In 2001 I was working at a food distribution warehouse in
Calhoun county in South Carolina. Calhoun has the distinction of
being the second poorest county in the state but also sharing
borders with two of the three richest counties of South Carolina.
The disparity of income is obvious in homes and businesses. My
company had received tax breaks for locating there to help the
local economy. The building is located on a dead end frontage road
beside I26. There is a rest stop on the interstate about a hundred
yards past the driveway to our building. The area is otherwise
deserted. No homes or businesses for miles; just scrub pines and
sand. Each weekday we opened for inbound receipts at 6AM. One day I
could hear a dog barking in the parking lot. Loud and constant –
bark, bark, bark. It stopped about lunchtime. I figured it to be a
trucker’s dog. Many over the road truckers who make long hauls keep
a dog with them for company. The next day was a repeat: bark, bark,
bark. I got to see it, though. It was a sheltie, and very nervous.
It barked at trucks, at people; at noises and at any movement. It
also barked for reasons I could not determine. Bark, bark, bark.
Then around noon – silence. After a third day it became clear that
a routine was established. The barking shift started work at 6AM
and knocked off for the day at noon. No one was allowed to get
within 50 feet. She didn’t ease away; she ran. Guys were tossing
food from the vending machines out in the parking lot but she never
came close enough to get any while there were witnesses. I tried
not to get involved. I have a soft spot for animals and knew the
danger: I had a dog at home; I didn’t want another dog. Dogs are a
lot of responsibility. About a week after it first showed up James,
a mechanic’s assistant told me he would like to give that dog a
home but he couldn’t catch her. “Say no more – I will catch that
dog for you,” I promised him. You cannot catch a dog who has been
eating hot dogs and honey buns by using dog biscuits. Day one –
fail. This dog recognized a wire dog crate and wouldn’t be bribed
near said crate with mere hot dogs and honey buns. Day two – fail.
On day three of ‘I will get that dog for you’ I came armed with a
pot roast. I went to the grocery store bought a pot roast and
cooked it – solely to lure this canine to me. She (I could see that
it was a she when she approached the man peddling ambrosia)
actually took some from my hand. A few tidbits later and she
followed me over to the wire crate. A dozen tasty bites later and I
tricked her into leaning too far into the doorway and I shoved her
in. I am treacherous, I am. James backed out of his verbal
commitment to the dog as fast as any weasel could ever hope to
squirm. The facility manager had a sheltie of 11 years who had died
only three months prior – too soon. He couldn’t stand the idea of
another dog yet. So I did what a guy should do when he traps a lady
with a pot roast. I took her home with me. One trip to the vet
later and I knew she wasn’t chipped. Posters went up. No responses.
I had a dog. She fit in very quickly. She was subordinate to my
other dog and he trained her about yard and house manners in short
order. He passed away several years ago but she has remained a good
companion since she agreed to eat my cooking on that fateful day.
Twelve years later and I still have a dog.
In 2001 I was working at a food distribution warehouse in
Saturday after we finished up volunteering with Animal Warriors four of us drove over to Juniper Springs to hike and camp.
It was a late start, Florida is too hot for this crap, we smelled vaguely of manure, and hiking in “sugar sand” always just plain bites. Perfect for a shakedown hike.
Whenever you plan to use minimal equipment for an extended period of time such as, oh I don’t know – say, hiking for 6 months with only what you carry on your back, it’s a good idea to have a reasonable degree of comfort with that equipment BEFORE you get started. That also has to be balanced against wear and tear. You don’t want to overuse something and have to deal with it being on its last legs when you need it to be in prime condition.
So, given that we are fairly comfortable with our gear we put this off until last weekend.
The hike started off with confusion. The ranger had to cancel our park admission and rerun the transaction. For the record hiking there costs about half of a day use pass. Weird.
We got out on the trail soon enough and spotted a campsite within 100 yards of the road. Nice if you were hiking the FT and wanted to use park facilities.
After about 1/4 mile I started pushing out ahead of the group. I wanted to stretch it out a bit and to get some alone time as well. Outrunning the group was win-win for me.
I hit a large succession area after about another mile. This was caused first by hurricane damage and followed up by wildfire. The newer vegetation was all under 10 feet with the occasional tombstones of old burned pines reaching for the sky. This area was pretty hot with the sun beaming down and nothing to intercede on our behalf. I actually got out my hat.
After another mile to mile and a half I ran up on a dry pond alongside the trail. Following it for about half its length I ran across a small open area that was too small for anything except the smallest of tents yet was still an open shaded spot where I could have a much needed break. I drank up the rest of my Gatorade, changed socks, excavated 1/4 ton of sand from my shoes and rested for 10 minutes or so and then pushed on. I was beginning to get worried about finding a good campsite – there had been nothing since before the succession area and the sun was definitely on decline. I thought we had about an hour and a half til sundown.
As I made my way through a treeline my phone rang. The group was worried that I might be too far ahead and we needed a campsite that everyone would reach before dark.
