Trail Journal

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.

Date: February 26 2001
Trail Day: 271
Miles Today: 18
Location: Near Buckman Lock, Ocala NF
Section Mile: FNST 615
ECT Mile: 4076

Could not sleep at all last night. The mosquitoes were horrible. Went to the store early morning and had breakfast and got food for 3 days. The locals were very interested in my hike.

Most of today was forest roads. It was cloudy and so a little cooler than yesterday.

I need to stop and take care of a lot of my gear. Things are falling apart. I only have one pair of socks and they stink badly. My shoes are shot. I need to switch to a lighter sleeping bag and get a mosquito net of sorts. This is very important. Also need to buy some books. Have to get forms sent from FTA for permits through Seminole lands. Need a laundry and shower bad. Also have to talk to my brothers and finalize the meeting place.

Water is starting to taste bad. I think its well water. Camped near the lock. Beautiful. Had a colorful sunset. Took shots. Finished reading 1984. Good book. There seems to be mosquitoes here too. I need to sleep.

Date: February 27 2001
Trail Day: 272
Miles Today: 15
Location: Near Lake Delancy, Ocala NF
Section Mile: FNST 630
ECT Mile: 4091

Slept like a log last night. Really needed to sleep. Got an early start. It was very misty. The miles just flew by. I am now in areas that I have hiked before. I had once parked my car on FR 77 and gone on a 3 day hike. When I got back there was no car. It had been shot at and vandalized. Two of the side windows and the wind shield had been shot. They had thrown dirt all over, run on top of it and dented the body near the fuel door. It had then been towed to Palatka by the police as abandoned. One of the guys nearby told me this. He gave me a ride to the garage. It was a mess. I have run into some wackos in this area.

I was done with the hike probably by 2 PM or so and read Zen and the Art of Motocycle Maintainance.

Date: February 28 2001
Trail Day: 273
Miles Today: 15
Location: Hopkins Prarie, Ocala NF
Section Mile: FNST 645
ECT Mile: 4106

Started early again. Got to 88 Store. The restaurant section opens at 11 AM. It was 8:45 AM. Bought some food and drank 3 beers. Nomad says anyone who drinks beer before noon is alcoholic. Called Vivek and left a message asking him to mail me the summer sleeping bag.

Saw a black racer. Its a black snake that literally flies thru the under brush.

Well I'm in a good mood to put down what thru-hiking is all about. It's also for my own benefit that I record it here.

Most successful thru-hikers are at a major transition point in their lives. About 85% of them are just out of high school, just out of college, having difficulty deciding their major in college, just retired or just divorced. Thru hiking requires so much dedication and energy that you need this kind of turmoil or emotional intensity to get you through. For me it has been a rejection of the materialism and trendiness of western culture. I did not realize this before the trip but the process had started slightly before my hike (about a year) and is now complete. I've always had a disregard for society's modes and values. Now I have an utter contempt for it.

Back to thru-hiking. The turmoil needs a lot of time, solitude and basic living to work itself out. This rules out soft living such as a 10 month pleasure cruise, golfing or sitting on your butt in a campground.

A true balance, centerdness, peace whatever you call it required for soul searching come when the mind, body and spirit are in balance. Its actually a hierarchy. A good or balanced mind comes from a good body. A good spirit come from a good mind. In the average american society most are not even at the body stage.

The hierarchy can be experienced while thru-hiking. First the trail kicks your body into shape. For fat me it lasted about a month. This is the period of aches and pains, sores and weight loss. Then starts the mental phase where you gain metal focus. In the body stage you still don't know if you'll make it. Things seem to go without rhythm - in starts and jerks. Doubts are removed in the mind stage and things go smoothly. Even unexpected, big obstacles are resolved smoothly and with equanamity. By now the body is in peak shape. Once the worries are removed then begins the spiritual stage of pure thought. Things are seen in a very different light. You may be brought to tears by a little flower while the things that seems very important to you before start to lose meaning. Things start to resolve themselves. This is the true spirit of a thru-hike.

As one can see its an intense personal experience which is very hard to describe in a few sentences. Its like living in a foreign country and a friend from your home country asks what its like to live in the foreign country. Where do you start ? It simply cannot be described in a casual conversation. You can say stuff like - they use the train a lot or it rains almost every day, but these don't do it justice. This is also the reason many thru-hikers feel alienated by society.

So essentially you have to do a certain number of miles to get your body in shape for an extended period of time to attain this spiritual state. The physical hardships also increase creativity and sensitivity. The origin and destination are therefore immaterial. Whether one reached Katahdin (AT) or Key West (ECT) doesn't matter. This is done mostly for personal recognition. Its cool to say that one has thru-hiked the AT or the ECT. By the same token it does not matter if one blue blazes, yellow blazes, slack packs or skips entire sections or even jumps to an entirely different trail. The goal orientation of most thru-hikers to go from point A to B in so many months actually takes away from the spirit of thru-hiking. I have always thought that it was the scouts who enjoyed the trail more than thru-hikers. They are the ones who jump into lakes, explore and really "suck the juice" out of the trail. A thru-hiker is just too tired and ready to fall asleep at the end of a day.

Lecture concludes for today. Home work - read pages 51 thru 72.

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