roads are dirt roads.
Etonia Creek SP is nice. Portions of the trail ran beside the creek. Its a nice 50 ft ravine.
Got to Bud's grocery in Bardin but it was closed. Called Vivek. Looks like he can't make it to Orlando next weekend.
Decided to sleep near the store instead of going back ot the trail (about a mile out). Mosquitoes are horrendous.
The day started out very foggy but then became quite hot. Had a light headache by the end. I should have taken breaks as the day wore on.