Day 18, 14 miles, side of the road
We have breakfast at Connie’s Kitchen. My pancake is delicious and the coffee pretty good. Downtown Blountstown has seen better days, it’s a little sad to see the empty store fronts. There are a few pawn shops and some restaurants but that seems to be about it. 
We head back to the stinky motel room and pack up. It’s challenging to find a spot for my bananas and Greenleaf has no room for his bag of popcorn so we bungy them to the outside of my pack. It’s looking good next to my shoes and insoles. 
We walk to the Pioneer settlement and sign up for a tour. The tour guide doesn’t know all that much about the place and doesn’t seem to have a special interest either. I guess it’s just a way to have a free place to stay for his retirement during the winter. 

“Well, I don’t know too much about this here, it is what it is. No more questions? Let’s move on to the next building”. 

We like all the historic stuff although most of the buildings are not as old as we thought they would be. 
The rest of the day we’re mostly just road walking. There is a surprise store at an intersection which we’re excited about eventhough we’re both carrying too much food already. I limit myself to one ice cream and GL buys some drinks. 
We do have about two miles of nice trail near the Chipola River. It’s lovely. 
Our next highlight is the Shelton’s corner store. It looked very old and not kept up much. GL ventured to the bathroom which required a key but had no toilet paper or soap. Also the lights were off in half the store so who knows what was hiding in there. I get a fizzy peach drink for fifty cents. 
We did some more road walking until we got tired of the barking dogs and cars. We hiked a bit in the dark but the road has no shoulder so that wasn’t much fun. Stepping off in daylight is no fun but being on slanted grass in the dark is even more annoying. 
We somehow found a nice place to camp in a woodsy stretch along the road. We still hear the cars but at least we don’t see them. 

Day 17, Cherokee Inn,20 miles

Day 17, 20 miles, Cherokee inn, Blountstown
Everything is dripping with condensation again this morning so we pack up a soaking wet tent and, after a brief chat with the campground host, are on our way. 
The trail section to the road is still black from a recent prescribed burn and with the wetness of the fog we can only imagine how messy that’s going to be hiking through. Needless to say, we walk around it. Even on the road the burn smell is strong. And the grass in the berm is black too. When we step off and then back on the pavement we leave black footprints. 

We’re glad when we’re past that section and closer to our first goal for the day, the Slip and Slide store. We fantasize about what it may have for us. There is not much but we find some things to snack on and some drinks. Score! 

The next store is only five miles further along and has only been open for two months. They have my much desired hot coffee! We loiter outside for a while uploading my journal and messaging friends. We haven’t had good cell reception in a few days so we have some catching up to do. 
Then it’s on to downtown Bristol. There are more trucks on the way now, lots of lumber going around. We’re relieved when we finally hit a sidewalk. Yay, were safe! All this coffee is catching up on me now so the next problem is finding a place to go to the bathroom. Luckily we find some bushes. This road side residential hiking is problematic sometimes.
At the Bristol post office we pick up our package with the new solar collector and GL gets some more denatured alcohol at the hardware store nearby. We’re at a bit of a loss on where to stay tonight. The two motels listed don’t sound great and are either too closeby mileage wise (Bristol) or not near anything (the airport motel). We see a listing online for the Cherokee motel but can’t find any info on it. Does it exist? It has a convenient location. We want to go to the pioneer settlement tomorrow and it’s on the way there. 

Before we find out about the motel we have lunch at the Appalachee restaurant. This was rumored to have a great ‘all you can eat’ buffet but I guess we’re just not fans of fried food so we order from the menu which is not bad. They let us loiter for a while as we try to figure out a date for our return ticket so that’s super sweet. 
We continue our journey along the highway crossing four lanes of traffic to get to the safe side of the bridge. We’re glad for the separate bike/hike lane since the bridge seems to go on forever (probably half a mile). We cross over the Appalachee River and make it to Blountstown. 
We set off for the Piggly Wiggly store (I love that name) and the intriguing motel. We arrive at the motel first and it’s a total dump. The room smells like smoke and it hasn’t been updated or painted in forever. We take it anyway because at this point our only other option is to illegally stealth camp somewhere and our tent is still wet from condensation. We open up all the windows and will sleep in our sleeping bags. I think this may go in the books as the grossest room I’ve stayed in.  

