Saturday, January 07, 2006
After 5 days of backpacking thru the wild Florida wilderness, I returned to civilization yesterday and left a nice ring of muck in the bath tub. Don't worry, I cleaned it up. I am not that terrible a guest!
The questions pouring forth from readers' lips will be answered forthwith.
No, not all Florida wilderness is mostly underwater; nor is it all rife with alligators, attacking insects and old people in golf carts. Actually, my time was spent in a vast Florida prairie which was tinder dry and quite lovely. As my camping companion (C) was an environmental science major in university, I had a built in tour guide to learn me about the area and its plants and wildlife. Quite nice, as I know nothing about the 'nature' down here.
The woods are quite different than I am used to from my time in the midwest, the Rocky Mountains and the Utah deserts. Oak trees and palm trees made up a bulk of the larger greenness. In turn, these were covered in vines and moss and vermiliads (sp? A new word for me, and the speciality of my guide)(they are an air plant. They hang off the sides of trees and get their nutrients from the airborne goodness that gets trapped in the bark of trees. Very cool). To the locals, it's not seen as all that lush, not with the everglades around. But to me it seemed very green and growy.
Of course there were highlights to the trippp. Such as cooking overa campfire. I'd forgotten how nice this is! With all the fire bans in the southwest, almost all my camping cooking in recent years has been done over a backpacking stove. Not nearly as fun and relaxing as a fire. For some reasons it's more satisfying over a fire. Check it out. Good stuff. Of course the grills in place over the fire rings made this endeavor easier, but who's counting?
Despite the fact that I am in Florida, a seemingly water-laden state, we managed to spend a vast majority of the 5 days quite dehydrated. No rivers and lakes appeared to fill our water bottles, but all our campsites had water pumps. Since our hikes were not all that long we shoulda had no problem staying liquefied. Instead our bathroom visits (fyi-I love doing my business in the woods!) occurred only every 8-10 hours or so. Whatever. It does a body good to suffer now and then.
Speaking of suffering (nice segue, eh?), food. In our meal planning, I failed to garner a full realization of how little made it into the shopping cart and packs. Dinners were rice and beans, beans and hummes (with extras added to the beans, spices and such), and pastas. Not bad. Nice and filling. Breakfasts and lunches left SO much to be desired (on my part anyway). Breakfast was an apple with peanut butter. Lunches were a tortilla with peanut butter (bananas were supposed to make an appearance at lunch, but after 2 hours on the trail they were mush and had to be burned). This is not enough food for me. I adapted, but thoughts of decadent meals filled my thoughts most of the time. C never tired of watching me spin in circles trying to find the animal growling at us, until I realized it was only our damn stomachs. This fare is standard for C's camping trips. Next time I think a bit more before agreeing to such scarcity.
The food could have been a lot worse a situation, but our daily treks between camp sites were 4 miles at most. And in Florida, hiking is not the same as hiking in Colorado. Florida is as flat as a half-empty 2-liter of Mountain Dew that's been left open for 3 weeks. There ain't a bump to be found! Thank god because good Christ am I in pathetic shape! These paltry walks left me much too used up. I'm embarassed to admit that, but I feel I must. Granted, I was carrying most of the weight (bigger pack), but that's not a reasonable excuse. Oofda. Now I now and must remedy the situation. We did have an 11 mile day! That was exciting. Only 3.4 of it involved full packs...quit counting!
Now the funner stuff. Wildlife. The bigger critters here inculde armadillos, raccoons, possum, deer, pumas, and wild hogs (like the kind what got holda Old Yeller).
A quick intro. The ground hugging foliage here is quite loud. As are the multitude of fallen palm fronds which dry into wonderful fire starters and crunch machines. At night, crashing emanates from all sides which can be cool until it's the middle of the night and you fall asleep to these sounds which translate into a horrific nightmare. I won't get into that.
