Wednesday, February 19, 2014
By mid-Monday morning all the locals had left, leaving me with the place to myself and a few park rangers who wave to me like I’m an inhabitant of the neighborhood.
The area I now inhabit is not the flat, sandy tropical place one might expect of Florida. The terrain is hilly with a mix of tall pines and hardwoods, more like The Smoky Mountains. The park’s only redeeming features are its hiking trails and an old plantation house the CCC dismantled and moved across the Apalachicola River back in the thirties, (as one who’s worked in the construction trade a long time, I find that incredible). With only one radio station, no TV reception and little else to do, I started hiking small sections of the trails at a time walking through the flat bottom land with its palmettos, swamps and standing water, then climbing the steep switchbacks, crawling uphill using tree roots for steps.
Sputnik, with terrier blood coursing through her veins, is a bundle of pent-up energy. She not only requires, but demands she get vigorous exercise every day. I could walk thirty miles with her and it would do her no good, she needs more than that or she drives me nuts. At my last stop I started to let her run beside my bicycle on lead. No matter how fast I rode, she always wanted to go faster, tongue lolling to the side, straining against her collar like a sled dog. I would finally quit pedaling and let her tow me along. She pulls way harder than should be physically possible for her twenty-four pounds. Fearing her neck would become bruised I bought her a harness to fulfill her insatiable need for strenuous activity. Since there are few places to ride the bike at this park, I decided to hook her to my belt with a d-ring and adopt her talent as a beast of burden to the hiking trails.
Yesterday, we walked about seven miles including the western loop of the Torreya trail, up and down steep hills, through longleaf pines and thick wooded jungle, (this place must be hell in the summer with heat and mosquitoes). I ran out of my two quarts of water and the hills kicked my old, flatlander ass. Today my legs and back are sore despite the fact that Sputnik towed me up the steepest hills, fulfilling her role, much like the Sherpa guide who short-ropes rich women up Everest. All in the name of vanity, so they can go home and tell all their rich friends they’ve summited.
Today I pack up once again, and move westward.