Florida National Scenic Trail 2017

  • Florida National Scenic Trail: Another Adventure Awaits (1/5/2017) - I'm going to hike the Florida National Scenic Trail! So my New Year's resolution, if you want to call it that, is to hike all 11 National Scenic Trails before I die. Ambitious, I know. Probably too much so, as I'm well into middle age and a lot of these trails are tough.
  • The Adventure Is About to Begin (1/6/2017) - My alligator-filled adventure is about to begin! So, I flew into the Fort Lauderdale airport yesterday and was picked up by my friend, Judy. The next day, we learned about a horrible shooting in that very same airport, not 12 hours after I landed.
  • Day 1: Oasis Visitor Center to 10-Mile Camp (1/7/2017) - I got crap sleep last night, the night before heading for 10-Mile Camp. It wasn't that my hammock wasn't comfy – it was actually quite nice – but it was about 70 degrees and muggy with absolutely no breeze. Despite my bug net I got bitten all over my legs and shoulders.
  • Day 2: 10-Mile Camp to Oak Hill Camp (1/8/2017) - Today our goal was to reach either Oak Hill Camp or Ivy Camp. But to achieve that goal, I needed coffee in the morning. But I wasn’t hiking with a camping stove. However, before arriving in Florida, a bunch of us had been communicating through the Florida Trail Class of 2017 Facebook page.
  • Day 3: Oak Hill Camp to Billie Swamp Safari (1/9/2017) - Today's goal: Billie Swamp Safari. My friend, Judy, was scheduled to meet me at I-75, where hikers emerge after Big Cypress Swamp. I'd told her to meet me at 10-11 a.m., based on me hiking out of Ivy Camp.
  • Day 4: Billie Swamp Safari to Deer Fence Canal (1/10/2017) - Before heading out this morning toward Deer Fence Canal, we had had to make it through the night. Last night it was cold out, and cold in our little chickee, which isn't heated and has screens, not windows.
  • Day 5: Deer Fence Canal to South of Clewiston (1/11/2017) - Today’s goal: the town of Clewiston, due north of here. This morning we had a whole table full of hikers at the Billie Swamp Cafe. Judy was getting into it! I said I felt I had to change my trail name since almost no one knew the name “Valderi” nor the song “The Happy Wanderer” from whence it came.
  • Day 6: South of Clewiston to Northwest of Clewiston (1/12/2017) - Today the plan was to hike into Clewiston, through the town and then out to the northwest of Clewiston. The day was tough, mentally and physically. Judy and I had stayed at a Clewiston motel last night; she drove me a bit south of town to get started.
  • Day 7: North of Clewiston to Indian Prairie Canal (1/13/2017) - Today’s destination: Indian Prairie Canal. To reach that destination, I first took a cab from my motel in Clewiston to the spot where I left off on the detour yesterday. Later today, trail angel Mike Gormley is going to pick up my bags from the motel, then grab me at Indian Prairie Canal and take me to a car rental place in Okeechobee.
  • Day 8: Indian Prairie Canal to Platts Bluff Boat Launch (1/14/2017) - Moon Shadow dropped me off this morning at Indian Prairie Canal, where I'll be en route to Platts Bluff today. She used the rental car I picked up last night. So, I started the day continuing to hike along the levees for about 10 miles. At 9:30 a.m. I ran into four people and two air boats up on the levee.
  • Day 9: Platts Bluff Boat Launch to Starvation Slough (1/15/2017) - Today's destination is Starvation Slough. But poor Moon Shadow! Her knee just isn't healing well, so she's decided to go to her sister's house for a few weeks and rejoin her hiking partner, Barb (aka Late Start), at a further date. For today, anyway, she's still here and shuttling me.
  • Day 10: Starvation Slough to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park (1/16/2017) - Today, my destination is Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. To fuel my hike, I ate a big breakfast at my motel. Well, one of the employees saw me prepare a large waffle with lots of whipped cream.
  • Day 11: Kissimmee Prairie Preserve to River Ranch (1/17/2017) - Today was a loooong day on my mission to reach River Ranch. I got up early to shuttle Late Start past a bad detour that required highway walking, then took Moon Shadow to the rental car office to pick up a car.
