When I awoke, I was greeted by a spectacular sunrise over Lake Okeechobee, the sunlight through the mist creating an array of pink, orange, red and gold in the sky and coloring the water's surface. Back on the trail around 8, about the time the morning mist burned off, and reaching Clewiston by 10.
Clewiston is by far the largest town on the Lake Okeechobee West section of the Florida Trail offering all major services. Walking down the main street (US 27) past fast food joints and traffic lights, we finally came to a supermarket where I intended to resupply. Eating a pint of strawberry ice cream on a bench in the cool, air conditioned space inside, just beyond the sliding doors, was a real treat. Especially, as the day was heating up rapidly outside.
Clewiston was Rich's jumping off point. He planned to stay in a hotel and get a lift back to the Lake Harbour post office to pick up his drop-box the next day. We shook hands, thanked each other for the conversation and wished each other the best. One might think it possible for us to meet again, but that's not what happens often on the trail. I'm travelling at a faster pace than him and he plans to take time off with some friends once he gets to Orlando.
I guess the one bad thing about Clewiston was the smell. A dirty-diapers-like stink was certainly noticeable near the market and, though fainter, the breeze brought the foul odor to the nostrils while I was up on the dike leaving town. Spanky, a former A.T. hiker we met at the store, told us that the smell came from a poultry farm or something to that effect.
The rest of my hiking time along the dike that day was spent bird-watching, marvelling at what appeared to be a hurricane damaged forest stripped of leaves and branches, photographing a wayward turtle and waving to a handful of passing cyclists.
Once on the outskirts of Moore Haven, I discovered that the lock was closed to foot traffic as a matter of national security on the very off chance that some crazed Jihadi warrior disguised as a Florida Trail thru-hiker, carrying a backpack full of TNT instead of trail mix and granola bars, tried to blow himself up along with the lock, emptying the waters of this great lake onto the people of South Florida. Sounds a little far-fetched to me, but better safe than sorry, eh? Then again, an old Greek axiom states, "Nothing to Excess".
Two miles of road-walking detour later I found myself on the other side of the lock at the entrance to Moore Haven RV Resort and Marina. At the fee station, where I paid my $10 for camping, I met the new owner, a friendly woman in her fifties with a classic southern drawl. Hearing about my thru-hiking status, my trip along the Pacific Crest the previous summer, and my eleven years living and teaching in the Czech Republic, the next two hours were spent in conversation as she peppered me with questions and related her own tales of interesting people she had met since taking over management of the place.
I suppose the chat could have continued, but it was starting to get dark and I needed to set up my tent. Besides, a performance of some local musicians was to take place in the evening at 7.
By the time I got myself situated, the pickin' and singin' had already started. Unfortunately, I still had to hit the showers. Ahhhh...the cool water washing over me to clean of the day's dirt and sweat. How utterly refreshing!
Freshly showered and wearing a change of clothes, I entered the "music hall" and took a seat on the left side near the wall. Fourteen musicians were seated in chairs up at the front with instruments ranging from acoustic guitar, bass, and mandolin to keyboards and harmonica. Each person in the group took his or her turn up front, selecting a song and providing the vocals. Even a couple of women from the audience were invited to come up and sing. At intermission, all-you can-eat bowls of Bluebell Ice Cream and cups of root beer floats could be had for a dollar. It goes without saying that I had both. All in all the country and folk concert lasted from 7 to 10 and a good time was had by everyone present. I was by far the youngest one there as most of those assembled were retirees in their sixties and seventies. Spoke a while with a retired couple from northern Georgia who lived near the Appalachian Trail, then back in my tent I finished another chapter of The Deerslayer.
Hurricane Damaged Trees