Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Rivers: Suwannee, Aucilla, St. Marks

After White Springs things were getting serious: The Suwannee River was next and it was still seriously flooded. My guidebook said that the trail would be impassable if the water level at White Springs is higher than 60 ft, and it was 64 when I was there. But luckily I had sent an email to the FT section leader of that area and received a very detailed and positive response. It basically said that if the water levels are between 60 and 64 ft you have to detour two spots, between 64 and 68 there are some serious long detours and you better give up if it is over 68 ft. All of a sudden 64 ft did not sound too bad and so I set out for another 8 day stretch in a good mood only dampened by the fact that I had to do all my resupply out of this little "Redneck store" and a Dollar General. And that meant Idahoan Mashed potatoes every lunch for 8 days and Broccoli Cheddar Lipton side dish every dinner....

I really did not encounter a lot of problems along the Suwannee. I had to detour two spots which was relatively easy. The Suwannee River was very beautiful and the nature experience was only spoilt by the fact that I was always very close to a noisy Interstate. I had just been very lucky. Had I started my hike early January as originally planned, I would never have been able to hike that section. All thruhikers before me had to roadwalk around this section, had given up or flipflopped. I had just had the right timing!

Next came two uneventful days of hiking through tree farms that deepened my dislike of clear cuts tremendously, but hiking on forest roads is still 10 times better than hiking on pavement and therefore I will not complain.

The Aucilla River was next and I did my now obligatory phone call to the section leader. The result was not very positive. The Aucilla was still flooded but I should give it a try. I tried but did not get very far. After encountering the third ravine with waist deep water within one hour I decided to just detour around it on forest roads. This was the first time on the whole FT where I could really use my GPS! The Aucilla River (which is quite a big river) then suddenly disappears in big sinkholes and luckily that section was not flooded at all so I had an interesting walk there.

Spanish Moss
Now I only had to cross St. Marks River and then I would meet another trail angel and have a zero day! After more than a week in the cold with only Idahoan Mashed potatoes and Broccoli Cheddar I was really looking forward to that. The guidebook that you should just "hail a boat" to cross the river, but considering that I would be at the crossing early on a Monday morning I decided to make arrangements for a water taxi to pick me up at 8.30 am. Being very punctual I was at the river crossing already at 8 am patiently waiting for a boat. I was there at 8.30 am and unfortunately I was still there at 9.30 am because neither my shuttle nor any other boat had shown up! And of course I did not have cell phone reception either. I started to get really worried! I had an appointment with Linda to pick me up on the other side of the river and I had no means to contact her or the cross the river. Should I hike about 5 miles to the next bridge and cross there? Luckily at 9.30 am two unsuspecting fishermen showed up. I tried to explain my situation (which was really difficult with me standing on a little sandy beach and they about 100 meters away in  a boat) and they agreed to get me across the river. I guess it helps to be a single female.... They had done their good deed of the day and I was on the right side of  St. Marks River. Zero day - here I come!

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