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[ft-l] Another Day on the Big 360
- Subject: [ft-l] Another Day on the Big 360
- Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2000 12:35:43 EST
- Reply-to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ah, the joys of roadwalking. Wait...am I crazy? I didn't think there were
any. But Rich and I have started up the Western Corridor, up a segment with
no orange blazes to guide us. We left them behind at Williams Road, in Three
Lakes Wildlife Management District, striking out towards Green Swamp, seventy
Seventy miles of roadwalk. Yuck. I tried to talk him out of it. I pointed out
how much fun it would be to hike Green Swamp all weekend. But no. How else
can we say we've hiked the whole 360 miles if we skip the roadwalks?
It turned out to be a magical day. En route to the trailhead, we passed a
field filled with sandhill cranes. A harbringer of things to come.
Of course, I hadn't thought to carry the GOOD camera equipment. Just a
snapshot camera. After all, it was just a roadwalk! We started the first
segment around 10am. Immediately, a pickup truck full of hunters asked for
directions to Three Lakes. Several minutes later, two different cars stopped
to ask if we needed a ride. "No thanks. We're hiking."
I'm sure they thought we were crazy. I did. Until we started to see the
sandhill cranes up close. Our lack of orange vests - we were on the road,
after all - helped. We saw them in twos, threes, and dozens, spinning
haunting, mournful cries, raspy clucking that echoed for miles. They strode
through pine forests, stood proud in empty meadows. One called to its
companions, who wheeled overhead, their enormous frames a puzzle of black,
red, and gray. Another balanced itself atop a young cypress tree, struggling
to keep steady footing in the tiny branches.
We leapfrogged our cars in five mile increments, giving us a chance to cool
down and sit down every couple of hours. At one stop, we sat and snacked as
sandhill cranes hovered overhead. Across the road, shaggy, wild-looking black
cattle hid, hip-deep, in a duckweed-choked cypress swamp. They exploded out
of the water, startled by our arrival. Behind them, ibises poked through the
shallows, looking for snails. A wood stork stood guard over a roadside slough.
The maps lied. The expected waypoints didn't exist. So we made our own.
Traffic is light on this road, where there are few houses, fewer side roads.
No gas stations. No stores. Just thousands of acres of cattle ranches and sod
farms, citrus groves and tree farms. Irrigation canals provided home to
waterbirds. A water management canal, complete with lock and dam, looked to
be a fine spot for a long distance hiker to stealth camp. Signs pointed down
long, dusty roads to fish camps on Lake Kissimmee. The hum of the distant
Florida Turnpike grows, until we finally cross it.
We see many cows. Most run away as we draw near. But in one surreal moment, a
herd gathers along a straight line paralleling the fence, ready for battle,
facing our challenge. The leader steps forward. They decide to follow us down
the fence line. We ponder cow psychology. Rich moos a lot. I stop to take
pictures of cows, and a car passes. We're likely amusing the locals as much
as we were amused this spring by someone taking our picture as we ran the car
through an automatic windshield wash at a rest area on the Florida Turnpike.
Several miles later, we cross the Turnpike-and see that very rest area in the
In eight hours, three people stopped to offer rides. The sheriff passed us
several times, but did not. A dozen motorboats, sitting on their trailers,
sped north. Fifteen pickups pulling airboats headed south, chasing the sunset
to Lake Kissimmee. Deer, too, chased the sunset, racing across fields. Wild
turkeys walked purposefully around a retention pond. An osprey passed in a
blur, settled in a cypress tree in the waning light. Sandhill cranes crooned
to each other from branches of live oaks.
After twenty miles, my feet were in agony. But we'd done it. We'd walked from
the wilderness of Three Lakes to St. Cloud. On the road.
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