To cap the day off we have dinner at the Pizza Hut (remind me not to eat there again) and finally grocery shopping at the Piggly Wiggly. At least the latter is nice and has fresh fruit and veggies which we haven’t seen in a store in a while. 

I’m excited about the pioneer museum tomorrow!

Day 16, 26 miles, Camel Lake campground

Day 16, 26 miles, camel lake campground
This morning I’m still snoozing when I get kicked in the head by my beloved hiking partner. He had gone out to pee and crawled back into the tent without paying too much attention. I guess I’m awake now. 
The morning fog is making everything drip and our tent is wet from condensation. When we start walking our hair is covered in droplets. The fog makes everything look pretty magical. We don’t feel like adding more wetness to our morning and decide to walk around the first few miles of trail, the swamp forests between Hickory branch and Coxes branch. Maybe some other day. 
We pick up the trail at CR 67 and make quick miles, when we hit FR 107 we enjoy the easy walking so stay on it a bit longer cutting out about two miles. We have lunch at Vilas Campsite and it’s getting to be pretty hot now. We drape our wet tent on the sign and it dries quickly. The camp site isn’t much to look at and has no water, we’re glad we’re not staying the night there. 
We get on SR 65 to cross the New River and unfortunately have to get our water there. We feel pretty classy hanging out next to the highway filtering brown water. Did we go to college for this? 
Greenleaf has decided he prefers the road walking over getting his feet wet on the trail so we split up again. There are indeed some wet stretches on the trail but most of it is dry and it’s pretty. I’m enjoying it. At some point there is a narrow board walk which seems to go on for about a quarter mile. I love it! 
When I cross the road that GL was on there is a surprise waiting for me. A chocolate bar! He was here only 30 minutes before me, I’ve been moving fast! 
I follow in his footsteps for a bit staying on the road a little longer. It’s getting sandy and it’s fun to see his prints and an ‘I love U’. The last two miles I’m back on trail and it’s higher and dry. Some mosquitos are annoying me but otherwise this section is really enjoyable. 

Approaching the campsite I see our little tent set up. It’s a good thing I gave GL the stakes and pole. What a luxury! Even better, there are hot showers here and potable water! Woohoo!!

Foggy morning

Pines everywhere

Looong board walk section

GL left me a message

View from our tent

Day 15, 19 miles, Porter lake campgroundĀ 

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. 

Day 14, 24 miles

Day 14, Sopchoppy river campsite, approx 24 miles
We are packed up and ready to go before the sun comes up. This is great except that we can’t see where we need to go and we both have issues with our sense of direction this morning. I turn on the Florida trail app on my phone and discover we are moving away from the trail instead of towards it. Thank goodness for technology haha. 
Back on track we soon make it to the cathedral of palms. The tall palms are towering above us. Then it’s on to the Shephards Spring, morning fog on top of the water makes for a pretty scene. 
The bridge over Spring creek hasn’t been fixed yet so we have to take a reroute via roads. We’re a little bummed because Marsh Point looks like a cool place on the map and we’ll be missing that now. But we perk up when we find a food truck serving excellent fish meals only .1 from our reroute. Yum!! While we are eating another hiker shows up. His trail name is Bourbon and he’s headed in the opposite direction but we have a fun break together exchanging trail stories. Two hours later we finally start walking again. 
We’re back in mostly pine forest with palmettos. 

To my surprise there is some trail magic waiting for me near the trailhead at hwy 98. My friend Bag Lady passed by here on her bike trip about ten days ago and left us a can of peaches. We love it! 
The last few miles are pretty but we get a little frustrated when the trail keeps winding around and crossing the same dirt roads. I finally figure out that if I download the bike maps on the app most dirt roads are shown and we have a better idea of what we’re doing. At this point we just want to make some progress and actually prefer the dirt road. The trail is covered in pine needles and it makes for a slightly slippery walk tiring us out. We can see the same scenery from the dirt road so when we figure we can stay on it for a mile or so we do that. Getting back on the trail is a little tricky since the sun has set and the orange blazes are really hard to spot in the dark. We figure it out though and eventually make it to this campsite. We’re glad to be off our feet. 


