jupiterhikes

Life of the Wanderlust

Tag: Thru hiking

Stats from my Eastern Continental Trail thru hike

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Mile 0

This was my first thru hike.

  • Where I started: Cap Gaspe, Quebec
  • Where I ended: Key West, Florida
  • States crossed: 16 American, 2 Canadian
  • Start date: July 1st, 2016
  • Finish date: Jan 21st, 2017
  • Total miles: 4,798.6 on trail, ~4,900 total(walking in and out of towns, off trail)
  • Duration: 205 days, or 6 months 20 days
  • Total footsteps: 10 million
  • Zero (milage) days: 27 (Prior to beginning I had only planned 9)
  • Most zero days in a row: 5 right after finishing the Florida Trail
  • Average daily miles excluding zeros: 27mpd
  • Average daily miles including zeros: 23.4mpd
  • International Appalchian Trail average daily miles: 19mpd
  • Appalachian Trail average daily miles: 24mpd
  • Florida Trail average daily miles: 39mpd
  • Most miles in a single day: 53mi
  • Starting weight: 170lbs
  • Finishing weight: 169lbs
  • Daily caloric intake: ~5,000-6,000 calories
  • Favorite trail food: White chocolate macadamia Luna Bar
  • Average time I would wake up: 6am
  • Average time I would go to bed: 9pm
  • Snakes: Much fewer than you’d expect
  • Bears: 7 fuzzy cute things
  • Moose: 7 mostly friendly mega fauna
  • Favorite animal sightings: Ground hogs, seals, whales, star fish, moose, and porcupine!
  • Number of socks destroyed: ~12 pairs
  • Number of shoes destroyed: 5 pairs Alta Lone Peak 2.5s
  • Blisters: 0
  • Longest food carry: 7 days in Quebec
  • How many mail drops: 29
  • How many town resupplys: Too many to remember
  • Total amount of times I had to get in a car: Only 6 times
  • Longest I spent hiking with anyone else:  2 days
  • Starting base pack weight: 5.7lbs
  • Ending base pack weight: 5.9lbs
  • Favorite piece of gear: Pa’lante Packs Cuben Simple
  • Second favorite piece of gear: Montbell Thermawrap Jacket
  • Third favorite piece of gear: My cheap Casio watch
  • Gear I carried for a long time, but never used: Umbrella
  • Most difficult section: Matane Wildlife Reserve in QC
  • Favorite part of the hike: Gaspesie National Park in Quebec. Actually, all of quebec was awesome.
  • Second favorite part: Maine & the Whites in NH
  • Third favorite part: The Florida Trail! Gulf Islands National Seashore, Eglin East, Bradwell Bay, St. Marks NWR, Aucilla River, Suwannee River, Ocala NF, Big Cypress NP
  • Honorable mentions: Grayson Highlands, Roan Highlands, Mcafee Knobb, Dragons tooth, ATC Headquarters, the Southernmost Point
  • Coolest hostels: Auberge l’Amarre(QC), Shaws Hiker Hostel(ME), The Hiker Hut(ME), Everglades Hostel(FL)
  • Total amount of miles walking roads: ~650mi
  • Total amount of dogs that chased me: 30 thousand
  • Total amount of dried beans I ate for dinner: 20lbs
  • Total amount of fun? I’d do it again
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Mile 4,800

Let the walking continue.

Jupiter

Florida Trail FKT Summary

Beginning December 10th, 2016 at 10:23am I started my self-supported Florida Trail thru hike, and finished January 7th, 2017 at 8:22pm. A record pace of 28d 9h 59m, beating Tatu-Joe’s 2012 hike by more than a full day. It was an honor to hike Joe’s hike, as he is one of those folks I very much look up to in this backpacking world. Seeing through his eyes maybe a little while going after this record has only given me more respect for the man.

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I followed the rules set in place on the Fastest Known Time Proboards to the best of my ability. Stating my intentions in the Florida Trail thread, and contacting Joe Kisner the record holder before me, getting his blessing, as is customary. Posting photos daily from my trip, recording mass amounts of video, and in the beginning before I figured out I couldn’t keep it up due to a strapped for life phone battery, I blogged. Honestly trying to document the trip as best I could. I would expect the next guy to do the same.

Following the guidelines of a self-supported hike:

      means that you don’t carry everything you need from the start, but you don’t have dedicated, pre-arranged people helping you. This is commonly done a couple different ways: You might put out stashes of supplies for yourself prior to the trip, or you might just use what’s out there, such as stores, begging from other trail users, etc. Long distance backpackers are typically self-supported, since they resupply by mail drop or in stores.

I had all of my supplies sent through the mail ahead of time, and picked up boxes in various towns along the way. My logistical and mail drop schedule can be found at the bottom of this spread sheet. I had invited on my blog for folks to come out and bear witness to what I was doing, to better verify my claims. Many did!! And I took photos with a lot of them, which can be found in my Florida Trail bonus photo album. So many came out to find me, it actually began to slow me down, and become a chore! Opps. I asked that no one bring me anything, but some still wished to offer water or gatorade on the spot without my prior knowing of where I would see them, when, or if. I also helped no one find me, and instead was enigmatic. I figured me giving them directions to my location would be against the rules, and instead constantly told folks I didn’t know where I was, or when I was, which very often was true. Seemingly the entire Florida hiking community was following along, and often I would get 2 or 3 messages every day asking for my location, much to their dismay, I wouldn’t share. Along the way I also signed as many of the trail log books I found.

I walked into and out of all of my resupply points, not using a vehicle a single time. a Precedent set by Scott Williamson on the PCT, and a guideline for those in the future wishing to best this record should follow.

I followed the official Florida Trail route the entire way, and only detoured around the closed section of trail in St. Marks, on the official detour, a roadwalk that added miles going around, instead of through. As I was told it would be dangerous for me to try. As well as south of Moore Haven after being told to get off the levee by authorities, I had to turn around, go back, and follow a longer detoured route on hwy 720.

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I hiked southbound, starting at the northern terminus near Fort Pickens, and Pensacola. Following the Eastern Corridor around Orlando, and the western side of Lake Okeechobee, as per Joe’s standard. Finishing my hike at the official southern terminus of the Florida Trail at the Oasis Visitor center in Big Cypress National Preserve.

I took 540 photos over the course of this hike, but I’m only uploading the majority here. As well as all of those(I know of) that took photos of me somewhere along the way, that I was able to locate after the hike, or that they sent to me. Those can be found here!

I also have a good amount of screenshots I took of my Florida Trail app(gps) illustrating places I camped. Mostly I did this so that later I could figure out my daily splits. If asked, I will upload these too.

I have a ridiculous amount of videos(200!!!), mostly me talking to the camera, usually when dehydrated. I do plan on doing something with these, regarding my hike from Quebec to Key West, but again if asked I will gladly upload them separately for verification purposes. Some of these are rather embarrassing, thus my hesitation to simply throw them into the world publicly.

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My daily miles:

  • Day 1 – Start time 10:23am 34mi
  • Day 2 – 36mi
  • Day 3 – 35mi
  • Day 4 – 31mi
  • Day 5 – 35.5mi
  • Day 6 – 38mi
  • Day 7 – 32mi
  • Day 8 – 30mi
  • Day 9 – 46mi
  • Day 10 – 24mi (Trouble getting across ST. Marks River)
  • Day 11 – 31.5mi
  • Day 12 – 35mi
  • Day 13 – 37.5mi
  • Day 14 – 31mi
  • Day 15 – 31mi
  • Day 16 – 31mi (Halway, realized something was wrong.)
  • Day 17 – 48.5mi
  • Day 18 – 39.5mi
  • Day 19 – 42mi
  • Day 20 – 47mi
  • Day 21 – 41mi
  • Day 22 – 45.5mi
  • Day 23 – 45.5mi
  • Day 24 – 39.5mi
  • Day 25 – 47mi
  • Day 26 – 45.5mi
  • Day 27 – 33.5mi
  • Day 28 – 50.5
  • Day 29 – 41.3mi Finish at 8:22pm

On day 3 unbeknownst to me at first I got sick. The sickness lasted a few days, and made walking my goal of 35-45 miles a day very difficult. Also instilling some bad habits of taking too many breaks, which lasted until the halfway point of the Florida Trail in which I realized I was a couple days off schedule. From there, I began walking until 10pm every. Single. Day. It was extremely monotonous at time, and tiring. My legs could carry me but my mind would drift to nothingness, and minutes would go on forever. Unfortunately due to the sheer amount of night hiking I was doing in the second half, I visually missed a lot of the beauty the Florida Trail had to offer. The first half I was only walking at night 2-3 hours, and wasn’t so bad. Though deep inside I knew it wasn’t enough. By Lake Butler, I kicked it into high gear, I knew what I had to do, and this is when you could say I struck a groove. 50 miles a day wasn’t uncommon in the second half of this hike, and I was routinely walking more than 40 a day. Some nights were cold, and I would toss and turn all night. This was often followed by days so hot, I would walk shirtless, and find myself drinking from some terrible water sources just to keep myself hydrated. Despite these things. I loved it all. I complained here and there to my mom over the phone, but it was just to get it out of my system, and move on.