After some discussion I dropped my pack in the treeline and scouted ahead. Three hundred yards or so up the trail was a suitable area. My phone rang again as I made it back to my pack; the group had found a campsite that I flat out missed just before the dry pond.
We regrouped at that location and set up camp. Surprise! I left the tent pole at home. We improvised with pretty good results. Two trekking poles and a few feet of paracord later we were almost as good as if we had a pole. Tarptents are really versatile: Henry Shire makes a damn good product.
Dinner was couscous cooked with water boiled over our Esbit stove.
The night passed with little drama. Started out too hot (Florida), started to rain, then quit (Florida), and I learned that my sleeping pad was defective. I bought a Thermarest Prolite XS which just lays under my torso. My bag goes under my feet and this helps me conserve space and weight. It also only takes a couple of breaths to inflate. And if the valve leaks it goes flat in a couple of hours. I reinflated twice and sucked it up the rest of the time. Pine needles are soft.
The next morning I made coffee and oatmeal while Jess packed. She cleaned dishes while I packed. We were ready to go with little time and no rush or confusion.
The skies were cloudy and the temps were cooler; the hike out seemed short and we reached the car by 9:30. Spirits were high and we all had a good time.
Before the drive home we stopped at the park facilities for a bathroom break and I checked out the spring – very pretty.
We’re on our way home as I peck away at my cellphone to create this post. I’m riding in the back of our friend’s Jeep and trying to correct all my errors as we bounce down I75.
We camped in Ocala National Forest last night. Yesterday was a busy day. We threw all our prepped hiking gear in the car and drove over to our friends’ house where we transferred it to the back of their jeep to ride with their packs.
Then we drove up to Ocala to do volunteer work with Animal Warriors. For yesterday we worked at Kindred Spirits, which is a farm animal sanctuary. They give a home to a variety of farm animals rescued from vad situations. The work for this visit wss routine but needed – we cleaned stalls in a barn. Scrubbed walls kind of cleaned – not just replacing litter.
After the work we fed out apples and carrots we brought in to the residents – a treat for us and them. We finished up with a picnic style lunch put on for us as thanks. It was vegetarian and I am not but it was still pretty tasty. Chips, hummus, pita bread, salads and fresh strawberries.
With a little manure aroma to spice up the ride we parted from the other volunteers and headed to Juniper Spri ngs. Along the wsy we stopped at an Arby’s where I deemed the stall in the Men’s room to be up to sanitary standards for me to change into hiking attire.
I have special underpants for hiking. After getting some serious chafing on some early hikes I researched and found it to be a common problem. A swipe of antiperspirant on the areas likely to be affected does fantastic as prevention. So does wearing wicking undergarments. As my thighs have toughened I have found that I no longer need to put on the antiperspirant. One less thing to carry – yay.
So I changed in an Arby’s restroom. Then we went to hike, which I will post about soon.
Yesterday we went on a fossil expedition down near Arcadia. There is a small company (husband and wife team) who take people out for a day of fossil hunting for a reasonable fee. What you get for your money: a location that produces fossils regularly, tools to excavate the fossils, and a guide who provides both of the above along with a plethora of information about your finds and generally good conversation during your expedition. You can find out about what they do by checking out ther website: http://www.fossilexpeditions.com/
Our group was not very large. There were nine of us, including a young kid who spent over half the day playing on his dad’s ipad instead of out in the creek. Oh, the creek. In the area we’re in you don’t find fossils in layers of rock. You find them in layers of clay. And the best way to get them out of that clay is to wash it away. Or to have access to a creek that is already doing that for you. Our guide has exactly the latter. The site we went to was on private property where no one else digs so our guide had a very good idea of not only where to set us up but also of what we were likely to find. After a fifteen minute or so briefing where he did some show and tell with some example fossils he set us out and let us choose from places he identified as good spots. As we got going in our various spots he visited each group and identified our findings, gave friendly advice and chatted us up a bit. All in all it was confidence inspiring.
Initially I was shocked at the water temperature; has no one informed the creek that this is Florida? C-c-cold. After a half hour or so I didn’t mind the temp any more because I was getting the knack of it enough to really enjoy myself. I would get a shovel for Jess in her sifter and then get one for myself and we would work the material. We found shark’s teeth first. They are easy to recognize. Then we started identifying bone bits, and after a long while I came up with a fine old world horse tooth. It would be the best thing I found throughout the day.
In the afternoon Jess had enough and declared her session at a close. I stuck it out and used the added flexibility of working solo to move around a bit and try some different methods. I discovered that the guide had definitely put me on a spot that was rich in fossil material. I moved into slghtly deeper water following the vein of material. After removing shovel fulls I began using a ‘Florida snow shovel’ to rake over the area to see if I could pull up anything that may have been dislodged and just sitting around on the bottom. I wound up finding a lot of turtle plating that way and eventually a piece of alligator jaw. Good stuff.
We finished up after nearly five hours of excavating time and the timing was excellent. Despite having taken a small break for lunch I was flagging. We gathered around the vehicles and exclaimed over one another’s finds for about half an our and then we went our separate ways. A good day.