Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 1: The Hike Begins

Amanda and I woke up early, ready to head off to the small town of Pahokee for the start of the annual Big-O hike around Lake Okeechobee, one of the largest lakes in the United States.

The hike started at 8:00 in the morning, and we followed a some hastily erected signs to the marina where dozens of people with Florida Trail gear were already milling around.

The two of us registered, myself for the entire hike, and Amanda for the 'wimp walk,' a three or four mile section that they would provide shuttles back to Pahokee.

At eight, not necessarily eight sharp since Paul (the guy who officially started the hike) asked me what time *I* had, and my watch was still on Pacific time from BEFORE the time change--the hike started. A mass of a hundred people or so started off.

Amanda and I headed back to the car so I could pick up my backpack. I planned to camp for free on the dike much of the time and needed backpacking gear.

The wimp walk went well enough. The temperature started off chilly--especially so with the wind chill--but not bad and it warmed up quickly as soon as we started hiking.

At the end of the wimp walk, Amanda had her photo taken with all the other wimp walkers--at least those who had made it that far so far--by a local reporter. Look for her in the paper soon! =)

Amanda got on the first shuttle back to Pahokee, and I continued my hike.

I can't say it was particularly thrilling or exciting. The walk was flat and easy. The weather windy, but sunny. I met several other hikers along the way who I chatted with.

The most noteworthy was Cliff, 91 years old and planning to hike completely around the lake. Born during the Woodrow Wilson administration. He doesn't remember Woodrow at all--he was too young for that--but he did tell me he remembers when Herbert Hoover was president.

This man has been around for a long time! He seemed remarkably spry for a 91 year old. Looking at him, I'd have guessed he was 20 years younger.

He served in the Navy during WWII--was even stationed at Pearl Harbor, but he was in California when that was bombed. His wife was there at the time, though. His war years were spent in the Pacific on submarines.

He already holds the record as being the oldest person to hike around Okeechobee--he did it last year at the young age of 90. He didn't walk fast, but he wasn't last either!

At the end of the day, everyone else took off. Some went to Pahokee to get their cars and go home. Others were shuttled to the KOA in the city of Okeechobee where most people who planned to do the whole hike were staying.

I, however, hiked out a couple of more miles and camped on the dike. It was free, and the views over the lake were wonderful! I made burritos for dinner, and watched the sun set as alligators swam around in the lake. Probably waiting for me to go to sleep, I thought.


Anonymous said...

wow... sleeping alone on a dike with alligators hanging around? Please tell us you made it through the night safely.


Anonymous said...

hansenclan, sleeping with the gators is old stuff for this seasoned hiker.......been there done that and he survived to tell us all about it. what is surprising is that out of all those people no one else slept on the trail, after all they did camp out.
hey, ryan, have a great hike!! are those in charge of this O hike planning any celebration for you hikers on Thanksgiving Day?
thanks for feeding our habit of reading your hiking adventures.


Anonymous said...

Mmm, said the alligators, burritos!
The Travelers 4

Anonymous said...

The hikers (and their guests) will be having Thanksgiving Dinner at the Clewiston Inn in Clewiston, FL. They will also be putting on a talent show that evening. :-)

-Amanda from Seattle

Anonymous said...

I live in West Palm Beach. Any chance of getting to meet you/exchange with you in Clewiston?

-Southern Oracle