I’m very happy to have made the attempt, meeting a wonderful group of hikers along the way. To them I say thank you for sharing your adventure with me! And a special thanks to Chuck and Tigger, who gave me the opportunity to try.
The swamp and the landscape of the first miles of the Florida Trail did me in. Growing up hiking in Central Florida, I foolishly expected the trail to be like the memories of my youth. South Florida is not. The wading, mud, and unusually hot winter weather wore me down. The miles of dike and roadwalks kicked me again. The final blow was nearly being run down on a long stretch walking along a road.
This was the day I called for a rescue. I was hurting, shaken, and my spirits had never been lower. What I had learned is that I missed hiking with Sandy. After years of “being out there” by myself, I missed my hiking partner. And I didn’t want to be out there without her.
I spent a lot of time hiking on my own during this trip, as I was too slow to keep up with the faster hikers, and just a bit faster than the rest of the group. Not since my years as a Boy Scout had I spent any time backpacking with a group, and I felt out of place. I’d spent too many years alone on most of my outdoor adventures.
Of this group of Florida Trail hikers, I was the tenderfoot. Sure, I had hiked over 500 miles on the AT last year. But most of these folks do 500 miles to warm up for their next big hike. I didn’t feel that I fit.
While recuperating at home, I continued piecing together parts of the Florida Trail close to home. Although I was hiking alone, I was in familiar surroundings, and I knew that at the end of the day I would be back home with Sandy. After years without a hiking partner, I now have one who is also the love of my life. Why would I want to hike without her?
I’m so glad that I tried the hike on my own. It was a big step for me. I’m glad to have Big Cypress behind me, because I don’t plan to ever hike that section again.
I learned that I am a hiker, and a backpacker, but I don’t feel like a long distance hiker. At least not yet! My Florida Trail hike will continue, mile-by-mile, section-by-section, with Sandy by my side.