The day I crossed the St. Marks river was my lowest mileage day. I arrived in town later than I should, a result of me not paying enough attention to my guide. By my arrival a cold front had come in and no one was around to shuttle me across, nor could I swim with a cold and wet fate waiting for me on the other side. I hung out at the restaurant just next to the water, and stared lustfully out the windows, hoping someone would go by. I asked the bar patrons, the waitress, and eventually I found someone with a dingy that felt bad for me. Just 25 miles that day.

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My lack of attention to the guide almost screwed me again after River Ranch, entering the Kissimmee Preserve. My mail drop didn’t show up at the ranch on time, and I cursed the skies. Sat around pouting while charging my phone, deciding what type of candy I could get at the general store to hold me over for the next 3 days. Little did I know in 10 or so miles I would need to be at a lock on the river during a certain time, to be let through a gate. I was given the phone number of the employees by a nice man, called them up, and asked if I could be buzzed through around 9pm. They obliged, and I ran those 10 miles to get there on time.

The next night, walking in the dark past the small town of Basinger I was greeted by a massive wild boar. I yelled at him, in that second realized that he might run at me, and felt fortunate when he went the other direction. Later I wondered if he would visit me in the night. Although I didn’t see a single snake(I assume I’m too obnoxious) during my entire 1,100 mile thru hike of the Florida Trail, this pig wasn’t my only questionable encounter with wildlife. In Ocala National Forest I saw 2 bears. A mom and her cub, still choosing to sleep with my food. In the Kissimmee area, there were areas under water, and I would question if I was walking into gator territory. Could they be below the liquid, and I’m just not seeing them? My fears relieved when I saw a 5ft alligator leave the banks, and join the water with me. At least now I didn’t have to wonder. Up near Apalachicola one morning while convincing myself to get up and start moving, I heard something. Out of the blue 10 feet from me on the trail I was sleeping next to a panther ran by me. Stunned as ever, I wasn’t sure what to think. Fortunate to have spotted one, as there are less than 300 in the state. And I guess if you’re the squeamish type, I’m fortunate it wanted nothing to do with me. A photo would have been nice but I’ve never seen something run so fast. Ultimately on this hike I saw a ridiculous amount of birds of all different varieties, and it seemed whenever I would look up to the trees above, there was an owl looking over me.

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Frequently I dealt with dehydration, which is nothing new. A wiser man might carry more water. Me, I only ever filled up with 1 liter, sometimes only a half. Then finding myself 10-20 miles from another good source. I started the hike with a water filter, but man for whatever reason I just hate the chore. I just want to dip and sip. So for a while, my first 2 weeks, I would seek out quality sources, as to not force myself into getting a virus. The last 2 weeks however I drank anything and everything, including muddy water from roads, or water near cow fields. I’m not sure if I’m immune to the sickness, or just lucky, but I recall remarking to my mom over the phone, how wonderful it is to only have 2 weeks left. I could now drink everything! Disgusting? Naw, I don’t care. Giardia takes 2 weeks to hit you, and that was the only thing I was worried about. Some days were worse than others, and likely I should have just carried more. Sometimes I would find jugs of water others had stashed for hikers, and I was always very grateful for that. The best kind of trail magic. Fresh water. Its crazy what most take for granted in the world.

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In both Apalachicola, and Ocala I found ticks on me. Known for lyme disease. Something much worse than some water born illness. Lyme can lead to brain damage if not treated. Walking at night through Ocala National Forest, I stopped to find water quick. While I was preparing my dinner, a healthy serving of beans, the same thing I had eating every night for the last 6 months, I flashed my light towards my legs. Briefly I noticed lots of little spots. Thinking it was just dirt, or cuts from the thorns and things I had been scrapping myself against. Upon further inspection it was ticks, and a whole lot of them. Flashbacks ensuing to photos of a friend from a month prior. She had been through here, and got bit really bad, later testing positive on multiple tests for the disease. Knowing I couldn’t stop to find a clinic before this hike was over I weeped, and worried. Not mentioning it to my mom for a few days, I decided it didn’t matter. If the symptoms show, then I can be certain, but there’s no reason beating myself up over it.

Hunters all throughout the state were out in spades. The forests were littered with them. All of which with trucks that looked the same, hunting dogs, guns, and bright orange. Online I was constantly being attacked for not having any orange on me. I know, it was a problem. The hunters took note too, and often told me I needed some. I’d ask if they were going to shoot me, and they always replied with “no.” Then what for? Drunken hunters shooting anything that moves? Aren’t they supposed to spot something with a separate scope, confirm what it is, then get their rifle to fire? Rules don’t apply to them. Accidents among hunters are frequent, sometimes they’re not accidents, sometimes that guy is diddling that other guys…. anyway. I would hope a 6’2″ upright, mammal, wearing a green t-shirt and ball cap, looks nothing like anything they’re shooting. I took my chances. For no reason I guess.

I got lucky this year. The trail was dry. I’ve seen photos of water up to peoples necks, and stories of sloshing that never ends. It wasn’t until I was near the Kissimmee River, at Three Lakes WMA did I get my feet wet. Then within maybe the next 40 or so miles had a few more spots, but aside from that, I was fortunate. Big Cypress National Preserve was the next area I had to do some slogging. The last area. My hike was ending that day, and my plans were to push through what I expected to be 30 miles of soul sucking mud, and water up to my knees. I worried about snakes, and gators. Determined to finish I pushed through. Early in the morning I ran into a northbound thru hiker saying I wouldnt be able to average more than 1mph through there. He was wrong! With enough grit, and stupidity, I smashed through at 3 miles per hour only falling once. Only 12 of the 30 miles were wet. The rest was just mud, with occasional slabs of limestone to trip on. As darkness fell I ran into more thru hikers, I paused, tired. I had only slept 3 hours the night before, in an attempt to go all night, instead while taking a break I fell asleep where I sat along side a road. These hikers were friendly, and encouraged me to go on. With 10 miles left in my record attempt I ran. I ran as fast as I could careful not to break an ankle. Hungry as ever I munched on some candy, briefly, just a mile away from the finish, choking. Stopping in the middle of the night, in the mud, about to finish the hardest and most fun month of my life, and there I was bent over, choking on a Sour Patch Kid. The finish was sweet, when I knew I was close I opened up and ran at what I assume was a 5 minute mile. I’ve never run so fast. I could hear a cow bell ringing, people were there waiting for me to arrive. Word travels fast apparently. I smacked the southern terminus with my hand at 8:22pm on January 7th. 28 and a half days after I started. Friends greeted me immediately. It felt good to stop moving. Shoes still filled with mud, winded, but happy. Someone special was there, a trail legend. Billy Goat, a man with over 48,000 miles under his feet waiting to greet me by sure chance.

