Day 15, 19 miles, porter lake campground.
We are dreading an early ford in the morning but to our relief the new bridge is in at the oak park trailhead so we don’t have to get our feet wet. Sweet!
We then have a nice walk on the bluffs along the Sopchoppy river which has some big cypress for us to admire.
In the distance we hear the ruckus of hunting dogs as today is the last day of hunting season.
When we hit forest road 329 we look at the map and decide to stay on the road instead of going up just to come back down only a few miles down the road. The trail no longer goes close to the river and we doubt the trail offers a lot more variety in views than we’ll see from the road. This way we’ll hit the Bradwell bay swamp earlier in the day and don’t have to worry about getting stuck in it.
Walking along the road we see about ten trucks spaced out parked along the road. These hunters want to make this last hunting day count. We say hi to all of them and have some nice conversations. They ask us about our hike, we ask them about hunting with dogs. We learn a lot. It sounds like an expensive hobby.
Greenleaf and I are still deciding whether we’ll hike through the swamp. He doesn’t want to and I do. He really doesn’t like to get his feet wet and I’m curious to see what it’s all about. Neither of us have an interest in fording Monkey Creek so at least that works out. We rejoin the trail at the Bradwell bay south trailhead and have a break on the trail. I check the local river levels online (yay cell reception!) and it still says normal. Greenleaf really doesn’t feel like hiking it so we decide he’ll road walk around it and I’ll wade through it. If it’s a disaster I can always turn around and I have my Inreach in case my phone doesn’t work and I need to reach GL.
We say our goodbyes and off we go!
The swamp is mostly ankle to calf deep until a bit after the campsite, which is dry ground but doesn’t have much going on otherwise. The most scenic area is also the deepest and I occasionally step in a hole getting in up to my thighs otherwise it’s mostly knee deep in that section. It is cool to see the trees from this perspective but I’m glad when I reach higher ground again. My shoes are all filled with sand and my socks are gross. I would have used my sandals but was afraid they would get sucked in. My trekking poles saved me many times from slipping and falling.
I arrive at the trailhead about 15 minutes before GL does and dry out my feet. The sopping wet shoes go on the back of my pack and after another lunch break we set off again.
This section starts out a bit wet and gets worse as we continue so Greenleaf does get his swamp experience after all. Luckily it’s only a short stretch and he switched to his sandals just in time. I wasn’t too smart with this one and realized too late I should have taken my nice dry socks off. Now I have two wet pairs. Duh.
We walk a nice dry forest road out and enter our last piece of trail before our planned campsite. Greenleaf is in his element on this one. It has a bit of up and down and is messy and overgrown so he gets to use his bushwhacking skills. I’m not a fan. The view of the Ochlockonee river is pretty cool but otherwise I’m just trying not to trip on twigs while trying to keep with GL the bushwhack man.
We’re now camped at Porter Lake campground. It’s free and has water which needs to be treated (but is not brown from tannin what a novelty!) and there are even some privies.