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.
Date: March 01 2001
Trail Day: 274
Miles Today: 16
Location: Near Juniper Springs
Section Mile: FNST 661
ECT Mile: 4122
Another quick day. Got an early start. Stopped at Hopkins Praire for a snack and journal entry. Talked to a girl from New Brunswick. Then stopped at Hidden Pond to take a swim and wash my clothes. Talked to a young couple from Texas who were filtering water. The woman seemed very shy - did not speak a word to me. Did not even make eye contact. Then stopped at Juniper Springs Recreation Area. There is a 3 $ entrance fee and the food is outrageously priced. Its also very yuppy touristy. Definitely not a place for thru-hiker. Tried called Vivek, Kumar and Suriyan. No luck any where. Its amazing - with all the phones, faxes, beepers, cell phones and emails its impossible to get in touch with anyone. Talked to Karen though. She is shocked that we will be hiking without underwear. This is normal practice as underwears chafe and can be extremely painful. Normally we use pants with a mesh inside that serves as underwear. She called in "going commando". I wonder if its standard usage.
Camping was 13$ - so decided to move on. Continued reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintainance. I have now crossed the section I have hiked the most - Juniper to Hopkins Prairie. It gives me the feeling that the hike is geting over. Felt very sad. I would be a wreck if I had to go back to "civilization" right now. I am glad I will be hiking with my brothers for a while and visiting Vivek. The Key West roadwalk should also be a good transition to the fake, empty world waiting for me.
I am also debating what to do with the 1 or 2 spare days I have. I am not in a motel mood but I need some supplies and get in touch with folks. I will decide soon.
Date: March 02 2001
Trail Day: 275
Miles Today: 24
Location: Near Clearwater Lake
Section Mile: FNST 685
ECT Mile: 4146
Forgot to put down that I started my tenth and last full month on the trail yesterday.
Long day today. I have almost no food. So I decided to hike all the way to Paisley at the southern end of the Ocala NF. The southern section is nice. I hiked all this about a year ago. This is also where I met my first thru-hikers. Sour dough Bob and Rambling Rose. Somehow it all seems ages ago. Much has happened since. Even the first 10 days or so up in Quebec seem far removed. It feels like a distant dream.
Saw 1 backbacker and a large male turkey fly away. Also several deer. I was very tired and thirsty when I got to Paisley. There is a good Italian restauraunt. Ate with relish. Bought 2 days food and left. Got to some sand roads and saw some children playing on trees. They shouted out "Are you a hippy who lives in the forest ?", "Are you a werewolf ?", "Are you a vampire bat ?". I guess hippy describes me best. Its not full moon, so I am not a werewolf. As for the vampire bat - that's a closely guarded secret.
A couple stopped in their van and talked to me for a while. Looks like Wild Flamingoman stayed with them. They read his journal entries about him meeting with Nomad and me. It was interesting. The ECT is definitely catching on.
Found a nice place to sleep in a pine stand. Area is crawling with raccoons.
Date: March 03 2001
Trail Day: 276
Miles Today: 19
Location: Near SR 46, Seminole SF
Section Mile: FNST 704
ECT Mile: 4165
Today was a mix of trail, dirt road and paved road. Saw numerous motor cyclists on SR 44. Its close to bike week. I used to have a motor cycle. I have dreamt of motor cycles several times. I think I may have to buy one again sometime. I miss it too much.
Seminole State Forest is beautiful. I was planning on stopping at the shelter. This is one of only 2 shelters on the FT. I was hoping to pick up water couple of miles before it but never saw a water source. I was totally out of water and the shelter is a horrible one, so I decided to continue.
Got bottled water from some day hikers near the entrance to the Seminole SF. Continued reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance. I have read it before and remember it to be a very good book. Does not appear so now. I wonder what's different in my two readings.