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I had many favorites from this hike. From my photos you could guess which areas I liked the most. Or at least which areas I actually had battery power. The Gulf Islands national Seashore was amazing, and I would love to go back, and spend more time there, maybe do more than just walk right through, like camp! The beaches were fantastic, the sand impossibly white, and the sunset that night was my favorite from this entire year, aside from maybe one in Quebec. Eglin Airforce Base was also interesting, with rolling hills and large ravines, however it’s split in the center with a long roadwalk. No matter, the eastern portion was wonderful. Beautiful fresh water, and picturesque bridges. I watched fighter jets fly above me. Econifa Creek up next, although a short 18 or so miles it’s very much so quality over quantity here. I happen to know the section leader who maintains this area, and although I didn’t see him, I now understand why he continuously says this is the best section on the FT. Most of my favorite sections on this trail are due to the large rivers they follow, this was no exception. I was fortunate enough to go through St. Marks in a cloud of mist, wide open expanses might make for a sunny day to be a nightmare, yet the way I saw it was awe inspiring. Shore birds trotting around everywhere, fog engulfing the land, and even sightings of wild boar crossing small rivers. Shortly there after I was walking along the Aucilla River, it would dissapear beneath the limestone, and appear again in random places just to go back under. The flowing water cut deep into the land, creating these beautiful deep banks along the sides, with crazy rock formations. All around me was littered with sinkholes as well. I cut my day short, opposed to hiking all night, just so I could wake up and see the rest of this area before I began a long road walk. On that roadwalk, in the middle of nowhere lies a soad machine on the side of a dirt road. The machine of fable, I had heard of it, but didn’t know where it might be. Sadly, I had no money on me, and although I wanted to shake the thing I kept moving. The Suwannee River to follow might be my top pick of the FNST, although it’s clearly hard for me to choose. ~60 miles or so of following this ancient river. Shelters made for river rats a third of the way in have showers and electrical outlets. The river below was more dry than I thought possible, in some places not flowing at all. A testament to this year, and how few times I had to get my feet wet. I arrived in the town of White Springs on Christmas eve, unfortunate timing to pick up a box from the Post Office, but an employee had clued me in that he’d be there early in the morning for just 2 hours. Happy holidays indeed. I would have had to buy 4 days food from a gas station otherwise. The Madison shelter at the end of this section too is a fine place, built by the land owner Randy Madison, known as the love shack… was used to sleep in while his home was being constructed, now an oasis for hikers, thanks to Randy and his family. Osceola National Forest is a lot of pine trees, but I went through on Christmas, and managed to steal 5 sodas from some car campers at a campsite. I’ve never walked so fast. That was my gift for the holidays. Meeting one of my hiking heros, Stumpknocker, was followed a couple days later with meeting one of his friends. Neither knew the other was out there, but PAFarmboy was happy to hear Stump was once again hiking the FT. I dont remember the name, other than It came before Rice Creek. Both areas were exceptional. One of which had a trail register where everyone was reporting bigfoot sightings. The Florida Trail has but 8 wooden shelters made for hikers and this 20 or so mile stretch is home to 2 of them. Both fantastic, leaving me wishing I could stop and stay a while. After the second came a 150m boardwalk, and into the night I went. Ocala National Forest, touted as the most beautiful hiking destination in Florida. I may not 100% agree with that, but it was extremely nice! Rolling hills, reminded me of walking through Alabama, and sightings of bear, taking me back to the Appalachian Trail. Home to the famous 88 store where I picked up a package, tempted to get shitty at their bar, I moved on. The trail register their is particularly legendary, looking through it I saw many names I recognized going back 8 or more years. Friends near Lake Mary, on the outskirts of Orlando trying to hunt me down, I walked the Cross Seminole Greenway. Although asphalt for 20+ miles I actually really enjoyed this area. Lots of friendly people out running and biking, eventually leading me to the town of Oviedo, one of my favorite trail towns. I stuffed my face full of sides at some restaurant, the streets littered with roosters, later after dark leaving on a boardwalk running into some youngsters smoking pot. “Who are you?” they asked, and I replied, “Just some nobody hiker.” The night got cold, down into the thirties. Must have been a holiday, as I could hear parties in the distance. New years even came, and so did a 30 mile roadwalk. A friend, after spending 2 days searching for me greeted me alongside the road with his lovely daughter. I was happy to see them. Had he mentioned it was his birthday the next day I would have been even happier he had taken the time. Into the night I watched fire work displays over cow fields. There’s few places to camp along the Deseret Ranches, so I slept along side the road between a bush, up against barbed wire. Happy new year. Desperate heat, and eventually the shade of forest, the love of bridges in the woods, and more beautiful trail. Entering Forever Florida it was hot, and little water to be found. I became the attraction of a swamp buggy full of tourists, “and here we see a hiker!” I had my shirt off, scrambling to put it back on. Should have known, I’m not the only one out here, should have asked for water. Getting lost in the night, maybe the trail has changed. Three Lakes WMA before sleep. Mosquitoes for the first time, in a long time. The Kissimmee River is near. Lake Okeechobee is near. Missing a box at River Ranch, buying peanut butter, candy, peanuts, and chips for 3 days sucks. What sucks more is running into a northbound thru hiker who thought it was funny to give me a whole slough of misinformation, after I offered to tell the front desk ladies that he can have my mail the next day. Boo him. Running 10 miles, and finally reaching that big river after convincing the employees to let me across after dark. Blazing heat in the Kissimmee Preserve but water to cool my feet off, and a nice tan to boot, eventually reaching the shade of oak hammocks, and trail I’ve walked before. Night time run ins with boar, questioning if I should sleep on their territory, then an armadillo all night fooling me into thinking raccoons were coming for my food. The gateway to the big lake I know and love, coming across construction on the dike, running pass the workers before they could say anything. A restaurant I was looking forward to closed, and talk of a friend possibly coming out to see me in the night. I don’t blame him for not showing, although this is the closest to home, that my path takes me, it’s still not very close at all. Crossing more closed section of trail, but wanting to stay true to the official route, I went anyway. Eventually after Moore Haven I was kicked out, and forced to walk 720, the official detour around the construction. Then back to walking more closed sections, after stuffing my face in Clewiston on Chinese food. Never a good idea, but I can never help myself. My friend Wayne surprising me, as I branch off from the lake, and begin the canals towards the Seminole Reservation, and Big Cypress. We chit chat, and eventually I’m off on my way. Just two more days left. Long canals, and horrible agriculture that has ruined the everglades. Cops stop me, and luckily don’t really care, they were just getting a lot of phone calls from the locals about a guy walking through the reservation at night. Apparently impossible, at this point to pull an all nighter I accidentally sleep 3 hours. Later the next day, my last day I’m happy I did. After only seeing a few other thru hikes(many day, and section) on this final day I run into what seemed like 40. Seems like an awesome class! Almost do I want to turn around, and walk with some of them.

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I’m sorry that I missed so much while walking at night, but I guess that means I’ll just have to do this trail again. Whether it’s to try my hand at a faster pace, or in a much slower fashion. I certainly didn’t have a conventional experience of the Florida Trail, but it is mine, and I very much so enjoyed it.

I started this hike carrying multiple extra phone batteries, which lasted me a while of not having to waste time in towns, sadly I didn’t take advantage of this as much as I should have. By halfway when I needed to make more miles, it was a constant battle to both get a long day in, and somehow find an electrical outlet to charge my phone for 10-20 minutes. Podcast, music, and daily phone calls to my mom in a  lot of ways kept me sane. Not to mention all of the folks following this hike so closely, and commenting. I might not respond often, but I read all of them, and seriously appreciate all the encouragement.

A huge thank you goes to my friend Coy, who hosted me at his home in Pensacola before I began my record attempt, let me prepare my things, rest after walking across Alabama, and was all around an amazing dude. Seriously Coy, I can’t thank you enough, and I hope one day I can pay it back. He shuttled me to the trailhead after some seriously cold temps had rolled through the past few nights, and I began walking.

Links:

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28d 9h 59m

Review: Pa’lante Packs Simple Backpack

This year I’ve had the great pleasure to carry a new pack!

For my thru hike of the 4,800mi Eastern Continental Trail, I took a chance on a new company, and purchased the Simple by Pa’lante Packs. They weren’t in production yet, but I had been seeing photos of it online. Similar to the pack I had been using for the last few years, but an improved design.

“Hey that thing looks awesome, take my money.” Is to my memory, the message I sent Andy Bentz. He mailed it out to me while I was on trail, and I received it the same day I picked up a very heavy resupply (6 days.) Immediately I was stoked on how comfortable it was, even while carrying 15lbs of food on top of my gear.

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Grabbing a snack from the secret bottom compartment

Andy Bentz and John Zahorian are the two founders of Pa’lante Packs. Some info on Andy’s making history can be seen in this cute video, showing packs he’s made in days past, leading up to what you see now in this final product!

Since receiving it I’ve now carried it for the last 2,800 miles, and this is what I think about it.

