Date: 01 Feb 2018 11:56PM EST
Location: Camping at The Depot in Lake Butler, FL
Today's Miles: 17.4
Total Miles: 560.7
Up with the sun, took a bit to get moving. Laid on my air mattress and just felt a bit off. Think I may have picked up a cold or the flu at the picnic I went to a few days ago, been extra sore in the muscles and joints lately.
Packed up and off I went. Mostly the straight dirt roads of an unpaved rails to trail section flanked by trailer parks and private property signs, nothing too exciting.
Was having a crap day for some reason. Could be the sickness, but my head just wasn't in it. Saw there was a detour along the way that would add a couple extra bonus miles of road walking because a bridge was out.
Partially because of my mood, partially because of my pride, bridled with my newfound familiarity of waking through so many swamps and muck on this trail, I figured I'd take the original route where the trail used to go. Save me some time, keep me off a long road walk, win win.
Let's just say it was a bad decision.
Trail ended up being super overgrown with blowdowns and vines all over the place. Not unexpected since this bridge has been damaged for quite some time and the reroute effectively *is* the trail.
Ended up getting all cut up from thorns and vines, and when I arrived at the bridge it was completely destroyed. I later found out that some kids ended up burning it down one summer long ago when the water levels were super low.
It was a huge train bridge. In my mind I was picturing some relatively small bridge built for hikers that may have sustained some storm damage and was merely closed for "public safety". Not a friggan four story tall trail bridge that was completely burned and absolutely structurally unsound!
I attempted walking across the extremely wide swamp that this massive bridge spanned over, but due to the recent rains it was no longer a swamp with a lazy steam running through it - It was over my head deep with a pretty rapid current.
So I did what anyone with water survival training and too much pride does: I secured my gear, made sure all my stuff sacks were closed tight, and used my pack as a flotation buoy as I kicked my way across the river.
Aside: if you have waterproofed items in your pack such as a stuff sack or two with clothing, a sleeping bag, etc., squeeze all the air out and make the stuffed bags as small as possible. Contrary to popular belief, these smaller, compact bags will provide a perfectly sized, perfectly viable flotation device when shoved inside a backpack. Too much air makes the pack float too high out of the water and is like trying to swim while lying on top an overinflated beach ball.
While I don't advocate crossing rivers alone with no experience, the method I detailed above is the same I used to teach in water survival classes for Marines, and will float a fit, ripped young man decked out in full battle rattle: flak jacket, helmet, rifle, utilities, boots, etc.
Made it to town early in the afternoon, even with my little detour. Town has an outbuilding they call "The Depot" in their town park that they allow hikers to sleep in, so I retrieved the keys from the town hall, laid out all my stuff, and hung a clothesline to dry out any wet gear from earlier.
Another hiker showed up, started the day after me at Big Cypress. He was super excited to finally catch up in the way only a hiker who's been tailing another for a few weeks and reading logbook entries can be.
Headed over to the local grocery store to resupply, and saw they had a pretty slick deli in the the back with loads of hot cooked foods at a decent price. Smartly, I ate a meal first before doing my resupply shopping.
Headed back to The Depot and the local chapter's section leader came by to talk for a little bit. Super nice lady, she's been maintaining this section of trail for many years. She was incredibly responsive to our reports of blow downs and apologized for not getting to them yet.
Finished off the evening doing some administrative life stuff, and chatting with the other hiker over a few beers.