  • Day 12: River Ranch to Second Bifurcation (Orlando) (1/18/2017) - I've almost reached Orlando on this first hike along the Florida Trail. But I had to stop at the end of the day today. While I'm anxious to get back home, I'm also sad to leave.
  • Day 13/1: Clearwater Lake Recreational Trail to Billies Bay Wilderness (3/20/2017) - I'm starting my second chunk of the Florida Trail at Clearwater Lake. But this isn't where I ended in January. Back then, I stopped my hike at Prairie Lakes, with an eastern swing through the Orlando suburbs up next.
  • Day 14/2: Billies Bay Wilderness to Pat’s Island Trailhead (3/21/2017) - Today's goal was Billies Bay. The temperatures started off in the mid-40s, which was a little cool since I had shorts on. I did have gloves, but wished I'd had a headband, too. And my toes were frozen.
  • Day 15/3: Pat’s Island Trailhead to Just Past Lake Delancy Campground (3/22/2017) - I had a wonderful morning heading out from Pat's Island. There was a seven-mile stretch around Hopkins Prairie that was just breathtaking. The light was hitting the plants just right, and it made this amazing golden glow.The more I hike our National Scenic Trails, the more I fall in love with prairies. 
  • Day 16/4: Just Past Lake Delancy Campground to SR 100 Near Palatka (3/23/2017) - Today’s hike began just northwest of Lake Delancy. Luckily, the day’s forecast was for cloudy skies with a high around 70. Perfect hiking conditions! Judy and I started out together on what was a gorgeous stretch of trail, showcasing lots of pines and palmetto.
  • Day 17/5: SR 100 Near Palatka to Gold Head Branch State Park (3/24/2017) - Lucky me on my trek heading out from Palatka. Today was another cool (70s) and cloudy day on the trail. Not that I don’t love the sun, but sometimes it’s nice to hike in cool, cloudy weather.
  • Day 18/6: Gold Head Branch State Park to West of Hampton (3/25/2017) - Today was an excellent day heading out from Gold Head Branch State Park. Yay! It was another partly cloudy, not-too-hot day. Ten-Miler and I started off hiking together through Gold Head Branch. She turned back about halfway to move her truck to the main entrance.
  • Day 19/7: West of Hampton to West of Lake Butler (3/26/2017) - Ten-Miler had to go home today, when I'll be heading toward Lake Butler. So she first helped me drop my car at the finish point, then drove me to my starting point. I wasn't looking forward to walking along more of the Palatka-Lake Butler rail-trail, as yesterday's portion was so rocky. But today wasn't too bad.
  • Day 20/8: West of Lake Butler to Turkey Run Trailhead (3/27/2017) - This was an interesting day on the trail, heading to Turkey Run. I started in where the trail leaves SR 100 about 5-6 miles west of Lake Butler. The trail was a bit scruffy to start, but not too bad. At some point, though, the trail got strange.
  • Day 21/9: Turkey Run Trailhead to White Springs (3/28/2017) - Today, while heading to White Springs, this became The Day of the Spider Webs. Ugh. The entire morning's hike was rather unpleasant because every 30 seconds or so I walked into those spider web things that wrap themselves across your face, neck and/or arms.
  • Day 22/10: White Springs to US 129 (3/29/2017) - Today's destination was the exotic US 129. First, I drove myself to the parking spot by Highway 41 just outside of White Springs. I hiked about one-third of a mile when I realized I had left both my sunglasses and hat in the car. That would not do.
  • Day 23/11: US 129 to Suwannee River State Park (3/30/2017) - Today's agenda was to make it to Suwannee River State Park. Trail Angel Sarah Leigh met me early this morning while it was still dark out. Our rendezvous point was the intersection of a small street and a county or state highway. I parked my rental car on the side street for the day, then hopped in her car for the ride to my starting point.
  • Day 24/12: Suwannee River State Park to I-10 (3/31/2017) - I had no shuttle today, heading to I-10, but that was O.K. The day's itinerary called for about 12 miles of trail, then another 12 on roads. Since the road walks along the Florida Trail are spots where the Florida Trail Association is hoping to buy/build trail in the future, it's not critical to walk every step of a connecting road route.