Basic Info

  • Volume: 35L or 40L
  • Price: $210 – $250
  • Weight: 13oz
  • Frameless and Hipbeltless
  • Material: X-Pac

Where can you find it? PalantePacks.com

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Size

They come in both a 35 liter, and 40 liter. Very low on internal volume, but in a world where ultralight backpacking is becoming more popular this is a perfect size. The bigger the backpack you buy, the more stuff you tend to fill it with, and then consequently have to haul up that mountain!

For me, with a 6lb base weight the 35L is just right. I’ve carried 6 days food in it without issue, even thinking I had room for more. I would go for this size if you’re looking to seriously nerd out on gear, for most everyone though, I think the bigger size might be wiser. If you’re unsure, definitely go for the larger 40L. You’ll be happy you did when you want to pack out bonus foods from town!

As a frameless, hipbeltless pack it does well. The shoulder straps are large enough with enough thickness to take the heat of heavier carries. I find it’s comfortable up until around 25lbs.

All in all the small size is something I really like in a backpack. It gives me the ability to maneuver freely.
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Durability

Amazingly, after 5 months of use every single day. Sleeping on it. Rubbing it against, and sitting it on rocks. Brushing it against trees and branches accidentally…. there isn’t a single hole, not a single tear, or even any real sign of wear. Even the stitching is holding up, without fraying or coming loose. It’s almost the same as when I first got it.

When it comes to durability most consider ultralight gear flimsy or that it won’t last. In the case of this pack that is clearly not true! I could easily get a second multi thousand mile thru hike out of this pack.

I had remembered seeing pictures John posted online when he first came up with this design. I was skeptical about the bottom pocket, and it’s durability. After 2,800 miles of abusing it without a single hole forming I’m convinced. The east coast is very rocky, Maine and New Hampshire are no cake walk, so to come out unscathed was really impressive, and admittedly surprising.

I give it a big thumbs up for durability! Unlike cuben fiber packs this X-Pac material is gunna last. I expect I’ll get another few thousand miles outa this one, at least.

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Design

  • Waterproofness: The fabric used for the body of the pack is waterproof, but overall water will get in the seams. So I still use an internal liner like a trash compactor bag.
  • Single strap top closure: I love the single strap! It sinches down so nicely, creating an excellent seal. The last pack I had before this used a Y strap, and I greatly prefer the single.
  • Shoulder strap pockets: One of my favorite features of this pack. The stretchy integrated shoulder strap pockets! I like that I have everything I need right at my fingertips. These pockets are perfect for a camera or phone, snacks, guidebook pages or maps, trash. Really handy, and sleek. I highly recommend getting them added to your pack, as they are optional.
  • Secret bottom pocket: Annnd my favorite feature is the bottom pocket. Large enough to fit almost an entire days worth of food. But why do you care? Because every time you’re hungry, you can just reach under and grab a snack! No need to stop. Just keep moving! Alternatively, keep a rain jacket, or wind jacket under there for quick access.
  • Aesthetics: I mean, it’s super cute. Really small. Black. Beautiful. Clean.
  • Side pockets: Good height to grab my water bottles while walking. Stretchy enough to hold two bottles in one pocket. Or as I often do my umbrella, and a water bottle. Or my rehydration jar, and a water bottle. Tight enough so that they  don’t slip out when jostled.
  • Shoulder straps: Comfortable width, shape, and thickness.
  • Draw cord compression: Unsure of what to call it, but it needs to be mentioned. On one side of the pack there’s a small cord that can be pulled tight, to either compress down loose space inside, or firmly secure an item there. Personally I use it most when I have wet socks, or to dry out a wet groundcloth. Sinch the item down, and let it sit outside your pack all day. Or if you’re looking for a place to stow away trekking poles or a trekking umbrella while not in use, this is it!

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Extra Thoughts

John has used this pack for thousands of miles, and I’ve used this pack for almost 3,000 miles. He loves it, I love it. I hate to gush er whatever, but of all the gear I’ve been using this year, this pack is the only thing I wouldn’t swap out if given the chance. Since leaving Canada and receiving this pack, its been wonderful all the way down to Florida.

It’s made for efficiency. Most everything you need during the day is at hand, and I love that. So until these boys come up with something similar but smaller and lighter this will remain my main hiking pack.

The waterproof material, the clever pockets, a pack that won’t deteriorate after a single season…

So if you’re looking for that perfect backpack for your next thru hike, the Simple from Pa’lante has treated me right.

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Everything You Need to Know About the Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail

There’s this beautiful little trail in South Florida known as the Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail. Iconic as it runs from Lake Okeechobee, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. From one very large body of water to another of a very different kind. A mostly single track trail winding in and out of wetlands, prairie, and forests in places you might not of known are passable or might not of believed had such beautiful and vast natural areas hidden from the public’s eye.

Before I begin… I am just a guy who loves this trail and is out there a whole lot. My views and opinions do not reflect that of the Loxahatchee chapter or the Florida Trail. They are of my own and I did not consult them while writing this!  Without further ado… I present the Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail.

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The OTLHT, map courtesy of the Loxahatchee Chapter.

The trail is 63 miles from end to end, with many places in between for day hikes, and just as many spur trails off of it, offering something for any kind of hiker or runner. The nature of this distance makes it a great challenge for someone who’s trying to get out for a long weekend, or similarly for those who like to take their time and wish to spend a week hiking one of south Florida’s hidden gems. There’s even a group of runners who attempt to do the whole thing in under 18 hours each year, but that’s clearly only for the most masochistic. For the most part this is a great area to get out for a day or a few, away from the hustle and bustle of modern day society.

You have the choice of starting or ending with your feet in the sand at the ocean, something I find to really be a great way to begin or finish your journey. Too many times have I started there at sunrise to walk the trail, and have the momentum of that moment follow me throughout my hike. Similarly I have finished time and time again laying on the beach with a drink, and a swim in the water. Beach patrons either astounded by my smell or impressed with where I just came from. The beach being a termini of this trail is something really special that you won’t find on many hikes.

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Eric and myself about to start walking from the beach. Little did Eric know at this time, hiking with me isn’t fun!

The Loxahatchee chapter of the Florida Trail Association does day hikes out on this trail almost weekly, a few overnight trips a year for anyone interested in getting their toes wet(literally,) and finding out more information about the trail from the same folks who built and maintain it. These can be found on their meetup site, alternatively on their chapter Facebook page you can feel free to ask questions, post pictures, or tell stories from your hike. Some of the most knowledgeable OTLHT stewards can be found there for questioning, along with a large group of folks who love the area, and all trails near by. If you do go out for a hike be sure to go say hello, and post some pictures! They do an unimaginable amount of work every year to make sure that we can get out and enjoy these woods. Without their time, money, and effort we wouldn’t have the 100 miles of trail locally to go enjoy! If you are so kind they are always looking for help, and more members. Every little bit counts, and every little bit goes directly into improving the experience, and enjoyment we all get from a walk in the woods. I highly encourage anyone to become a member of the Florida Trail Association, because without them we wouldn’t be able to get out and do what we love!

The Loxahatchee chapter has a lot of information regarding this trail on their website. Especially for those looking to hike it from end to end, you should really go through and give it a look!

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An FTA led overnight backpacking trip in JDSP.

A while ago I wrote a FAQ of sorts for this trail, but by this point I feel it’s somewhat dated! I’d like to get more information out there for those interested in taking on the trail, as I am very frequently asked questions I hadn’t thought to put on that original posting. Doh! So here’s version number two, with additional info. I recommend before tackling the whole trail you check out both. Most of your questions, and concerns should be addressed. If not you can feel free to comment here, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible! The local FTA chapter is a wealth of information, are very open, and available to answer questions as well.

Oh, and by the way this is a trail designated for foot traffic only 🙂

Difficulty

It may not be hiking in the Himalayan Mountains but don’t be fooled! Folks are often surprised at how hard Florida hiking can be. Just because it’s flat here doesn’t mean you won’t be presented with challenges. In Florida’s case, very unique challenges as likely you won’t find anywhere else what you do here. Due to this I always tell people to er on the safe side while planning.

If water levels are up that may take your pace by surprise, your feet and muscles may not be used to the distance or level ground, and of course being unfamiliar with the trail may lead to slower miles than expected. If you do take longer than expected remember there are restaurants, and a gas station on Indiantown Road to supplement your food supply with! Regardless of pace, you should go to those places anyway.

