Slowly working our way north, today’s training hike was on the Sheltowee Trace Trail in central Kentucky. Sheltowee is an Indian word for ‘turtle’ so the trail markers are images of turtles nailed to the trees.
Pretty easy to follow but there aren’t very many of them.
Also saw this interesting wreath that someone left for us to enjoy. A memorial maybe?
Terrain is steep rolling hills, cliffs and caves that reminded us greatly of the beautiful property we use to have in Morehead, Kentucky. The Sheltowee Trail runs almost all the way across KY and we used to hike the section near Morehead quite often with our dogs.
Great hike today on the Approach Trail to Springer Mountain in Northern Georgia. Springer Mountain is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Today’s hike climbed a couple thousand feet from Amicalola Falls State Park to the summit.
It was a chilly day with a high around 45 degrees. The Little Rabbit hiked up to the lodge (1.3 miles) with me. We enjoyed a great cup of hot chocolate at the lodge then parted ways and I headed up the mountain while she looped back to the car to drive up and meet me at the top so I didn’t have to hike all the way back down.
Yesterday we hiked at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield. This location played an important role in the defense of Atlanta against Sherman’s Union troops. Sherman eventually outflanked the Confederate army but at great cost. The guns were silent today and we had a nice climb up mount Kennesaw for a 6 mile loop.
The Little Rabbit and I left the boat around 0800. She was off to play pickleball and I was off to put in some miles on foot. We skipped breakfast as we headed out the hatch so that was my first priority. Initially I was just going to go to McDonalds but then thought about the new Marathon Bagel Cafe. Passed quite a few breakfast options on the way but the western style bagel sandwich on an everything bagel was quite tasty and much better than McDonald’s would have been.
After breakfast I realized I was already half way to Key Colony where we play pickleball so I ambled over that way. The Little Rabbit was already there and had my racket with her so I played a few games until it was time for lunch. We stopped at Leigh Ann’s cafe in Key Colony for a tasty Reuben and a Cuban.
Then I was back at it – one foot in front of the other. Numerous iguanas along the road. Most too skittish to get a good picture but this guy tried to be brave.
Crossing the bridge over Vaca Cut I ran into this guy drumming up business for the Marine Aquarium. His sign says ‘Feed Sharks’.
Interesting new home going up behind the airport.
A couple loops around Crane Point and I was ready for ice cream and a shower. Back on the boat by 1800.
A small blister on the ball of my left foot bothered me a little. Hopefully that area will toughen up and won’t be a problem.
Miles hiked today: 17
AT miles completed: 0
AT miles to go: 2189.8
Just three months away from the start of my AT Thru Hike. I am hoping to show up on the trail with decent conditioning because the first half of my hike (Virginia to Maine) I would like to average over 17 miles per day. In order to do that I want to ‘hit the ground running’ as it were. Doing it one day is not too hard. Doing it day after day is the killer. On three separate occasions in my life I’ve hiked over 17 miles in one day. The day after each of those times I was in no condition to do it again. Still, I feel it is within my reach if I work up to it.
Sunday I hiked 16 miles with a full pack (15 lbs). I started off walking down to Sombrero Beach and took a short break with my behind in the sand.
I then sauntered over the McDonalds for lunch and spent the rest of the day at Crane Point. We’ve had some high winds the past couple days. One of the new benches made by the Boy Scouts didn’t fare well.
Had a great day and I feel pretty good! I definitely feel the effort but I could probably do it again if I had to. A good sign that my training is going well and it is time to increase the mileage.
Miles hiked today: 16
AT miles completed: 0
AT miles to go: 2189.8
Crane Point Museum and Nature Center is one of my favorite places to hike in the Keys. It’s only a mile from the marina and it’s the only place around that offers shaded trails that are far away from the danger and noise of traffic. There are several trails to choose from, none of them very long but if strung together they add up to a couple miles. I often come here and do the entire circuit several times.
Crane Point is named after Mary and Francis Crane who purchased the property in the 1949 from George Adderly. Adderly came to the Keys from the Bahamas and was the first person to settle in what would become Marathon. He built a small house and survived off the land and by collecting sponges from the sea that he would sell in Key West.
The Cranes built a modern two story house overlooking Florida Bay. It has come into disrepair and is no longer open to the public.
Crane Point’s Wild Bird Center cares for and rehabilitates wild birds that have been injured. Some of the more severely wounded birds are now permanent residents. Others will be released into the wild when they are healthy and able to fend for themselves.
The replica of a Cracker house has interesting displays, fossils and an active bee hive.
Vegetation in the hammock is amazing.
And a Christmas tree made of crab traps!
Miles hiked today: 14
AT miles completed: 0
AT miles to go: 2189.8
After reading for a while at the picnic area I returned to my campsite to find the demolition crew was gone and a fabulous sunset had arrived.
Time for dinner! The menu for this evening is Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli with a side of Mashed Potatoes. This is the first time using my new stove – a solid fuel Esbit stove from QiWiz.com. Ultra light weight for backpacking, there isn’t much to it – just a few grams of aluminum and titanium.
