After leaving the RV campground the trail continues on the reservation for another 10 miles – first on the main road then onto dirt roads along the canals. My feet do not enjoy the roadwalks. There are some nice birds though – lots of herons and egrets, kingfishers, and a few sandhill cranes. Saw a red-shouldered hawk having an afternoon snack – he was so into his meal he let me pass by quite close.
The trail next passes through a stste-designated “stormwater treatment area” – a man-made wetland area built to filter water before it makes it’s way to the Everglades. The trail is on dirt roads running alongside wetlands and canals. There’s water everywhere but because it’s basically agricultural runoff from the sugarcane and cattle fields it’s not advised that you drink it, even after treating it. Volunteers kindly set out gallons of water during the prime hiking season at a few spots to help those hiking through. It is immensely appreciated!
Due to some construction the trail is slightly re-routed through this stretch and currently passes alongside the Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area. There are birds everywhere: herons, egrets, ibises, stork, moorhen, vultures, anhinga. Red-shouldered hawks and peregrine falcons. I saw a single roseate spoonbill, pink wings glowing in the light of the sunset.
I walked through this area on Sunday morning and there were hunters everywhere. There must have been ducks hiding out in the wetlands but I couldn’t see them from the road. By noon most of the hunters had left and the last few miles to the next water cache were quiet. The cache marked the end of the wetlands area as the trail began to pass by ranches then sugarcane fields, still on dirt roads alongside dikes. Camping alongside the canal I heard coyotes in the middle if the night.
Monday was more roads, more dikes, more canals. Meadowlarks singing in the fields. Halfway through the day I came to the next water cache which was at a lovely roadside picnic shelter. A truck hauling corn had spilt its contents and traffic was backed up in both directions waiting for the road to be cleared. It was wonderful sitting in the shade for lunch – resting the feet and setting out the tent to dry. It hasn’t been raining, but condensation inside and out has the tent thoroughly soaked each morning. I have to be careful packing up in the morning to not bump my head on the roof, sending a shower down on all my gear. The joy of a single-wall tent in humid climes.
Spent the night on the dikes – a train passed by a few times, blaring its horn as it passed. The mosquitos show up at dusk but are thankfully gone the rest of the time. My feet are in pain – I think there are 11 blisters in various stages, and I’ve run out of bandaids. I’m duct taped together at this point.
After a few miles the next morning I have a choice. The trail takes 17 miles to make it’s way to the town of Clewiston, heading east and north along the sugarcane dikes for 8 miles, then 9 mile northwest along the Lake Okeechobee dikes. The road, however, takes just 9 miles to go directly north into town. My feet tell me take the road, and after a mile or so I get a hitch into town.
My first stop is a drugstore where I buy many many bandaids.