Aaron Martina is an Florida based programmer and an international man of mystery. Well, he's not all that mysterious but he does travel the world now and then taking photos, eating interesting foods and diving the depths.

Backpacking in Florida

So, as of late I have made up my mind to do a 5-7 day trip on the Appalachian Trail this summer. I've purchased a small fortune in gear and literature to get myself prepared for the hike. In an attempt to get used to my gear and the idea of hiking for miles at a time I decided to do a segment of the Florida Trail (aka Florida National Scenic Trail) and camp over night. This was last weekend.Let's just say that things didn't go as planned. The segment that I originally wanted to backpack wouldn't let me park my car overnight at the trail head. To complicate matters there was an event on the trail in that area that would have meant that I would have to deal with people the whole time (which is not why I wanted to hike in the first place). I wiped out my trusty Florida Trail guide and found an alternative segment that although not as good as the one I wanted to do would probably be much more peaceful. I left that trail head and drove around for an hour and a half attempting to find the trail head for the alternate segment. I finally found it (or so I thought) so I parked the car and strapped on my gear. The Florida Trail (FT from now on) starts off somewhere in the panhandle of Florida and meanders through the state ending somewhere in the Big Cypress Reserve Park. But do to its meandering it crosses through many small communities such as Chulota. Anyway, that is where the trailhead was located at that I started hiking from. I started hiking following what I thought was the trail for a very short while until I didn't see any markings. In retrospect I should have taken this as an omen and stopped hiking and gone home and eaten a pizza. But instead I backtracked until I found the trail again and continued on merrily. While in Chulota, I passed through some nice kneighborhoods with large oak canopies. I saw a snake sunning itself on a sidewalk and many somewhat confused locals. I don't think they see many backpackers walking through this section of the FT. I was basicallly following orange blazes(spray-painted markings) on trees along some residential streets. After about 4 miles of hiking and 1 liter of water my right foot started to hurt. So I stopped for a rest and removed my shoe to find a small blister starting to form. Omen number 2. "Oh well" I said to myself and replaced my shoe. I noticed that the sun was starting to get high in the sky and the temperature had raised itself close to 90 if not more. I ate a quick lunch and continued along the FT. Now, I have dropped out of the residential communities and am following a state road through rural country-side with cow ranches and horse stables along the way. I think I scared some cows and their calves as I walked through the area. I guess they are also not used to seeing backpackers through here. There really isn't any shade as I walk along this road and the angle of the road's shoulders is REALLY messing with my ankles. I keep reminding myself that I will be in a forrested area soon enough and then I can rest, replenish my water supply, and finish out my hike in the cool and peaceful wilderness. Boy, was I misleading myself. A couple of hours later I am very tired and I have now finished my 2nd liter of water. I have been strolling along the same road for way too long without any shade. My baseball cap is soaked through with sweat. I've removed the long-sleeved sun shirt that I was wearing (with a shirt underneath) and have it draped over my head as a semi-turban/semi-cape. I meet up with a couple of local surveyors and they are extremely kind enough to give me an ice-cold water. I finally find some shade under some oaks and rest for a little bit. I have now travelled about 10 miles. My legs are killing me but I have nowhere to go but continuing on. I finally reach the Orlando Wetlands Park. Awesome place that I would have REALLY enjoyed if I wasn't in so much pain. The FT basically wraps around the boundaries of the park but you can also take a shortcut through and stay on the entrance road. At this point I am very frustrated that my whole hike was on a road and therefore I wanted to see a little bit of nature. Orlando Wetlands Park(OWP) is a very neat place. The city of Orlando takes treated sewage and flushes it into this park where the local flora, fauna, and fowl congregate and reap the rewards. I saw many vultures there and quite a few deer rib cages that had been picked clean. About halfway through the OWP loop I decided to rest for a long time (I had rested many times already in the OWP). My feet were absolutely killing me and my water supply was almost depleted. I was kind of afraid of replenishing it from the water in the wetlands park know where it came from. In the shade of some pines and an oak I removed my right shoe. As I had guessed I had a huge blister right beneath my big toe where it connects to the foot. This one I kind of expected as it is the same place where the original one was....What I didn't expect was the two very large blisters on the tips of my two tiniest toes on that foot. They were huge blisters. Being very freaked out at this point. I took off my other shoe knowing that I had aches but again I was surprised to see a huge blister on my lower heel and another under my big toe like my right foot. Now, I start seeing the vultures again and feel like they are watching me. I decide to leave my shoes off and hike the rest of the way in my sandals. Seems to work out alright as long as pebbles don't get between a blister and the sandal. I saw some cute baby alligators sunning themselves although this made me very wary that the mommy gator was around. I saw a few decently sized turtles. Some rather large gar fish. And a blue heron that scared the bejesus out of me when it took flight. The FT runs just outside the boundaries of the OWP for a section then returns on the south side. This last leg was the hardest for me. I could barely create a pace. I was stumbling every now and then. My water was almost gone with maybe 16oz left. After what seemed like an eternity I made it to a covered table area. I took all of my gear off. And whipped out the trust FT guide book. The campsite would have taken me off another mile and I didn't have much water. My heart broke. I made it all of this way and I couldn't camp out. I became very down as I thought of my upcoming hike on the AT. I decided to call a very good friend to come pick me up. I decided to finish the day by hobbling my way to the entrance of the OWP. She came and picked me up at there and we backtrack my entire day in a car in 20-30 minutes. The only thing I can do now is let my feet heal this weekend and get back out onto the trail the following weekend. This time with more water and a better plan of action. :-)

Misadventures in the sand

My first blog entry