6:30 a.m. In semi-darkness I see a headlamp scurrying across the clearing. I am still lying cuddled up in my quilt, still unwilling to get up. I can’t and don’t want to keep up with the boys’ schedule anyway, as they want to leave at 7.30 a.m. already to take the cool morning hours with them. Because the bubble is pressing, I still feel myself outside ten minutes later and am happy about an enchanting sunrise over the Floridian prairie. Dense wafts of mist give the grass landscape between palm trees and bushes a mystical atmosphere.
Together with Warren and Jason I enjoy the first and also last coffee of the day on the clammy wooden bench and hope that the tent will be dried by the sunrays. Because of the immensely high humidity everything is wet. While I am still wet in my pyjamas the boys pack their things. It is already far after half past seven when I notice
“Oops, they’re probably waiting for me.” In no time at all I stuff the damp tent into the packsack, my household goods into the rucksack, disappear behind the next palm tree to get changed and am ready to leave within ten minutes. If only it were that easy in everyday life.
Our hope to still see the female alligator is unfortunately disappointed. Obviously she is a late riser. The way leads us from the campground into the open terrain, briefly into a beautiful oak forest, which, with its imposing, fern-covered oak trees, puts us directly into Avatar, and soon onto the next road. Even today the amount of asphalt is not insignificant and it gets hotter than yesterday. We take it with composure, because we can’t change it. Warren tries to make the alternative route to the original trail tasty for us with a small bistro. Alternative means: even more road instead of swamps. I wave my thanks and Jason also prefers to get wet feet rather than continuing to melt on the asphalt.
Our high spirits are of course rewarded with mud wading. Ankle-deep we all sink into the brown mud and are happy about small ponds to wash off the dirt – only to sink back into the mud after five minutes. I somehow enjoy it, because it is my first swamp experience on the Florida Trail. The two men, however, have already done several miles and days in the black water.
With muddy calves and shoes we arrive at our campground in the late afternoon. There is already a tent there and a caked hiker comes to greet us together with his happy dog. Scrarecrow and Oreo – his black and white dog – are real dropouts and have a ten-year plan to cover almost all trails in the USA. First he hands us a brownie and nobody says no. Except Warren, who is on low carb.
The four of us share the rickety camping bench, because the rust has probably gotten to the second one a long time ago. After I tested my dehydrated pumpkin soup yesterday, today the homemade ratatouille is on the table. The men look a little envious into my bowl, but in the end everyone is full and satisfied. At 7 p.m. it’s reading time again and we have also agreed for the next day: we will continue hiking together.
Lemon and Orange Paradise
After an extensive breakfast with instant coffee and lemon cake, we say goodbye to Scarecrow and Oreo, because they take things very slowly and do just short milage a day. Why rush it, they have ten years time.
Not even five minutes on the trail I stomp through ankle-deep water in a dense palm forest. The shoes and socks from yesterday were not quite dry anyway.
My schedule for the next few days is this: today about 14 miles, tomorrow 20, to get to the reserved campground with hot shower. 20 miles is not a piece of cake for me in the current condition, because since my return from sabbatical I spent much more time at my desk instead of walking. Therefore I am thinking about hiking more today in order to have less remaining distance the next day.
The plan is nice, but it is even hotter today than the days before. We enjoy every shady section through the semi-tropical forests. And they sweeten the heat in a very unexpected way. At the side of the trail and partly over the trail, wild orange and lemon trees with fruits ripe for harvest rise up. Of course I can’t resist the temptation and carry two oranges and a lemon to the next resting place. The fruits are super juicy and rich in seeds. The lemons are not nearly as sour as the ones from the supermarket, the oranges on the other hand are quite close to the lemons citric acid. Delicious. The fruit juice has spread all over my hands and I try to shake it off. This causes my Garmin watch to squeak like mad, because it means: Accident detected! No shit.
The rest of the day passes relatively uneventful. We get some water from a small creek and hope for a water cache near some of the roads we cross. Unfortunately without success. The last miles lead again over asphalt. In zombie mode we bear our fate, but I have already made the decision: I won’t go one step further today than originally planned. So 20 miles tomorrow it is. The weather forecast also promises a considerable cooling off over night. A heavy storm is announced. Pretty dehydrated we arrive at the campground and thank the trail angel “Waterboy”, who has cached a lot of water gallons here.
In a porta-potty we find a huge bottle of disinfectant lotion and take a good bath with it. We move together with our tents under a gigantic oak tree, because this seems to be the best place to survive the thunderstorms. Tornados not excluded. I do feel a bit uncomfortable…