Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Florida Trail - a love/hate relationship

First of all to all you who were worried: I am still alive! I have not died of water poisoning, have not been eaten by an alligator or shot by a Bushkie. I have just hiked a 9 day stretch without resupply - and now I am only half dead...

Trail in the swamp
What do I think of the Florida Trail now? I love it and I hate it - there is not much in between on this trail. The FT is one of the hardest trail I have hiked so far - physically and psychologically.
Physically it is hard because you are either walking for days on end on pavement creating blisters and God knows what foot problems OR you are wading through knee deep water with a speed of 1 mph. There is not much in between. I can only dream about nice graded trail like on the PCT and even the AT seems easy in comparison. I had to cut down on my daily mileage. Usually it is no problem for me to average 20 - 22 miles per day. Here - even with almost 12 hours of daylight - I am dead after 20 miles. I set up my tent, cook dinner and then immediately lay down because I hurt so much. It takes about 3 hours for the pain in my feet and hips to subside. I have a huge blister on my big toe for more than 2 weeks now... I cut down to 17 miles per day and things are a little bit better now.

Mummified fish
Psychologically it is hard to stay motivated on all those long roadwalks when you just hurt and want it to be over with. Water is another big issue. There is water everywhere - you just don't want to drink it!!! In the best of cases it is swamp water which is dark brown but at least tastes ok. Or it is tap water which is clear but tastes of sulphur. Unfortunately, most of the time it is river or canal water and there is still all these dead fish in it - now in a very bad state of decay. And to put it politely: This decay reflects in the taste of the water. Even the water in New Mexico on the CDT tastes great compared to that. So you have a choice of either dehydrate or drink stinky brown dead fish water.

Oak trees with Spanish moss
But there are the "love" aspects as well. I have never ever hiked through such an interesting ecosystem. Sometimes you feel like hiking through a fairy tale forest: Huge old oak trees covered with ferns and lichen, palmetto trees and saw grass everywhere - just absolutely wonderful. Or the huge cypress swamps: It is a pain to wade through, but they are just beautiful. Also the wildlife is pretty amazing: Bird everywhere, wild pigs, alligators, deer. I have even seen a black bear down in Big Cypress. Oh, did I mention the poisonous snakes....?

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