Things to consider

  • You’ll be walking through water at times, and will want to be wearing shoes that fit very well, are very breathable, have aggressive tread, and are lightweight. I recommend trail runners. Gaiters also really help to keep out sand and muck, look into them. They might save you some pain.
  • The sun is brutal, and there are quite a few places along this trail where a lot of sun exposure is inevitable. I recommend a hiking umbrella, or at least sunscreen, and a wide brim hat of some sort.
  • Wild pigs like to tear up the ground creating areas of unstable footing, be careful not to twist an ankle, and take it slow. Both over the uneven ground, and while walking through water.
  • Your feet are your gods, take very good care of them. Be sure to have a needle to pop blisters, and some blister tape to cover the drained area. Only pop blisters at the end of the day, not while you still have miles to make.
  • Be careful of animals, or in other words stay on top of your game.

Take it easy! There is no rush to speed through this, and if that is your aim I would be sure to have a get away plan, which might require a friend who is local, the FTA, or Uber prepared in advance. I hear from folks who want to go out and do three 21 mile days back to back, only to come back short of finishing! I seriously advise most to take at least 4 days to do it. Or even longer! The campsites are very nice, the trail is very scenic, and there are a lot of great places to stop for breaks. If you’ve never done the whole trail before, spending 5 days out there is a wonderful experience.

By the way, the campsites aren’t set up for a three day hike, you’d wind up doing 19 miles, 25, and 19 again! That 25 mile day is what really gets people!

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The sand dunes of Johnathan Dickinson are always a fun way to bring in the first or last miles of this trail!

Wild Animals

Aren’t much of a concern… But you should still keep your eye’s peeled! If not only just to see them. If it is a dangerous animal, please do not try to get closer for a picture! You saw it, it was there. Do not endanger yourself over something so silly.

The trail takes you through quite a few different natural areas, all with their own unique feel, and ecosystem. I’ve always felt that around every bend the trail has something new to offer or see. Between palm cathedrals in the Loxahatchee Slough, or cypress swamps in JW Corbett, to the vast matrix of pines in Dupuis, or the sand dunes of Johnathan Dickinson. There’s always something new to catch your attention. The same sentiment goes for not only the land you walk through but also the animals and plants you see along the way! I’m not much of a birder as my eye sight is kinda poor, I just assume they’re all bald eagles. I’ve been told and from what I have seen the birds in Florida are truly out of this world. We are a pitstop for many migrational birds, as well as a lot of others you can only find here in Florida. The cute blue Scrub Jays in JDSP, the wading birds that seek refuge in the wetlands, owls, kites, peacocks, hawks, turkey, and yes! Eagles! The wildlife doesn’t stop there as you can also find a very wide variety of snakes, invasive lizards like iguanas or basilisk(more commonly known as the jesus lizard,) and you may even see an alligator or two if you’re lucky. In most areas of the trail there are wild pigs, from the very small babies to the interestingly colored parents. Of course there are also the ever entertaining squirrels, bunny rabbits, and raccoon’s. If you’re really looking, maybe you’ll even see a bobcat, or coyote. I would say a panther as well, but no one would believe you so you best get a picture of that one!

I’ve spent countless nights, and thousands of miles on this trail over the last few years, and despite all of this time spent walking through swamp, and startling wild pigs, I’ve only once felt like an animal had ill intentions for me. Remember not to get closer for a better picture? That’s because I’ve done that! The alligator wasn’t so pleased. He gave me a good scare, and without saying it, showed me why I should back up. As should you! Before the animal has to make such a sentiment clear.

I’ve seen what worries you time after time, from diamond back rattle snakes, to water moccasins, to wild boar, to alligators, to creepy eyes in the night… and I feel so long as your wits are about you and you remain vigilant none of these things are actually all that threatening.

Regardless, please be safe 🙂

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Our friendly Little Gopher Campsite neighbor, who lives in the nearby canal. I get water from where it’s shallow enough so that I can see whats under it while here.

Camping

You must stay at the campsites that are built and maintained for us. Fortunately there are many, and they are very nice! The land managers of the natural areas you pass through are very kind to let us have these campsites so we show our respect by staying at them, and not in random places along the trail.

Your options for camping are:

  • Loop 4 campsite in Dupuis – 2 tables, fire ring, and a pitcher pump. Could alternatively go on to Powerline camp.
  • Powerline camp at the Dupuis/Corbett boarder – Fire ring, and plenty of flat space, near a very large canal for water. A good place to stop early instead of going to Loop 4.
  • Little Gopher in Corbett – Multiple benches, fire ring, and water nearby.
  • Bowman Island in Corbett – A small fire ring, in a very wild place! Watch out for poison ivy.
  • Open Clearing in the Lox Slough – Water/pitcher pump a fraction of a mile south, on the trail. Sometimes this site floods. No campfires allowed.
  • Lucky Tract Campsite in the Lox Slough – Just north of the open clearing, a more secluded spot, no on site water, get it a mile(or less) prior in either direction. No campfires allowed.
  • Kitching Creek in JDSP – Tables, trash cans, fire rings, benches, a bathroom, and a pitcher pump. A very luxurious campsite.
  • Scrub Jay in JDSP – Tables, benches, fire rings, trash cans, a bathroom, and a pitcher pump. Equally as luxurious as Kitching Creek.

If you start at the ocean the first campsite you’ll come up to is Scrub Jay Campsite, I believe it’s only 4 miles from the trail head, so that might be a good place to stay if you get a late start.

If you had started at the lake, on the day before your last you could go further past Kitching Creek to Scrub Jay Camp, so you have more time for the Taste restaurant, relaxing at home, or on the beach. In other words those two sites are however you wish to play them! Same goes for Loop 4 and Powerline Camp, although Loop 4 is a nicer place, it may be beneficial to make the extra miles if you have a lot of daylight left.

In an effort to make your planning easier here is a sample of what I might do given however many days I have off. Feel free to deviate as this certainly isn’t the end all be all! You may find you want to make more miles in a certain day, or less. By all means check my data and tailor your trip to how you like to do it!

  • 6 day plan / 10.5mpd: Loop 4, Little Gopher, Bowman Island, Lucky Tract, Kitching Creek.
  • 5 day plan / 12.6mpd: Loop 4 or Powerline, Bowman Island, Lucky Tract, Kitching Creek or Scrub Jay.
  • 4 day plan / 15.75mpd: Loop 4 or Powerline, Bowman Island, Lucky Tract.
  • 3 day plan / 21mpd: Little gopher, Lucky Tract.

The first time I did this hike I took 5 days. Since then I’ve done it in 2, and I’ve even taken 6. Pick your poison, I wouldn’t be overly ambitious, and instead play it safe so I or the FTA don’t have to come pick you up 😉

Some of these areas you’ll be camping in require permission, it’s just a short phone call away, the Lox Chapter spells it out for you here.

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Camping in Dupuis, at the Loop 4 Campsite with my tarp, and bugnet contraption.

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Camping in the Loxahatchee Slough, at the Lucky Tract Campsite. No campfires allowed, but it’s still a nice pit stop to rest, in the middle of a beautiful area!

Parking

… and logistics?

If you are starting from the lake, I would find someone to drive you out there, or try Uber. It wouldn’t exactly be the safest place to leave your car as it’s an exposed parking lot right next to a busy road. That is to say, at the LOST/NENA trailhead next to the lake. However there is an alternate, which actually includes more miles of wilderness opposed to walking along a canal for a ways. Inside of Dupuis you can leave your car at the Governors house(a pavilion,) and that would be a much safer place to park for a few days. Take the western loop hiking trails, and you’ll meet up with the OTLHT after a few miles. The total mileage is about the same, and you wouldn’t miss all that much.

If you are starting at the beach, you can leave your car at the Hobe Sound Public Beach, but if you can avoid doing so I would. I have heard that the police patrol that area twice a night, and it is a very rich neighborhood, but parking is limited, and accidents do happen. My friends car was backed into at that very parking lot for example. You may want to call the local sheriffs department, and let them know what you’re doing, and that you’ll be leaving your vehicle there overnight. Again, you can do this, but it might be better to get a ride. Post in the Lox Chapter Facebook group and see if anyone could potentially shuttle you. Uber will take you from the beach back to the lake, and I don’t remember the price, but it’s much cheaper than I thought it would be.

If you plan to begin at the lake, and won’t be getting there until later in the day keep in mind camping at the LOST/NENA trailhead next to the lake isn’t allowed, and frankly it’s right next to a busy highway. You wouldn’t want to camp there anyhow! An alternative is to start your hike from within Dupuis, and utilize one of their group campgrounds that night and begin the next day. A much more enjoyable camping experience. Or of course you could make the 9 miles to the Loop 4 campsite.