  • Day 25/13: I-10 to West of I-10 (4/1/2017) - Today's schedule called for 25.5 miles along county roads just south of I-10, heading to the west of I-10. I had no shuttle again today, so I did an out-and-back of 12.75 miles on those roads. 
  • Day 26/14: West of I-10 to Long-Suffering Road (4/2/2017) - Today's destination: Long-Suffering Road. I started my hike at a T intersection in the middle of a long road walk. Interestingly, I parked in front of a home that had a fully functioning Pepsi machine out in front, near the road.
  • Day 27/15: Long Suffering Road to St. Marks Visitor Center (4/3/2017) - 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.
  • Day 28 / 1: Prairie Lakes Station to Forever Florida (5/15/2017) - Caught an early flight from O'Hare and got to Prairie Lakes Station by 3:15-ish in the afternoon. I'm baaaack! I didn't actually get going for another 30 minutes because I was trying to reach someone who could tell me if the gate to this parking spot would be closed at night or not.
  • Day 29 / 2: Forever Florida to Hwy. 419 (3 Miles In) (5/16/2017) - Today I began at Forever Florida, a conservation area that offers ziplining, tours and other entertainment. I planned to start hiking early every day to avoid the worst heat.
  • Day 30 / 3: Hwy. 419 (3 Miles In) to Tosohatchee State Preserve (5/17/2017) - Today I was headed for the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area. Again, we got a late start for various reasons, so I didn’t start walking today until 9:40 a.m. It was another hot, breezy day. Luckily, the humidity wasn’t too bad. The day’s 25-mile hike was all on roads. Now, many people hate road walks. I don’t necessarily. Well, I don’t care for hikes on busy highways. But quieter roads are fine.
  • Day 31 / 4: Tosohatchee State Preserve to Chuluota Wilderness Area (5/18/2017) - Another late start today (9:30 a.m.) on the road to Chuluota Wilderness Area. But while it was still hot out, I was again blessed with wind and low humidity. I was worried there would be lots of ticks and chiggers in the Tosohatchee State Preserve, but due to this year’s dry “rainy season,” there were no bugs.
  • Day 32 / 5: Chuluota Wilderness Area to Soldiers Creek Park (5/19/2017) - Today's destination: Soldiers Creek Park. Little did I know this morning what adventures I'd have today. But that's what I love about hiking. Every day is so different and wonderful in its own way, even if it's difficult.
  • Day 33 / 6: Soldiers Creek Park to Royal Trails (5/20/2017) - En route to Royal Trails today, I decided long-distance hiking is trying to teach me a lesson: patience. Every day, something seems to go wrong. But every time something goes awry, I’m less shaken or annoyed by it than I would have been a year or two or three ago.
  • Day 34 / 7: Royal Trails to Clearwater Recreation Area (5/21/2017) - Today's agenda called for hiking a mere 10 miles from Royal Trails to Clearwater Lake Recreation Area. My flight left from Orlando at 2:55 p.m., so no problem. Or so I thought. 
  • Day 35 / 1: Shell Island Fish Camp to St. Marks Visitor Center (11/24/2017) - 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!
  • Day 36 / 2: St. Marks to Jack Crum Road (11/25/2017) - Today my destination was Jack Crum Road. But much of my day was spent hiking 18 miles through St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. I started in tiny St. Marks on a recreational path created from an old railroad that once ran from St. Marks to Tallahassee.
  • Day 37 / 3: Jack Crum Road to FR 348 Trailhead (11/26/2017) - Today I entered the Bradwell Bay Wilderness area in the Apalachicola National Forest. The weather was great, with the highs around 70. I came upon a trail journal early on – I love those! – and it was fun to see the names and messages from my peeps back from my start in Big Cypress last January.
  • Day 38 / 4: FR 348 Trailhead to the West End of Bradwell Bay (11/27/2017) - Today was my hike through Bradwell Bay, and I was excited yet nervous. It's one of two swamps along the Florida Trail, and I was doing it solo, unlike our group trek through Big Cypress Swamp back in January.
