I had planned to hike all the way to St. Marks today, a hike that should have ended at the St. Marks River, where I could either hope to hail a boat to take me across the river and into town, or book a $25 boat shuttle across with a local business.
Unfortunately, I got a late start today for various reasons. That, coupled with the fact that the hike was +27 miles, and the boat shuttle ended at 5 p.m., and a storm was forecast to hit at noon, so few boats were likely to be out, caused me to alter my plan. I’d hike to the visitor center instead, about four miles short of the river and town.
Trail Angel Larry shuttled me to Long-Suffering Road, where we saw a wild boar and her piglets cross the road a ways in front of us. Now, wild boars are somewhat dangerous, and especially wild boars with piglets. I was a bit nervous to start hiking, but the piggies stayed in the woods. Phew!
Heading Toward St. Marks
I had nearly eight miles of a road walk to start, and then I hit the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. It was a pretty, interesting place. The first few miles were singletrack through the woods — my favorite — but then the trail became a wide road through the forest. That wasn’t so exciting.
But later the path became a dike walk with water and marshland on both sides. I saw a lot of birds and some alligators. Wish I could have taken in more of the view, but it was very windy out on the dike with the storm brewing, so I had my head turned half the time because of the wind.
Oh, and I also developed pretty bad tendinitis in my right foot/leg, so that was painful.
At the end of the day I had about a mile walk from the trail back to the Visitor Center on a connecting path. Just as Istarted down it I saw a mama bear and cubs right on the path! YIKES! They were pretty far down from me, and I stopped in my tracks. I tried talking really loudly, hoping they’d run into the woods, but they didn’t. I don’t know if they couldn’t hear/smell me or what, but they stayed there the longest time. The storm was brewing, my leg was killing me and I just wanted to get to my car. But it was past those bears.
I called Ten-Miler, and she said to call 911. Ha! Can you imagine that call? “Hi. I’m hiking in the woods and see some bears. Can you rescue me?” I called the visitor center, in case someone could come down the road in an ATV to scare the bears/fetch me, but no one answered. They must have closed at 4 or 4:30, and it was 4:50. Luckily at some point the bears finally sauntered back into the woods. I made Ten-Miler stay on the line with me, and I talked to her in the loudest voice I could as I walked past that area. Luckily, they were gone. PHEW.
Back at the Best Western, they hadn’t cleaned my room AGAIN. I told the woman at the desk (same as last night — Snowey is her name!) and she just said sorry, the housekeepers had all gone home for the day. No fun, when my bathroom is full of dirt and sand and grime.
And so ends my second stint on the Florida Trail. Great memories, beautiful scenery, wonderful people (except for Snowey).