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Walking into a prescribed burn in Corbett was a very cool, and strange event. Smoldering ashes, and little fires still burning for a mile or so. This tree is still standing. Keep your eyes peeled.

Water

Water is abundant! During the times of the year you will be hiking that is. Typically by April it starts to seriously dry up until Sep-Oct when it starts to fill in again. I totally advise against hiking in the brutal south Florida summer months. Although you won’t have to walk through water, the heat, exposure to the sun, and lack of drinkable water makes for a much less enjoyable time.

You should have no trouble finding water to drink, but you must carry some sort of filter! Water comes in many forms… from canals, to swamp, to rivers and creeks, to pumped out of an underground well. All of which are non potable. Drink as you go, find more, and filter more. There is no need to carry 63 miles worth from the start, as I know someone who did that.

In addition to a water filter, having a clean bandanna or a coffee filter is nice for a pre-filter. A lot of this water that you’ll be drinking has very small particles of silt or plant matter in it, by covering the top of your bottle with the fabric first and running the water through that into the container, you’re effectively removing a lot of what most would consider undrinkable. Then you use your water filter to keep out any viruses or bacteria. This extends the life of your gear, and keeps you from drinking sinkies, swimmies, and floaties.

The furthest you should ever have to go without finding a source to drink(while hiking in season) is 4 or 5 miles. Assume when you fill up that you won’t find anything for the next 6, which would take most a few hours worth of walking. Dehydration in Florida due to the heat is a major problem, so please be safe, and please remember to bring some form of electrolytes!

I personally have 2 liters worth of carrying capacity while I’m out there. For me that’s great, judge for yourself how much you drink while exercising in the sun. Maybe you would want more, but I wouldn’t recommend starting with less.

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Water? Not a problem!

Pets

In most locations I don’t believe pets are allowed… and really I don’t think this is the place for domestic animals. Due to the length of the trail, the amount of water you’ll be walking through, and the wildlife I think it’s best that the pet stays home. Aside from that I do think it is frowned upon in most of the natural areas along the trail.

Dogs and hiking are awesome, I understand the moral boost, and how fun it can be. Unfortunately for now this isn’t the place. However, if you’d like to take your dog hiking on this trail leashed pets are welcome in Johnathan Dickinson State park.

I encourage you do to your own searching around, as maybe more of these areas allow pets than I think, but I do know an end to end hike wouldn’t be in the cards. Bring a human you like instead, or two, or three!

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My friend Cassandra, and her doggies camping in Johnathan Dickinson.

Food & Resupply

If you’re looking to resupply and restock on food half way through your hike, that’s not really an option. Although you can supplement along the way!

When you get to that big busy Indiantown Road near Riverbend Park, 15 trail miles from the beach, just to the west you’ll find a gas station, and two restaurants. Pig out! Pizza or Mexican is on the menu. They are somewhat familiar with hikers and there are tables outside to sit at, and enjoy your meal. Less than a mile further down that road are more restaurants, and a Publix, if that is more to your liking.

A mile from the beach you can find a convenience store on Bridge Road 50 yards west of the trail, if you wish to have some cold drinks or snacks while you finish and relax on the beach, or a cold Gatorade for the beginning of your hike this is the best spot. At this same intersection you’ll see shops to your west, most importantly you’ll see the Taste restaurant. There is no better way to finish your hike, or alternatively no better way to pound some calories before you begin! They have seen my ugly mug many times, along with countless other hikers. Due to change in employees they may not be aware of what you’re doing, but whenever I stopped in they always knew what I was up to and asked if I was with the FTA. Very nice people, be sure to tip big to make a good impression for the rest of us! My favorite meal is the Portobella Sandwich.

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A Pine Lily in Corbett, a seasonal flower that’s very beautiful. Likely you won’t see these anywhere other than out in the wild.

Navigation

The Florida Trail Association really does an amazing job at marking the trail to make our job of hiking it, and not getting lost an easy one. Although there are a few places that are notorious for being mildly confusing, or I could see how they might trip up someone. Sometimes through the activity of hiking our minds wander, and we find ourselves off trail! Even after walking this 14 times from end to end I still miss turns here and there. Silly? Maybe, but it’s true. Luckily for us there are a couple options to help with navigation, and making sure we don’t find ourselves in a situation that is out of hand. One man got lost in Corbett for example and wound up spending the night out there unexpectedly without proper gear.

There are paper maps provided by the FTA that can be found on their website, under side trails, Ocean to Lake. Sandra Friend, the operator, and founder of the wonderful website Floridahikes.com has also created a phone app that uses gps to locate, and tell us where we are. The entire Florida Trail can be purchased within the app, or you can simply buy the section you need, in this case that would be the Ocean to Lake. It’s cheap and totally worth it.

Personally I would go with the phone app, but as we all know battery life doesn’t last forever, so if you have no way of charging your phone out there or understand that accidents do happen and electronics do fail, maybe the paper maps are the best option for you. It is smart to get and use one or the other.

A must have is the data sheet for this trail, which can be found on the Loxahatchee chapters website. It is mile by mile what you will come across. An invaluable tool for planning which campsites you’re going to stay at, and how far you’re going to travel each day. Sandra’s application has this implemented in it, so you don’t technically need to carry the sheet with you so long as you’re using that. Otherwise I feel you absolutely need the sheet on your person.

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The “Florida Trail” phone application.

Cell Service

A good rule of thumb, the closer to the beach you are the better the service. There are very few places along the trail you won’t be able to make a phone call, and they’re all deep into Corbett or Dupuis. Then again if you keep walking generally you’ll find signal again. At the Loop 4 campsite in Dupuis for example try walking ~50 yards in a couple different directions, and I guarantee you’ll be able to use your phone.

If you are wanting to charge your electronics or clean up, I’m sure the pizza place or the gas station near Riverbend would happily let you use their outlets, and bathroom 🙂

Alternatively you could bring an external battery! You can find cheap ones with a USB port at Publix, or even cheaper on Amazon. I personally carry one of those, or a spare phone battery. It is nice to have the security of a phone call when you’re having a rough time, or need to be picked up!

When you enter or exit Corbett, leave the youth camp alone. Without prior permission their services aren’t for us, as far as I’m aware. If you like, feel free to call them prior, and ask.

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Some rare neon pink dragonfly.

Places of Attraction

Along the trail there a very many beautiful locations for breaks, as well as benches, tables, boardwalks, bridges, and animals who can always be found in specific areas.

  • In Johnathan Dickinson State Park you’ll find sand dunes, two wonderful campsites, an endless matrix of pine trees, palmetto, and tall grass waving at you in the wind, as well as wetlands, and a beautiful single track trail winding through it all. Not only that, but JDSP is home to Kitching Creek which has a very pretty little bridge over it, as well as a few boardwalks scattered throughout the park. In this area you’ll eventually find yourself walking along the Loxahatchee River which provides great places to stop, rest, and enjoy the view or even go for a swim! If you are so inclined, when you get to the abandoned orange grove, see if you can find one that’s good to eat!
  • Riverbend Park is a wonderful place for a picknick as it has many sheltered tables and benches. Hell, I’ve taken many a nap away from the heat laying on their tables. There are also many lakes, small rivers, and an abundance of animal life, including wild peacocks. This area is protected, so often the deer won’t at all be concerned with your presence. I often see turkeys here, as well as owls, and other birds I don’t exactly know the names of. In the front of the park(off trail) there are porta potties. This area is where you’ll find Indiantown Road, and those restaurants.
  • The Loxahatchee Slough is wild in many ways with trail covered by large palm trees towering over you, wet open prairies, multiple wonderful boardwalks through cypress swamps, and a small campsite. About a mile from the campsite there is a pitcher pump with some benches, and here you’ll cross a large metal foot bridge over a very long canal. The Lox Slough is a favorite of mine for the amount of wildlife I see there. More so than anywhere else on the trail this seems to be the home of many wild pigs! I’ve never once had a problem, and at one time I saw 12 of them all scatter from me as I startled them. I frequently see cute little baby pigs and once or twice they strayed from their parents, and seemingly were leading me down the trail. This area is a good place for a couple breaks. I recommend the bench on the boardwalk, you’ll know the one.
  • The Hungryland Slough is what I believe to be a planned neighborhood that never came to be. You walk along a grid of dirt roads through wetlands, and often here I run into deer. A lot of places along this section offer big views of the vast water and tall grass that surrounds you.
  • Corbett by far is the deepest, wildest, section of this trail, and the Youth Camp at the front of the WMA also marks the halfway point in the OTLHT. Congrats! In Corbett you’ll find a lot of water to walk through, but wait! It’s not a bad thing because its accompanied by beautiful shallow lakes, and a winding single track trail through cypress domes. Some of my favorite sections of this trail are in Corbett as well as my two favorite campsites. Bowman Island camp is infrequently maintained but its really awesome because it’s on an island. You walk through the water ~30 yards to get there, and then you enter a tight jungle with a clearing in the middle for tents. Little Gopher campsite is 6 miles away from that one and also really great. Two small lakes nearby, benches, a fire pit, and the Big Gopher Canal which is home to an Alligator that I almost always see when I’m there! So when you’re approaching that area, keep your eyes peeled and you may see him. At Little Gopher, bonus points if you can find the orange tree.
  • Dupuis has it’s own special feel to it, at times similar to JDSP with pines but in a different much more diverse way. The animal I see here mostly is turkey, but I have seen bobcats, pigs, deer, and gators as well. A friend told me she saw a panther, although I’m not sure I believe it! The loop 4 campsite is totally awesome with a lot of fun places to explore nearby. Dupuis in the past was ranching land so you’ll find a lot of old and rusting relics from a time forgotten as you pass through. Bonus points if you find the bathtub 🙂 At the Corbett / Dupuis boarder there is a very large canal I like to stop and take breaks at, I often see alligators, and more interesting… otters!