Trail silliness

Be careful to stay on the trail

So many pine trees

Day 13, 11 miles

Day 13, 11 miles
We’re up early and breakfast isn’t served until 8:30 so we go shopping at Bo-Lynn’s, the local grocery store. There aren’t a lot of things to choose from but we can make it work until our next stop. Breakfast is decent.

We noticed there was a museum near the river yesterday and are interested in learning more about the local history. It turns out it’s at the location of the old fort there which was quite important. There is an excellent movie and some good displays. 
It was pretty cold this morning but now it’s close to noon and it’s warming up. We’ve been thinking about going kayaking on the Wakulla River for a while but the cold temperatures made us hesitant. Now that it’s warmer we call the outfitter and they have plenty of kayaks for rent. Yay! I’m excited. Greenleaf however is ready for a nap. Too bad, I know how that’s going to go. He’ll take a nap, won’t want to leave town and there goes the day. I’m not about to let that happen this time. 

Somehow lunch turns into ice cream but I do get Greenleaf to leave town with me. He follows me begrudgingly on the rail trail out of town and we’re off! 
About 4.5 miles later we arrive at the outfitters and we pick a tandem kayak. That way if GL doesn’t want to paddle we’ll still make progress haha. We don’t see any manatees but we do see about a hundred turtles. So cool! They’re sunning themselves on the logs sticking out of the water with the occasional bird perched next to them. 

When we’re at our turn around point my leisure trip is over and GL starts paddling hard, he’s ready to get off the water! 
We hike a few more miles and are now listening to the critters in the forest. 

The fort was located at the confluence of the Saint Marks and Wakulla rivers.

Day 12, St Marks, 15 miles

We spend all day hiking through the Saint Marks NWR and it’s beautiful! We’re on levees most of the time and it’s easy walking with vistas of palm trees, pines, grasslands and water. We even catch glimpses of the Apalachee bay in the distance. 

We spot lots of birds, a raccoon, six alligators and a couple of deer (the latter were in the woodlands). 
The last two miles were in denser pine forest with palmettos again and we suddenly came out to the St Marks river. Obviously we knew we were heading towards it but it was a bit more abrupt than we excepted. There we were in a not very obvious spot trying to hail a boat to get across. No boats were there and we were sinking into the mud. Time to take off the long johns and socks. Because even if a boat came our way we’d have to wade in the water til our knees. 
Luckily we soon hear a motor and the owner of the restaurant across the river is going out to fish. He’s kind enough to ferry us across. I inelegantly sling my leg up on the boat and he pulls me in. Success! 

Before we know it we’re having excellent lunch at his restaurant. 
We’re currently relaxing at the Magnolia bed and breakfast which had live jazz going on in the afternoon and our room has a jacuzzi! 

We weren’t planning on staying here initially but Greenleaf went through his backpack last night and discovered about 6 lbs of stuff he really doesn’t need to carry and he would love to mail this out tomorrow. He also discovered that he’s been carrying 5 heavy magazines that he thought he left behind somewhere. Maybe his next backpack should have less pockets? 
I guess he doesn’t really need to carry three nail clippers, two phone head sets, two water filters, sleeping meds, bag of coffee, cotton t-shirt (I gave him for his birthday), broken solar collector and 5 magazines. He still hasn’t passed backpacking 101. 
If you’re going to splurge this place is a good place to do it. They keep mentioning that the breakfast here is amazing. : )

Early morning views


Happy Pie and Greenleaf

The monkeys love it here

Alligator (sorry for the bad quality)

We’re wearing most of our layers in the morning 

We hitched from that yellow pole, not much going on there


Day 11, 17 miles

It was colder last night but we were still comfy and warm in our sleeping bags. Greenleaf’s bag is a bit older and doesn’t have as much fluff left so he was wearing many layers. It was a good look, especially with the board shorts he bought at the Dollar store in White Springs. 

