Mile 103 to mile 128.5 (plus 4.5 miles walking in and out of Clewiston and Moore Haven
I wake up before dawn, excited to be back on the road. It’s not a trail, at least for the next hundred miles, it’s a road, but I’m still excited to be back on it. Walking is walking is walking, right?
That feeling lasts for most of the day. First I’m walking along pavement, a sort of bike path/service road, alongside a dike, and there’s waving grass or sugarcane fields or palm trees on either side, and somewhere supposedly there is a lake, although I can’t see it, and the sun is not too hot and I’m making good time and my feet feel alright. Then there’s a gate across the bike path- construction, no tresspassing! It says. Some dudes below at a fish camp are waving their arms and saying-
“Don’t do it! They’ll put you in jail!” And so I am introduced to another endearing thing about the Florida Trail- sometimes the road is closed indefinitely, and one is forced to do a roadwalk detour around the roadwalk.
Hot blacktop it is, then, through the recently-burnt sugarcane fields that parallel the dike. My feet are aching now, and so to distract myself I re-watch a documentary about some folks I know who fixed up a derelict yacht one winter and sailed it from Florida to The Dominican Republic. This helps the time pass and I think about all the other things I could be doing- eating fish I clubbed myself, swimming with sharks, learning to sail. But would that be so different than this? Isn’t all life suffering?
I follow some railroad tracks through the sugarcane fields to the town of Moore Haven, where I have a resupply box at the post office. If Clewiston was a busy little hub of sugar manufacture and cheap cuban food, then Moore Haven is a shit-tastic wasteland of dollar stores and shuttered restaurants, edged in RV parks full of retirees. The walk through town on the freeway seems to take ages, and when I arrive at the post office the clerk looks at me like I’m insane and says that no, they do not have my package. I look up the tracking number online and discover that although I sent the box a week ago via priority it seems to have stalled somewhere in Kentucky.
“I’ve never had this happen before with a priority box,” I say to the clerk. “Is this, like, a thing that happens?”
“Priority is not garaunteed.”
The dollar store is actually like a grocery store, only without a produce section. It’s pretty good to resupply, as it consists entirely of snack food and everything is cheap. After buying lots of things like “cinnamon almonds” and “mixed rice crackers” I head to the burger king, which seems to be the only gig in town, and may be the most depressing fast food restaurant on earth.
The teenagers who work there are leaning on the counter, bored to tears, and they perk up when they see me. I actually really love this about fast food restaurants- no judgment. You’re literally paying for someone to be nice to you. Not like the retirees behind me in line at the post office, who seemed scandalized by my existance. I order what is perhaps the worst salad I’ve ever eaten and then hike back along the freeway to the dike, which I can access again now that I’m passed the “construction”.
I’m seven miles from camp, a “designated campsite” along the bike path, when my feet start to really ache- particularly the heel in my left foot. I try to find something softer to walk on but there is nothing- the grass is deep and difficult to walk through, or sloping down at an awkward angle. Dark falls, and my morale plummets. Fucky fuck. Fuck this eight hundred mile roadwalk. I run through all my pep talks- it’ll be trail again for a bit in a hundred miles, you might get to hike with friends later on, you spent all that money on resupply boxes and travel, you can’t quit because quitting is dumb, never quit on a bad day. By the time I reach camp, after having navigated around two more “closed” sections of the bike path, crossing a number of bridges in the dark with traffic going by really fast (and everyone with their brights on, blinding me), and being stopped by a concerned state trooper because “you don’t see anyone walking out here”, I am emotionally spent. There is a picnic table tho, so that is nice. I sit at this table and do my evening chores, listening to the night-time animals do their thing in the water. Earlier there were wild boars in the trees next to the road, rustling around and making snorting noises.
At this point I feel like I’m in the kind of relationship where you really love the person, so you don’t want to leave, but in the day-to-day you’re just unhappy. But you and this person made all these PLANS together, you built your lives around each other. And you really love them. You’re just… unhappy.
On a brighter note, here is the video about the friends who fixed up an old boat and sailed to the Dominican Republic. If you like adventure, and feeling as though anything is possible, it is fantastic for that-
Photos on instagram