“Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl….”
(Second installment for the day)
After turning right at the chain link fenced topped with barbed wire and following it around to a muddy abandoned road, the trail changed dramatically. Gone was the “I’m walking on/next to a muddy road” feeling, as this portion became all water, all the time–knee deep.
As I stepped into the water, the trail hugged what can be best described as an “island” of trees; I can’t tell you if there was actual land underneath the hammock of trees. The brush was deep and dense, creating an eerie shadow in the water which gave the water a black appearance to it. I was so used to seeing crystal clear waters down to my boots (see Day 1 here!) that not being able to view the bottom was a bit unsettling. Anything that could have been seen underwater would have been obscured by the deep, fine silt that clouded up with every slow footstep. Most of what I could see consisted of small logs, cypress “knees” and tadpoles (or tiny fish) fleeing.
As I rounded the hammock my path began to veer north, following what appeared to be the natural course of the trail, as well as the one blaze I saw. Continuing on, the view began to change as the sun was sinking further and further down. The bright white trees were now grey, casting even darker shadows into the water, which was already dark in its own right. Where was the next damn blaze? Was I supposed to continue to hug the hammock all the way around, or was I headed in the correct direction?
I went with my gut and forged ahead, eating a few spiderwebs along the way as I tried to stay on higher ground. That’s when I got concerned; if Glen had been here recently, these little acrobats wouldn’t have had time to construct such elaborate traps. Did Captain Glen navigate this way?
A twinge of panic set in. A twinge–the rest was frustration.
Although I didn’t have cell service, Glen had intermittent service at the campground the night before, so I drafted a text:
Funny thing is, out there “lost” doesn’t mean squat. So what if I was lost? It’s not like there’s search and rescue nearby, or even other hikers coming along. It’s not like I could give my location. (“I’m in the water…by some trees…”) It’s not like there was dry land for me to stop if I need to. (This is where I started thinking how I could use the paracord in my pack to string my tent between trees…)
In reality (upon reflection), I wasn’t lost; I was slow, misguided, tired and hangry. My feet were been walking non-stop through slop since about 8 a.m. and it was now close to 5 p.m. and my legs were starting to feel the burn. I just wanted to eat and rest.
I thought of that show Naked and Afraid and thought, “I’m not naked and afraid, I’m clothed and pissed.” As soon as those words sprang to life in my mind I looked up: rust-colored lichen hanging on a tree. “That can’t possibly be a blaze,” I thought, but craning my head around the other side of the tree I saw there was orange on the other side. Sonofabitch, I was going the right way.
I drafted another text to Glen: “Found SOBO, so I’m going to try again and find NOBO blaze.” This way he’s at least know I was on the right track–literally.
One stop at a marker proved to be fruitless and frustrating; the GPS coordinates on the marker were not on the Florida Trail app, but it appeared my location was on the right path, so I kept chugging along, singing again.
Glen was forewarned that my favorite song to belt out on trail (for amusement as much as keeping hungry animals away) was Copacabana. It’s like a running joke: I can bust out the story of that bastard Rico and how he ruined Tony and Lola’s lives at the drop of a hat. (Ask some of my former students…)
Imagine my delight when I swore I heard whistling in the distance–hallucination or closer to camp?
“HELLO? GLEN?!” I shouted.
“At the Copa, Copacabana….” he sang out in the distance. I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to crying while laughing so hard.
“Keep singing! I can hear you!” I called back, amused at the irony the boat captain was my lighthouse, calling me into port from the water.
Like Lola, I cha-cha’d my way a fast as I could towards his voice, trying to beat the sunset. If Glen hadn’t been singing and I was still out there, I would have definitely missed the sign for Oak Hill camp, which was tucked inside another hammock, like a kid’s dream hideout.
The sun disappeared and the mosquitoes queued up for the bloodfest. Unfortunately, there were no rocks on our little island, so I snipped my paracord into lengths I could use to anchor my tent’s guylines to the closest trees. Success. (At this point Glen’s phone pings and he says, “did you just send me a text saying you were lost?” So much for my search signal!)
I scurried into my tent, setting up my “camp” for the night. I’ve never been more grateful to greedily eat dehydrated food. (Yes, I broke backpacking law by cooking and eating in my tent. God bless the bear that would trudge through that crap to maul me.)
Too tired to do anything, I fell asleep just before 8 p.m. Probably as exhausted as Lola after 30 years…