I don’t feel like getting up. Big changes in temperature/humidity sometimes trigger some sort of an allergic reaction where my eyes swell and I feel very groggy. Indeed this morning the bags under my eyes are swollen and I have no energy. Luckily the hiking isn’t too difficult. It is less smooth than yesterday but we can manage the few blowdowns and twigs. I’m not saying we don’t complain but we manage. 
The sink holes are a little less scenic to us than the flowing river yesterday. The river basically appears and disappears but it’s a lot more of a static view. 
When we get to the trailhead there are three guys getting ready to section hike the stretch we just did and they offer us water and some almonds. Sweet! Water that isn’t brown (from the tannin in the river water) is fabulous! 
We now have a few miles of roadwalking to the JR store for resupply. The last two aren’t much fun along a high speed highway but the thought of hot snacks keeps us going. It’s still pretty chilly and I even have my thin mittens on. The grill isn’t open but they have some hot coffee from the morning and microwave snacks. Greenleaf finds a microwave burrito and I find a breakfast sandwich to heat up. There are two comfy chairs inside and we’re able to charge our phones (our solar panel died a few days ago). There is even a sweet doggy to keep us company. 
After about two hours we continue on and we’re now camped underneath palm trees with nearby swamp. A very cool area. 
It never did warm up very much and we’re taking it easy laying in our sleeping bags after an early stop. We’re planning to push through the Saint Mark’s Wildlife reserve tomorrow. 

The bluff where our tent was set up

Resupply at JR’s store

Day 10, Aucilla River camp, 22.5 miles

After a good nights’ sleep we pack up bright and early again and are on the road at first light (7 am). The road walk isn’t bad and there is a pretty sky with lots of small clouds. 

We’re on dirt road for most of the morning and there isn’t a lot of traffic but we do make way for the trucks driving by since it’s not quite two lane width. 

On one of the paved sections we find a dead otter, it must have just gotten hit in the head, it’s still beautiful looking. Greenleaf uses his trekking poles to move it off the road and save it from being squashed. 

We pass by many horses and cows and even a soda machine randomly on the side of the road in front of a house. Our dollar bills don’t work but it takes our coins. Success! Happily drinking a soda at 9 am. Haha.

We’re moving quickly and after 15 miles we’re off the road. The road walking turned out not to be too bad since the temperatures were cool and our feet didn’t hurt but it’s so nice to be on trail again. And what a beautiful section this turns out to be! Fun trail next to the Aucilla River which turns out to have some small rapids. We luck out and see a group of kayakers (and one canoe) passing through them. The guy in the canoe pulls over to us and offers us beer and snacks. We don’t drink alcohol but happily accept two apples. Yum! 

A little further along there are even bigger rapids and we see the group again. How fun! 

We’re really enjoying the hiking here. The river is smaller and the trail feels wilder than along the Suwannee. This might be our favorite section yet. 

We’re now camped on a small bluff along the river. The official camping is below but it’s supposed to get cold tonight so we’d rather not be in the ditch. This spot had just enough room for our tent. The sound of the water below is very sweet. 

Day 9, 23 miles

Our campsite was warm last night. We both feel kind of sticky and yucky. I had this dream last night where someone thought it was funny to give me two toys which made the noise of someone snoring. I was able to disable one of them but no matter how many wires I pulled on the other it wouldn’t stop making the noise. That’s when I woke up to my husband snoring. Hahaha.
Today is all road walking. We start out on a paved one which soon turns to dirt. We prefer dirt since it’s softer on the feet. Some of it is pretty with large oaks with overhanging branches over the road. 
Our first water source is at a church. After filling up, Greenleaf checks the radar on his phone and sees that we’ll have some rain come through. We don’t expect it to be too much but put our rain covers on our packs anyways. It takes Greenleaf a while to find his and that works in our favor since it’s suddenly coming down in sheets. We would have been soaked on the road! As it is we are still comfortable and dry at the entrance way of the church in a little alcove in front of the doors. Such lucky timing! 

After the rain passes we move on and turn into a paved and busier road. We’re happy when we leave this one for a quieter one. 
We pass by two produce stands but neither are in season. We are a bit bummed about that but you can’t have everything I guess. 

Lunch is at another church and I joke that we’re hiking the Camino de Santiago now since our next water source will be at a church as well. That one is our dinner spot. 

After our break there we pass by a waste disposal site and we are able to get rid of our trash, always a good thing. 

We’re soon on a dirt road again and our feet are thankful. There are lots of peepers and frogs making music. Thank goodness we have earplugs.