Our friends Pete and Bee met us at Shell Island Fish Camp in St Marks with our resupply. They also brought and cooked a fine steak dinner. What a night! What friends! We stayed an extra day at St Marks and let the rain pass before we hiked to the final campsite in the St Marks area; Ring Levee. We were surrounded by beautiful lakes and marshes at the exact middle of the “big bend area.” We saw lots of alligators and other wildlife. I have heard Ring Levee is the most beautiful camp on the Florida Trail. I believe it. We were only about a mile from the Gulf.

After St Marks we headed North East towards Madison. The first two days we passed through a beautiful area called the Aucilla Sinks. This unique and beautiful area gets its name from the amazing and very large sinkholes on both sides of the river. The limestone formations in the earth allow for the river to carve out the sinks. Sometimes the river actually disappears into a sinkhole and comes up in a different place. Incredible beauty!

The next three days were almost all road walk due to a reroute in that area of the Trail. Leased forest land that was previously leased by the FT was sold and the new owners won’t allow the trail through the land. We did reach Madison and even spent the night in a motel. A real treat. We also picked up the next weeks resupply that Pete and Bee and left for us there. Thanks friends.

It took a long day’s hike from Madison to finally reach the Suwannee River. We hiked along the river for the next five days. The Florida Trail follows along the banks of the river. It is a beautiful and mysterious river that I never got tired of looking at. So far this has been my favorite section of the hike. Campsites were plentiful and a swim in the river every afternoon was very refreshing. When we arrived at Stephen Foster State Park, next to White Springs, the first sign I saw was “Alligators, no swimming.” I know God protected us. Our friends Pete and Bee met us there with another weeks resupply of food and a surprise dinner. I’ll take a zero (day off) here and rest up a bit. I’m leaving Tuesday morning and heading for the Osceola National Forest. I hear it’s very beautiful and can’t wait to see it.

I’m at mile 497. The entire route of the Florida Trail is 1400 miles which includes the Blackwater connector trail and various side trails. The official “thru hiker” mileage is 1100 miles. When I first started sending out info to friends about raising support for Hosanna House I wasn’t sure if I was going to add the Blackwater connector to the Alabama line. Also there were several reroutes being added which could potentially have added some mileage to the official trail mileage for thru hikers. So I settled on 1200 miles. The Florida Trail Association just had their annual meeting last week and their final word is that the reroutes didn’t add any significant mileage to the official mileage of 1100 miles. That’s good news for our donors who pledged by the mile. It’s also good news for me because it increases the odds that I can make it home for Christmas.

The Florida Trail is tougher than I thought it would be. It’s challenging with changing terrain, lots of insects, lack of enough campsites and very few towns so far. But it is fun and I’m enjoying every day. I’m motivated by the knowledge that the funds raised will help replace the old with new air conditioners that are sorely needed. Thank you again dear friends for all your help and support.

PS. Until yesterday we had only been rained on 1 day while hiking; a 30 minute rain leaving Navarre on the 3rd day. So encountering rain yesterday meant we went 40 days without getting wet. That has got to be some kind of record for the Florida Trail!!

Trail Thoughts:

Let the heavens rejoice and let
the earth be glad.
Let the sea roar and all it’s fullness:
Let the field be joyful and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of
the woods will rejoice before the Lord.
~ Psalms 96 vs 11&12

(Webmaster note: please accept our sincerest apologies for not posting this update until 11/19/15 – the delay was entirely our fault)