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[ft-l] The Big 360 Hike - Final Update
Days into hike - 34
Latest segments hiked:
Big Scrub to SR 445 at Alexander Springs - 10.1 miles
SR 445 to Clearwater Lake - 11.0 miles
Cumulative miles hiked - 353.7
Miles to go - 0 !!!!!!!
Comments: Our last two hiking days of the Big 360 hike!
We set out on Thursday on a hike that was to be all road walk. Because Sandy
had a morning doctor appointment, we couldn't hit the trail until early
afternoon. Since we had a 10 mile road walk, we didn't take the challenge
too seriously, but wound up baking under the hottest part of the day. This
sapped our energy and made the 10 miles seem like 15. But we finally
struggled up SR 445 where the orange blazes were a welcome sight, but no more
so than the air conditioned car and the cooler of drinks! And since I had
picked up a quarter, a nickel and two pennies on the trail, it had been a
very profitable day as well! Those blazes meant that our hike of the western
corridor was officially complete, and now only an 11 mile segment remained to
cap this adventure.
A note to the trail coordinators: About two miles of road walk could be
eliminated by having the western corridor follow the high voltage utility
easement that runs from Big Scrub Road to 445. I'm sure long distance hikers
would prefer the easement walk.
Sunday's hike began earlier in the morning to avoid the worst heat of the
day. It was exciting to think that we would finally complete this hike we
conceived over a year earlier. And this hike would have a new component --
company. Tami Jicha from this List asked to join us and we met her outside
Alexander Springs where she had been contracted by some mosquitoes to be the
main course at an all you can eat all night buffet under her new tarp setup.
It was impressive to see Tami's lightweight gear, including the 1 pound G-4
backpack. This is the same pack I expect to use when I hike from Key West to
Canada in 2003. And even though Sandy and I only carried daypacks, Tami set
a very brisk pace carrying a full backpack. Not bad for someone fairly new
to our lifestyle. We are also happy to report that she comes by her trail
name of "Trail Talker" honestly! ;-) Tami lives in nearby Paisley and wants
it to be known that she'll be happy to trail angel for backpackers in her
After the recent days of road walks, it was a real joy to be in the woods
again. Even though we've seen over a thousand orange blazes during the hike,
they were absent during most of the western corridor. They greeted us
cheerfully along the trail. Even more fun was the FT logo some enterprising
artist had carved into a tree that had fallen across the Trail. Speaking of
fallen trees, the section from Juniper to Alexander Springs and about the
next four miles south have many blowdowns needing removal.
It was wonderful to see the sign at the ranger station informing us that fire
danger was low. Most of our hike has been in drought conditions, so it was
appropriate that we had to slosh through wet trails on our final day of
hiking. What was surprising though was how treacherous the boardwalks were.
Some kind of green algae or moss covered the wet shady parts and made them
slick as ice. Not bad when the treadway was level, but very dangerous where
the boardwalk tilts to one side. A handrail might be advisable to help the
hiker prevent a nasty fall.
We were lucky to witness one of the most exciting wildlife encounters of the
whole trip. Just to the left of us on the Trail, we watched as a 4 foot
Black Racer swallowed the last couple of feet of another snake who had the
misfortune of becoming lunch. Sandy got a picture of this, so look for it in
our upcoming slide presentation.
About 5 minutes after the snake episode, we saw a hiker coming toward us on
the Trail. As he approached, I recognized none other than our List
moderator, Jeff Walters, AKA "Prairie Dog." Jeff brought cold Gatorade for
all of us, a wonderful treat now that the day was getting hot. Now we were a
group of four walking the last three miles of the hike. How fitting! To be
able to share our last few miles with an old friend and a new one. As I
reflect on that I find an inescapable symbolism for what is so great about
hikers and hiking. That our common passion for hiking makes for quick and
easy friendships, and yet friendships destined to last a lifetime. Thanks
Tami and Jeff for the hike on Sunday and your friendship. THAT is what it is
This hike has covered 10 counties, with over a hundred miles of road walk,
walking on the left and dancing into the ditch hundreds of times as cars or
trucks approach. We have hiked winding paths through private and public
lands and containing a rich array of flora and fauna it has been our
privilege to observe and document. We've hiked paths well manicured and lost
the trail in weeds 8 feet tall. We've hiked hand in hand for over 200 miles
of this hike. We've given a lift -- and a meal -- to mosquitoes, ticks and
chiggers. We've walked confidently as well as cluelessly. We'd have been
lost without the FTA maps -- and we've been lost with them. We've had plenty
of assistance from our knowledgeable hiking friends, giving us updates on new
trail development which makes maps outdated so quickly with such a young and
dynamic thru-trail such as ours. Its youth is its beauty and its curse,
beauty because there is adventure and excitement with the uncertainty of
route and trail condition. The curse is for the small but dedicated staff of
the FTA and the hundreds of volunteers in all our chapters who have to deal
with this Trail's growing pains. We hope you all have thick skin and can
accept the criticism from us hikers of the Trail as it is intended,
constructively. Those who do your jobs in the future may have an easier time
of it, but only you will have the satisfaction that comes from taking the
dream of a hiking trail the entire length of the state and making it a
reality. Thank you!
This concludes our final trip report.
Solar Bear and Navigator