Florida trail, day seven: Dear FT- it’s not you, it’s me

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The real Florida Trail

December 19

When I wake in the morning I know that I’m done. Despite having slept really well, despite having camped in this nice place with a picnic table, I still cannot muster the energy to get stoked for thirty more miles on this paved bike path, followed by hundreds of miles on other paved surfaces.

I’m done.

The FT is 1100 miles long and has 600 miles of roads, or 800 miles of roads- I don’t know for sure. As I walk the six miles this morning to the little village where I can get on the highway to hitch, I think of the things I’ve done in my short hiking career that have made me most proud. Night-hiking over Mather Pass in the snow. Doing 25-mile days in Washington while feverish with tonsilitis. The time I ran out of food and hiked 50 miles on 1500 calories. The L2H. Even though I’ve only hiked a couple of long trails, I can sincerely say that I’ve never once wanted to give up and quit hiking. Not once!

And yet here I am, crumpling in the face of 600 (800?) miles of roadwalking.

This gives me newfound respect for people who HAVE thru-hiked the Florida Trail. This trail is such a unique psychological challenge- lots of tedium and foot pounding for relatively little reward. It’s different from an actual trail, and it requires a different sort of attitude. And apparently I don’t have that attitude.

This makes me sad, because I really, really wanted to love the Florida Trail. It turns out that I love Florida, that I love being in Florida! I flew all the way down here, it’s a magical tropical land, I love hiking. It was the perfect setup. But this is not like the hiking that I know- this is the kind of “hiking” that makes me want to curl up in a ball in the grass and go to sleep for a very, very long time.

It takes me over an hour to get a hitch the 20 miles into Okeechobee- I’m in some agressively conservative part of the state, populated my leary retirees, and passers-by stare at me with open-mouthed looks of horror. Who am I, standing there in my dirty white sun-shirt, turquoise skirt and backpack? Some sort of harlot? Where is my pickup truck? Why am I doing something other than driving to and fro work or shopping at walmart? I must be a drug-addicted feminist terrorist. I probably voted for Obama.

You think I’m exaggerating. In Okeechobee I walk to the library, because I just want to sit in a chair with my phone plugged in and think about what I’ve done and what I’m going to do next. I’m minding my own business, reading about Brangelina’s wedding cake in people magazine, when I overhear an elderly man at the computers behind me loudly declare to the man next to him that the woman who “runs this library” won’t let him spend more than two hours a day on the computers because she’s a “feminist nazi bitch”. I stare at him, and he glares back at me.

“How’s that for speaking your mind?” he shouts. No-one else in the library even looks up. “At least I don’t have any tattoos,” he says, pointing at the tattoo on my hand. “You know what that is? That’s the tramp stamp!”

“It’s not too late,” I say, trying to lighten the mood. “you’ve still got time.”

He shakes his head vehemently.

“Never ever, because the BODY is a TEMPLE made in the LIKENESS of JESUS CHRIST.” He is shouting all this, and as he says it his friend sitting next to him in pounding his fists against his thighs, mouthing along.

“She’s blushing!” He proclaims. “I made her blush! She’s blushing because she’s ASHAMED!”

My god, I think. These guys are like internet trolls, but in real life. Their need to pick a fight and get attention is more real to them than anything else, more real than the people around them.

I go back to reading my magazine, but soon the dudes are at it again-

“You see these street people in here,” says one of them. “And you get to feeling sorry for them. And then you leave the computer and they get on it after you, and they steal all your passwords!”

“You’re right about that,” says the other one. I look at my dirty backpack, leaning against my legs. The one dude gets up, circles the room and then sits across from me, fixing me with a hostile glare. Are you serious? Are you fucking serious? He wants so badly to pick a fight with me. And for what? I think of the recent Nicki Minaj interview, in which she says that “men are like children”. So I pack up my backpack and go.

The town is crowded and busy and I’d have to hitch out of town in order to find a place to camp, and I don’t want to hitch alone in this part of Florida, so I end up getting a motel room. It’s more than I can afford but I just want to deadbolt a door between me and these awful people for a little while why I figure out what to do next. I talk to my friend Track Meat, who lives north of here, and this time when he offers to pick me up and take me on a roadtrip I say Fuck yeah! I walk to the grocery store for my usual town staples of roast chicken, avocados and greens and then barricade myself in my motel room to watch television and look at instagram until I pass out.

Photos on instagram