In the parlance of the Big O Hike, now in its 20th year, we have a name for those who walk in the opposite direction from the rest of us – rabbits. These folks are our speedy guys and the key to our shuttle success, as they walk contrary – and faster – than the flow in order to move shuttle vehicles to the end point so weary hikers have a ride home. As a frequent shuttle driver, I’m always happy to entrust my speedy friends with my car so I know it will be at the end of my hike. Often hiking up to 4 mph, they’re done for the day early enough for a post-hike breakfast.
And then there’s me, and other friends like me. I’m about the journey, not the destination. After all, we all know what that final destination is! Better to walk slow, take photos, stop to identify birds, and chat with friends over the hours it takes to complete a hike segment, 4 to 7 hours depending on distance and weather and the average speed of us slowpokes.
A friend among us dubbed us “Turtles” – as a new rabbit, he’d pulled up footsore and knew it would be a rough walk today. I thought – Tortoise and the Hare, how appropriate! And so the name stuck. We turtles ambled along, soaking in the scenery and flow of the 12-mile walk. The Loxahatchee Chapter puts on this hike, and their logo is hiking turtles – Loxahatchee meaning “River of the Turtles” – so it seemed even more appropriate.
At hike”s end today, after spying a gator big enough to swallow a hiker, I saw something plodding across the trail ahead. Could it be … A turtle? Indeed it was. A tiny Florida cooter, which our hike leader swept off the pavement and into the grass. A perfect ending for the first gathering of Turtles along the Big O Hike.