I’m at Shell Island Fish Camp and about to finish the Florida National Scenic Trail. It’s my fourth and final trip here within a one-year period, so it will be considered a thru-hike. Woot, woot!
Ideally, I prefer hiking long-distance trails in a linear fashion, going from Point A to Point B. That didn’t happen with the Florida Trail, but that’s okay. Nothing in life is ever perfect.
To recap: I began at the southern terminus (Big Cypress Swamp) in January 2017, reaching a spot just southwest of Orlando. I returned in March, but skipped the Orlando area because my husband had a conference there in May, and I wanted him to hike some of the trail with me at that time. So I jumped ahead to a spot north of Orlando and hiked to St. Marks in the eastern panhandle. Then in May, I returned and did the Orlando section. (Ironically, my husband’s conference was cancelled, so I ended up hiking it alone and could have hiked sequentially after all.)
Heading Out from Shell Island Fish Camp
All of this meant that today, I’m starting back up at my farthest northbound (NOBO) spot, St. Marks. But again, I’ll have to mix things up a little. Last March, I had planned to end my hike after crossing the river into St. Marks. But a pending storm meant the boats weren’t ferrying hikers across, so I got off five miles short of town, at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.
No problem. When I returned, I’d start back in at that spot five miles short of town. However, my flight today got in mid-afternoon, and I didn’t reach St. Marks until 4 p.m. Since the last shuttle boat leaves at 4:30, I did not have enough time to hike the five miles from the Visitor Center to the river to catch the shuttle. So instead, I hiked east/southbound (backwards), taking the boat across from St. Marks, and then hiking the five miles to the Visitor Center. I got an Uber back to my rental car at Shell Island Fish Camp in St. Marks with Jenny, a lovely local lady.
Oops! Almost forget to talk about the trail! The boat ride was quite nice. The weather was sunny and 70, so perfect. The captain gave me lots of info about the area as we puttered along in the no-wake zone, although I couldn’t understand everything with his accent.
I assumed the five miles here would be easy walking on a levee, as that’s what the trail had been like when I got off last April. Wrong! The first two-ish miles were singletrack, and due to the recent hurricane and the fact that it’s just the start of the hiking season, it was in rough shape. I got pretty cut up by the scrub. Normally I wear compression socks that protect my calves against this kind of stuff, but I’d forgotten to put them on today. Oh well, it was just two miles. The last three were on wide dirt roads, so it was quite pleasant.
Oh – the singletrack portion was very fragrant. It was just lovely. I couldn’t quite tell what I was smelling, though …