  • Day 39 / 5: West End of Bradwell Bay to FR 107 (11/28/2017) - Today's destination was a trailhead on FR 107, and wow, this was a day for the record books! I had one of my longer hikes planned, a 23.5-miler. But due to various circumstances, I didn't get started on the trail until almost 9:30 a.m.
  • Day 40 / 6: FR 107 to 3 Miles Up SR 65 (11/29/2017) - Today's destination: SR 65. In the morning, I bandaged up my poor, blistered heels and put on my hiking boots. That felt much better! Still, I wondered how those heels would feel after a day of hiking? There was only one way to find out. Start hiking!
  • Day 41 / 7: SR 65 to SR 71 (11/30/2017) - Today's plan was to make it to SR 71, and initially I feared I'd have to take a zero day. Both of my heels are sporting huge blisters from those newer running shoes of mine that don't work well with my orthotics. Well, at least they don't work well when it comes to walking 20 miles at a time.
  • Day 42 / 8: SR 71 to Scott Road Trailhead (12/1/2017) - Today's hike heading to the Scott Road Trailhead was 99 percent roads. But it wasn't all that bad. So, the first few miles were along a curving, hilly, scenic road. This road was in the countryside, near only tiny towns.
  • Day 43 / 9: Scott Road Trailhead through Econfina Creek (12/2/2017) - What a (mostly) great day in the Econfina Creek area! So, Judy slept in and I drove myself to the Scott Road area, where I left off yesterday. It was a nice, cool morning (mid-50s). I had about 18 miles of hiking through the beautiful Econfina Creek Water Management Area ahead of me.
  • Day 44 / 10: SR 77 and SR 20 to Bruce (12/3/2017) - Today's destination: Bruce, Florida. So Judy decided to sleep in again today, because I needed to head out to the trail early. I had nearly eight miles of hiking along SR 20 to start my day. It's never fun to hike along a state highway.
  • Day 45 / 11: Bruce to Hwy. 331 (12/4/2017) - Today's destination: Hwy. 331. My day started off with a 5.6-mile road walk north of Bruce, continuing from yesterday's road walk along Hwy. 20. But after I'd been walking a while, following my paper map, I realized my app map showed a different route – on a trail. Hmm.
  • Day 46 / 12: Hwy. 331 to Bob Sikes Road (12/5/2017) - Today my destination was Bob Sikes Road. But more importantly, my hike would take me into Eglin Air Force Base. Eglin is not only an Air Force base, but also a place where they practice explosives. As in, they practice exploding ordnance.
  • Day 47 / 13: Bob Sikes Road to Jr. Walton Pond (12/6/2017) - It was 58 and gray when I started out on the trail toward Jr. Walton Pond. And the forecast was for rain and falling temps. The last two weeks of hiking, I've had nothing but temps in the upper 70s and mostly sunny skies. So this was quite a change.
  • Day 48 / 14: Jr. Walton Pond to Holt (12/7/2017) - Today, heading toward Holt, marked the start of two days of rain. I guess I can't complain. So far, I've had nothing but sunny, warm days during this fourth and final trip on the Florida Trail. And in fact, during my previous three trips, I can't recall any rainy days. 
  • Day 49 / 15: Holt to Yellow River Trailhead (12/8/2017) - My march to the Yellow River Trailhead was one of my more difficult hiking days. The weather was gray, rainy and 40 degrees all day long. I began in the town of Holt and headed south on a 3.5-mile road route toward the Yellow River Water Management Area.
  • Day 50 / 15: Yellow River Trailhead to Navarre Beach (12/9/2017) - Last night we got a little snow (!), so today's journey to Navarre Beach started off chilly. Nancy met me at a small parking lot in Navarre Beach, which is a small tourist area on the beach and Santa Rosa Sound. I dropped my car here, and she shuttled me back to the Yellow River Trailhead.
  • Day 51 / 16: Navarre Beach to Ft. Pickens (12/10/2017) - Wow, what a last day making my way to Ft. Pickens, the northern terminus of the Florida Trail! I thought I had about 22 miles to the finish, but it ended up being more like 28 or so.

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