All of these Natural areas are very unique in regards to one another. Something I really love about the trail, with each new section comes a different feeling.

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Boardwalk built as an eagle scout project by the boy scouts, in the Loxahatchee Slough.

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Trail in Dupuis lined with little yellow flowers for miles on end.

Hiking Season

The best time to hike this trail is when its comfortable outside, so hiking season starts with the first cold front of the year. In 2015 that was late November, ending when the nice weather dissipates typically around late April. If I were to recommend a best time to get put there that would be January-March. April might be a bit on the uncomfortable end if you don’t pick dates wisely, and earlier than November the trail might still be waiting to be maintained in various locations.

Be aware that the bulk of trail maintenance season ends in February and starts again in October. For this reason and more importantly the heat of the summer May-September are pretty rough times to be hiking the trail. Then again I’ve done that multiple times. Just be careful please. The amount of bushwhacking you’ll have to go through, and lack of water may be more than you are imagining during these months.

Something else to be aware of is hunting season. I have never had a problem, even during the heart of general gun season, but there are times of the year where you’ll want to wear very bright colors. General gun is the one you want to be aware of. Small game, or whatever the other seasons are called simply aren’t a big deal. You can find the schedule here(Corbett / Dupuis.) I’ve had good experiences with all the hunters, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few bad seeds out there. Corbett and Dupuis are the only two places along the trail that allow hunting. In Dupuis you likely won’t see anyone as it’s much further out west, but in Corbett they’re there. After a log day of not finding any animals to kill some Knorr Pasta Sides and trail mix starts sounding pretty good. Be sure not to feed the hunters so it doesn’t become an issue.

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My hunting season attire. At 6’2″ I sure hope I look nothing like a deer.

Gear

  • Hammock or tents are best. There are plenty of trees around to hang from, but what is most important is that you have some sort of bug netting to keep you sane, and a roof in case it rains.
  • You need to be sure you have some sort of rain gear, like a poncho or rain jacket as frequently storms can come out of nowhere, or you could get lucky and not experience that at all. Either way, its a must.
  • Make sure all of the important things in your backpack are water proofed. Either in ziplock bags, water proof stuff sacks, or the use of a compactor bag lining the inside of your pack. I use the latter.
  • I mentioned gaiters already but when it comes to walking through water and sand they really can be a wonderful thing to keep the crud out of your shoes. You can find some low cut ones online for cheap. Not a necessity, but may be something that keeps you from emptying sand from your shoes every couple hours.
  • Some form of sun protection is needed as you’ll be exposed in a lot of areas. Sunscreen, a hiking umbrella, maybe a quick drying long sleeve shirt, or a wide brimmed hat. You’ll be happy you brought ’em.
  • Some people like the comfort of a bug headnet. It’s a 1oz piece of fabric that goes over your head, and your hat, and keeps bugs off your face. The mosquitoes, and gnats are totally hit or miss so this is just an occasional comfort thing. I personally don’t carry one, but there have been times when I wish I had.
  • At least 3 pairs of socks. I dry one pair by hanging it from the outside of my pack while I wear another, and typically the third is worn while I sleep.
  • Dont forget the TP, and don’t forget to check the weather forecast to pack clothing accordingly for unpredictable temperatures!

 

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Bridge over a canal in Corbett WMA, and my backpack.

Speed Records

Including this because I can, and I want this article to be all inclusive. I know there are some rare few of you out there who are crazy like these folks!

The trail is 63 miles, and here are the fastest times it has taken to do the whole thing from end to end. The supported record was set at the annual Lake 2 Ocean 100k which takes place in June, but I know for a fact that there are better times of the year where that time would be easier to beat…

  • Supported: Andrew Barrett – 13 hours 36 minutes
  • Self-Supported: Christian Stewart – 13 hours 11 minutes
  • Unsupported: Jupiter – 33 hours
  • Unsupported yo-yo: Jupiter – 82 hours
  • Self-Supported yo-yo: . . .
  • Supported yo-yo: . . .

Feel like you could top any of this? Let me know if you do!

You ultra runners out there, the challenge has been presented. Nobody has yet done a supported or self-supported yo-yo. How quick do you think you could do it?

For anyone who’s really out of their mind, I once hiked the trail back to back 3 times in a row without any days off. How about a record for most continuous miles? I personally enjoyed that experience greatly, and over the course of those 8 days I noticed a lot of change in the trail that really enriched the experience. I even walked into a controlled burn in Corbett on my second time passing through, which was super cool!

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Runners at the start of a very brutal 100k.

Last of All…

If you do hike this trail be sure to check out the Florida Trail Association on Facebook and share your photos and experiences!!! They LOVE to hear that people are out there enjoying their trail. While you’re at it, consider becoming a member of the FTA 😉 The membership goes a very long way, and they sure do appreciate it! Or if you want to play a bigger part and help with trail maintenance, let me know and I’ll send you in the right direction. Without all the awesome volunteers this trail and others wouldn’t exist for us to hike, and they certainly need help from cool people like you!

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A few of the local FTA volunteers. Fred, Dean, Bea, Roy, and myself.

Useful Links

Check out the Florida Hiking Syndicate on Facebook too! Friendly group of Floridians who love hiking here.

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A misty morning in Johnathan Dickinson.

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Normally flooded, a cypress dome in Corbett.

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Eric going for a swim in the Loxahatchee River.

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The one, the only…

Thanks for reading! I sincerely hope this is helpful, and gets you out on the trail!!

Happy hiking, and if I can leave you with one last tidbit… be respectful! Leave No Trace

Jupiter

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A happy man finishing his trek at the beach.

ECT: Not-So Private Emails

 

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Something different…

A short conversation between Sycamore and myself. Aside from being an all around badass and triple crown hiker, just last year he completed the Eastern Continental Trail, which I’m about to embark on! So lately he’s been helping me with logistical questions regarding the trail, and in general hyping me up for the journey ahead.

I figure since most of my posts are extremely long and drawn out I’d share this as it kinda sums up what I’m up to right now, in the most informal way possible.

I fly to Canada in a month, so I’m reaching my final days here in Florida. Soon I’ll be very far north, making my way back home, slowly.

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How’s your planning???

It is getting close!!!  What do you have left to do??

Did you ever notice that if you go to the French page for the SIA/IAT and hit the translate button, you get a ton more information than compared to the English page….  Thought that was weird…

Got all of your food done?  Who is managing it on the home end?  So bad ass!!

What shoes are you using?

Is your pack a zpack or a mountain laurel?

Hope you are well!!!

Syc

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Hey John! I am well and at work! 46 more days to go before I hit trail. I fly out june 29th, have my passport and everything. I’ve decided next week I’ll put in my two weeks here… cus I’m super burnt out!! Can’t continue on… death….