It worked pretty well! It took one fuel tablet (1/2 oz) to bring four cups of water to a slow boil. I added the noodles and at that point the fuel tablet was done and the flame went out. I didn’t want to burn another tablet so I let the noodles soak in the hot water for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, then added the broccoli packet and let it sit a few more minutes. The noodles cooked okay without boiling, a little mushy on the outside, a little firm on the inside. ‘Al dente’ would be a goal for another night. I drained some of the hot water into the dehydrated mashed potatoes and the rest of the water I dumped. Cheese sauce was added next and I was ready to eat. It must have worked, or maybe I was that hungry because I ate it all!
It rained on and off all night and the wind picked up significantly. The tarp kept me dry but with the challenges of setting it up earlier some of the guy lines came loose about 0500. They were easy to resecure though and they lasted the rest of the night.
Up with the sun, gone with the wind. Morning always come early when camping. Sunrise under a tarp is not conducive for me to sleep in. It is for the best today though as rain is threatening and if I hurry I can break camp and have everything packed up before it starts. Breakfast was Muesli and water. It was actually pretty tasty but might have been better with some powdered milk.
I was on the road by 0800 in a light drizzle. I stopped by the ranger station and hung out there for 30 minutes waiting for the rain to pass. The hike home was good. I stopped at Subway for second breakfast and a Dunkin Donut for desert. Met up with the Little Rabbit back at the marina around 1200.
Physically I did pretty well. The shoes are great – no blisters or hot spots at all. My feet were a little sore from the pounding on pavement but not serious. Legs were tired too. So the conditioning continues.
In addition to the physical aspects of getting ready for the Appalachian Trail, I also need to brush up on my camping skills. To that end, I will try to do a few overnight camping trips this winter and today is my first overnight since my week long trip on the AT in June. Where did the last six months go?
Curry Hammock State Park is about eight miles ‘north’ on highway one from our marina. A perfect distance for hiking there one day, camping overnight and hiking back the next day.
The Little Rabbit and I left the boat around 0800, she heading to play pickleball in Key Colony, I for my hike to Curry Hammock. After getting my backpack from the car and filling my water bottle I was all ready and we parted ways. Five minutes later, silly Rabbit! I realized I had forgotten my most important piece of equipment, my hiking shoes! I still had my sannals on! I briefly debated doing the hike in my Keens but good sense prevailed and I called Jeanie. She felt sorry for me and turned around to bring me the right shoes.
I had two things I needed to do on the way to the park. One was to pick up food for today and tomorrow. The other was to return the movie (‘Hell or High Water’) we rented the day before. I stopped at Publix and picked up a couple items for dinner and breakfast. Then I swung by McDonalds for a sweet tea. Next I stopped at Subway and picked up a sandwich for lunch. I was not going to be hungry! In the process I passed by three Redboxes and never gave the movie in my pocket a thought. It was not until I had walked a mile past the last Redbox did I remember (silly Rabbit!) the movie. Ugh. Now, I could call The Little Rabbit and have her come find me and return the movie for me. Or I could keep the movie another day for another buck or two. Or I could hike the mile back to Walgreens. I hiked. The extra distance is good for me. Maybe I will remember next time.
The hike is a fair distance but the walking is very easy. It’s all a dead-flat and paved walking/biking trail. The last few miles are set apart from the road a little so less busy and noisy than the first part.
I checked in at the park about 1230 and found my camp site. When I made a reservation for this site a few weeks ago there were not many available. I thought I had lucked out getting one next to the restrooms. Turns out the restrooms are being renovated and I will have to walk to the other side of the campground to use the temporary/portable restrooms. In addition, I have the construction noise right next door. I hope they don’t work late.
As I was finishing lunch it started to sprinkle. I hurried to set up my tarp only to find that
1) the park installed posts for hammocks, clotheslines, etc (mustn’t tie to trees!) in the very back corner of the site. The area is heavily encroached by the surrounding vegetation
2) the barbecue grill is also in the way – with the tarp up, the grill is underneath the tarp. I could cook from my hammock.
3) the gravel pad is too hard to drive tent pegs in.
I stood under the tarp, holding the edges by hand, waiting for the rain to let up so I could figure it out at my leisure. Fortunately it was a typical Florida afternoon shower – it only lasted about 15 minutes.
With the tarp and hammock up I escaped to find some peace at the picnic area by the beach.
The Little Rabbit and I hiked over to Crane Point Nature Preserve in Marathon, FL today. We did three loops around the trails for eight miles total. Pushed the pace a little faster and didn’t take any real breaks. Weather was warm and really humid so we were pretty wet by the end. Made it back to the marina just in time for Santa’s arrival. He brought free hamburgers and hot dogs so we were happy to see him – trail magic!
My training today saw the Little Rabbit and I at the Key Deer Wildlife Refuge on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys. Several good trails here but all of them fairly short so we hiked five of them. We saw quite a few Key Deer which are endangered and only found in the Keys. This year they have been afflicted with screw worms, a type of maggot, so the Rangers are treating them in the field with bait stations that automatically treat the deer with medication when they brush up against it to feed.