Sitting around the fire late (8pm) one night, the crashing in the bushing behind us came sprawling out into our clearing, panicking C who jumped up yelping. My reaction was to jump to my feet as well (calmy and not worried at all. For serious!). We both thought it was a couple of hogs and they made right for us. But it wasn't. Instead two roly-poly 'dillos made as if to attack us (reminiscent of a certain marmot episode a couple years ago. C heard that story after we settled down again). Instead of bumping into our feet, their sexcapade backed off and went in another direction. That's right, mating season. The best part? Two male 'dillos! We got attacked by a gay mating armadillo couple! What a riot! Funny little critters they are. Seems eyesight was not something a deity blessed this animal with, causing them to blunder all over, barely noticing what's going on around them. It was hilarious to watch them wander back into the woods because I swear they were knocking down trees with their head butting and armor! If you can't see the tree, might as well go thru it, yeah?
No, they did not curl up into balls and roll around. I was VERY disappointed.
I need caffeine.
The hogs. Everyone else in the park saw the damn buggers, but we didn't. Not until our hike out yesterday. About a mile from the trailhead a pack of 'em busted out of the low palms 20 feet or so ahead of us (I was in the lead). Tickled pink (or sunkissed), I giggled and struck up a dialogue with the lead boar. At first he played it nonchalant and made as if we weren't even there. I think it may have been the: "Heyy, Tubbo! Why'd your cousins have to tear up Old Yeller? And that Tommy Kirk kid? That was damn cold of ya! Besides, it made me cry, dadgum it! I hate crying! *Stupid fatheaded swine*". That did it. Slowly, as if wanting to give me time to realize his thick hided superiority over my puny skin and bones, the boar's head swung around and I swear to Goshen the glare from that old guy literally knocked me down. Stammering an apology I got to my feet and looked around for C. She'd already hightailed it into a tree and sat looking at me with a "you are such an idiot" look (I get those a lot, it seems). Taking his lead, the pack of 20 hogs (ranging from 'cute' little ones to old battle scarred geezers) all turned to face me. A predicament, to be sure. I'm a lover, not a fighter, ya know? I tried to make peace but they were beyond listening. El Jefe began grunting and stamping the ground. Them damn yellow eyes turned into slits and he growled. Drool and foam collected around his 10-inch tusks and I kid you not, blood seeped from his eyes. Slowly they moved towards me. C suggested I drop my pack and lit out to safer ground. I deferred, as I need my pack! In no time at all I found myself almost surrounded and running out of option. Inspiration decided to strike at the moment they made their move.
Click click, went my pack buckles, crash, went my bag as it hit the ground. They stopped. I gave them my best shite-eating grin. My right foot flicked up a stout pole (which fortunately was not mushy rot like almsot all the wood here) from the ground into my hand and the games begun. The front flank moved in all gnashing teeth and gore driven. Astro (my pole) vaulted me over this wave and I sprinted off 30 yards or so. And stopped to stare them down. "This one's for Tommy!" I yelled. Astro broke the spines of 7 of the bastards before they intuited what was transpiring. Deftly running across the spines of 8 more I punctured their evil brain cases with Astro, dedicating their slaughter to Old Yeller and quickly leveling the playing field. Six left. Old Man Boar In Charge was racing about in circles trying to catch me all this time but did no more than widen the rip forming in my jeans. Two of the younger males dashed after me as I led them to a pit filled with punji sticks which broke their fall ("You broke poorKevin Corcoran's little heart, ya bastards!"). Three decided to save their hides and dashed out of sight. This left me and OMBIC. Now I was pissed. Grumbling something about needing retribution for making my eyes water I dashed forward. So did he. The collision was terrible; all trees within a 20 foot radius came crashing down (one of these was C's hiding place. She was not pleased); people at the traihead heard the mashing of skin and bone. For 20 minutes we writhed around on the ground, trying to gain the upper hand. Finally, I got a scissor hold around the black devil's neckand squeezed until he ceased moving. All the while we glared into each other's eyes. I saw the hate seep out as he expired. I didn't give him a warrior's buriel. I kicked the hell out of the bastard and we left.
A heck of a trip to be sure.