What do I still have left to do is a damn good question. I grapple with it everyday. I made a list and anytime I think of anything, no matter how stupid… I put on the list! The most important… call and get a reservation for gaspesie park or whatnot, and of course the dreaded passporte! But I’ll probably do that tomorrow. I’m sure they’ll walk me through it, but am I just telling them where I plan to camp for the 400 miles in quebec? My aim is 20 miles per day but we’ll see how I’m feeling, and truly how rough the terrain is, as from what I’ve heard, read, and seen…. it’s gnarly!

I guess I also have to decide if I wish to send a box to the discovery center or if I could manage some sort of resupply there. I’d prefer not hitching a ride, and I think that’s really the best place before entering the next section without some sort of ridiculous carry that I don’t want to do. I would have liked to avoid shipping to canada due to the extremely high cost, so it goes.

All of my food is done, and boxed, bagged, what have you. Still wish to add some extra goodies to each box so I can snack while I unpack! My mom will be the box manager, I’ve made it pretty easy for her, with everything labled, and an inventory list of extras I may want. She knows the routine.

I’m using the Altra Lone Peak 2.5s. They’re awesome!! I’ve been using Altra shoes exclusively for the past two years of hiking, and I’m super stoked on em still.

My pack is Mountain Laurel Designs, Burn, the smallest model. Just what I need and nothing more! Pretty great company. Still out there innovating for us hardcore folks who want to go lighter.

What else should I be doing??

Training.
Looking for a pocket french translation guide.
Getting permits for big cypress, eglin, and great smokey mountains ready.

I’m pretty much done, but feel like I’m missing small things.

Nice to hear from ya!

Jup

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Yo yo yo!

Passport-make a quick spreadsheet and just put down 20 mile days (approx) and figure a town/camp/refuge.  I added dates and that was about all that my itinerary was to get my permit.

I definitely think you will be surprised and will do 20’s off the bat.  Maybe not and no need to rush, but….

Speaking of that, did you ever look up what the speed record for the ECT is?  I think you may be set to beat the fastest time.

Send a box to Discovery Center.  If you really don’t want to, it is an easy hitch up to a town on the coast, but too far to walk (like you wanted to).  Or you could pack a box at Gaspe and send it to the Discovery Center.  That would save a ton in shipping.  Yeah, load up there because it’ll be a ways to get through Matane.

Quit that job, Stretch those muscles, and get the party started!!!

Syc

 

(Check out Sycamore’s ECT thru hike on youtube here: Part 1 / Part 2, and his trail journal)

 

Mail Drops? Mail drops.

 

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Boxes that aren’t yet filled.

MAIL DROPS AREN’T FOR EVERYONE. This we all know, but for me, they’re awesome.

TL;DR I’m vegan, and I don’t want to waste time in town, I want to be on trail. These reasons alone make mail drops worth their weight in gold. JK, because they’re ultimately fairly cheap, considering what I’m sending myself(food I like, and wouldn’t find on trail.)

Since I’m getting almost 100% of my resources through the mail on this coming thru hike I thought I’d address drop boxes and why I like them really quick. As most will tell you that they’re a waste of time, or that they’re unnecessary. They’re not! For some that is true, but not everyone, otherwise why would you see so many of the best hikers in the world using them?

For those unaware, in long distance hiking, like really long distance, 300-8,000 miles in one go, distance hiking… You have to get food some how! How you wonder? Every few days you get off the trail and go into a local town, or sometimes there’s a town directly on the trail, and you pick up food for the next stretch between towns. Some do this every 3 days, some like to stay on trail longer and may wait as long as 6 days(or even longer) without resupplying. Obviously this is done because carrying 4 months of food on your back would be extremely difficult. I welcome you to try!

Most folk will find the nearest shopping center and begin perusing! But there is another way! What if… you had a box with all the extra gear, maps, guides, and food that you need waiting for you right there? That’d be pretty cool! Well actually, that’s reality. That’s precisely what sending and receiving a mail drop is like. But what makes that better than just buying it in a town?

Why am I using the postal service as my means for resupply vs just getting everything in town?

  • I’m saving money! By scoring food through deals at home, or online, I can skip out on similar food, or the same food that’s price is gouged in some small convenience store along the trail. Grocery stores every week have different sales. There’s no guarantee that when you go into town for resupply you’ll find anything you want on said sale. So how about before leaving for your trip, getting some cheap food that you love… and then sending that to yourself for later! This is especially great for meals you can buy bulk for less.
  • They’re faster! By the time I get to the hostel or post office I’ve sent my mail to, grab my box, and get back to the trail(or a restaurant,) you’ve just now stepped foot in the grocery and begun the process of shopping. Only to leave the store and see me exciting the nearest buffet, long after I got my package. There is no contest. A box is a faster resupply. All your food prepared just the way you like it. Portioned out just the way you like it. There is no fuss, no hassle, and chances are your mum probably added some cookies from home in said box. They’re faster, period. For those looking to do really speedy thru hikes, this is definitely a way you can cut down on time spent in town.
  • No more searching for extras! That convenience store you’re about to steal the TP from? They need that, other “customers” need that, and chances are it’s poor quality paper anyway. With a drop box…. you can have that fancy 30 ply shit your girlfriend uses! You know the kind, it smells like lavender. My point is, you need more than food. You may need toothpaste, a new t-shirt, more water purification drops, extra socks, batteries, nail clippers, a razor, etc. Who wants to run around town looking for these extras, whatever they may be? I just want to get them, and go.
  • I don’t want to eat gas station food! This situation may be somewhat uncommon but sending yourself mail drops really allows you to go nuts and buy a ton of super cool foods you’d never ever be able to buy on trail, if you have the money. This is great for those of us who want to eat healthier, or have special dietary needs, and may not salivate as much as the next guy when staring at a honey bun. I can send myself healthier foods, hell, dehydrated foods! The kind where my mom makes it for dinner, and I take all the leftovers, and stick it in the dehydrator! Delicious, and avoids the tough decision between couscous or ramen noodles every night(couscous always.) Mail drops give you the freedom to spend the months before your hike gathering super amazing foods to eat on your hike.
  • They allows me to carry less! That pound of guidebook and maps you’re carrying? I split it up into little pieces that weigh next to nothing. Each section will be sent to when I will need them on the trail! If you’re thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, you’ll probably need an ice axe and crampons in the Sierras, so why carry them from the start? Put it in the box being sent to that section! For me, it’s really the maps and guides. 4,800 miles across 7 different trails. Holy maps! Why do I need a guide book for the Florida Keys section of my hike when I’m starting in Canada? I’m also carrying less weight because before leaving on my hike, I can search for and buy foods that have a high caloric density, vs whatever I may find out there.
  • They’re more organized! Do I want to sit outside of a grocery store tearing up boxes and packaging to put into ziplocs, or portioning out what I’ll eat for the next 4 days? I don’t. In my box all of that is done. I have the exact food I need, I have the maps and guides I need, the extra gear I need. Everything. The only thing I need to think about is not how much food I should buy and where I’ll resupply next, it’s where the nearest restaurant is.

So that’s kind of some random basics off the top of my head. If you want to send mail drops on your thru hike… do it! Don’t let some fool on the Appalachian Trail forums tell you it’s stupid. You may regret that decision, but that’s how you learn!

I will say the advantages of the mail system become more apparent the more experience you gain. Do you know how many triple A batteries you’ll go through in 6 days? How about how many socks in 2,000 miles. Knowing stupid stuff like this makes mail more beneficial to you, as you can send what you need, when you need it. Not sooner, not later. It removes the hassle of making these decisions on trail, as boom 800 miles in, I got a new pair of shoes. Didn’t even have to look at Amazon once!

Without a doubt the BIGGEST reason I’m using mail is because of the speed. I want to spend more time on trail, and less time in towns.

I won’t mention cons here, because I don’t care! Like everything in the hiking world, do your own thing. Do what is right for you. Chances are mail drops aren’t right for you! Despite these benefits that work in my favor, they don’t work in everyone’s favor.

There are many trails in which you don’t need to use mail drops, and frankly I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone. You’ll probably already know before reading this if that’s something you should be doing. But… Just because they may be unnecessary, doesn’t mean there aren’t many benefits to them. As stated above!

Love em or hate em……

Happy hiking!

– Jupiter

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