After I left Boyd’s Campground on Stock Island, I started north. Turns out I really did sprain my foot. I noticed there was a hospital near by, so I decided to be seen.
The Lower Keys Medical Center staff took really good care of me. When the doctor saw me, he examined my foot and found it to be pretty obviously inflamed. He felt the peroneal tendons in my right foot, as that was the site of the pain. After he took some x-rays to rule out any fractures, he determined I had sprained my foot, or rather, that all I had was Peroneal Tendinosis. This just means that I overused those particular tendons, typical of athletes and hikers who spend a lot of time running or walking on pavement. That made sense to me since all I had been doing since I got here was hiking along the paved Florida Overseas Heritage Trail. I was released with a wrapped foot, a prescription for Tramadol, and was cleared to continue hiking as long as I stopped to rest my foot for 30-45 minutes every mile or so.
Off I went, continuing north, to Big Coppitt Key. Here I decided I wanted to make camp and sleep for the night. Monroe County does not let backpackers stealth camp anywhere along the Keys. I learned that this was in response to their homeless population, rather than hikers and cyclists themselves. This got me thinking a lot about how we really need to do more as individuals to help alleviate the symptoms of involuntary homelessness and we need to stop treating homeless people like they are vermin to be repelled at any cost.
A trail angel by the name of Mike (who knows my history of volunteering with fire departments) suggested that I think about asking the folks at the Monroe County Fire Department in Big Coppitt Key if they’d allow me to stealth camp around the station. So when I got to them, I knocked on the door and met three guys called Tank, Brandon, and Justin. After introductions, they offered me some instant-cold ice packs to take with me and allowed me to use their hot water urn to make re-hydrate my dinner for the night. We chatted for a big and joked around. Then they suggested a few places where I could camp and so I set up and slept well under the stars. A big thanks to Tank, Brandon, and Justin for their awesome hospitality and willingness to help a fellow traveler on Spaceship Earth.
Waking with the dawn the following morning was just magnificent. I got some coffee at the Circle-K and started making my way north again. Around mid-morning I took a break to rest and ice my foot. Got some more coffee and ate breakfast out in front of the Baypoint Market at MM15.9. I chatted with the person who works there, Amber, who is also from the northeast. David & Jamie will be happy to hear that she was wearing a Phillies hoodie.
After stretching and wishing Amber farewell, I started toward Lazy Lakes Campground on Sugarloaf Key, where I was planning to stay for the night. I rested a few more times along the way and took a photo of one of the only actual trail markers for the trail I was hiking.
I got to Lazy Lakes Campground at around 2:30. When I checked in, I met one of the owners, Mary. Such a wonderful person who was extremely helpful with any questions I had. I told her that she reminded me of my Aunt Terry and we chatted a bit more. I got a tent site, but she warned me that I probably couldn’t get my tent stakes into the coral.
Most of the afternoon I spent charging my various electronics, icing my foot, and reading. I met a man named Phil from Lake George, NY and many other folks. They had a pot-luck dinner that night they I was invited as a guest. Before the meal started, I met another couple, Jean and Mike Venegoni. Mike is a seasoned backpacker, though he doesn’t get out as much as he would like. Now he and his wife travel by RV. But we talked for hours (and shared many a cup of the waters of life) about the various places we both have hiked and he was very excited about my own journey to Maine. He has hiked a great deal of the Continental Divide Trail and told me I should get on that next.
When the pot-luck ended, people cleared the tables and made room for a game they called Marbles & Jokers. I had never heard of the game, but being a quick study of such things, I picked it up fast. I played on a team and, though we lost all three rounds, I think we had the most fun.
The evening ended late, but it was perfect for stargazing. I decided to forgo the tent and sleep just on my sleeping pad with my bag.
When I woke up the next day, I definitely needed the four cups of coffee I guzzled down and the three bowls of oatmeal and three eggs. Off I went, but about a mile in my foot started killing me. I hadn’t yet filled the prescription for the Tramadol, so I took some ibuprofen and hoped for the best. In the end I got 15 miles out of the day and landed in Big Pine Key, where I got to see some of the cool, by endangered, Key Deer. I got one photo from the CVS parking lot because it was already too dark to get many others. They a believed to be a subspecies of the White Tailed Deer, but they have lived in the Keys since coming over a land bridge during the Wisconsin Glaciation.
From Big Pine Key I took a bus up to Marathon in order to stay with some folks I met through a fellow AT hiker I’m friends with on Facebook, Greywolf. He said his friends Etchasketch and Sherlock could host me on their live-aboard sail boat, the Hypatia, in Boot Key Harbor. What I did not realize is that I was about to make a bunch of new friends.
Etchasketch works at the skate park in Marathon, which is where we met up. Also hanging out was his friend and fellow boat-mate, Sherlock. Etch’s girlfiend Miranda joined us as well. I was too tired to be very talkative, but Sherlock and I chatted for a bit anyway while we waited for Etch to be done with work. They get back and forth from the Hypatia via dinghy, so we went out and I zonked out pretty quickly.
The Hypatia is a classic 1976 Morgan sailboat. Etchasketch and Sherlock bought a Universal Atomtic 4 engine and completely rebuilt it. It’s quite a beauty and they just started installing it this weekend. There was a buzz of excitement around the Marina’s workshop as they started it up. Folks gathered around to catch a glimpse of this beauty and congratulate them on a successful mission. Even I, who knows very little about such things, was excited and proud of their work.
While Etch & Sherlock worked on the engine, Etch’s friend Theresa and I hung out and explored a bit. Hoping to see manatees, we did end up catch a glimpse of an iguana, some schools of fish, and what looked like some bright orange coral.
The next day we went to IHOP, where I downed a ton of coffee before saying farewell. Theresa dropped me in the upper keys where I got in another 17 miles of hiking. I tried to stealth camp, but the sheriff was not friendly about it. Shanice, this awesome person I met at Tom Thumb, gave me a place to rest for an hour (and the schedule for the bus) and then I bused back to Marathon to stay one more night on the Hypatia – a beautiful night for it, the stars ever bright.
So, I ended up staying for four nights. I was sad I didn’t get to hang out a lot with Miranda, but I’m looking forward to hanging out more in the future.
Today I am taking the bus back to Key Largo to continue my hike north. The Florida Trail is coming up soon! Lots of love to all. If you want to keep reading more blog posts about this exciting adventure, please consider a contribution to my Go Fund Me page: http://www.gofundme.com/trekonthetrail. Thanks!