Editor’s note: Mark Bradford is contributing occasional posts from his diary on traveling the country with his wife Wendy while they rent out their Mishawaka home for six months.
Day 148 of our 190 day sojourn
Monday, November 20, 2023 — Somewhere in Florida
Sunday morning I had the bright idea to take a walk early in the morning through a state park we had never visited before. (Withlacoochee National Forest to be exact). The trail head was only five miles away from our house and the elevation was ten feet, so no mountains to climb, no streams to ford. Seemed to be an easy day.
Not so fast, my friend.
It was tougher than I thought it would be. As it turned out, we ended up walking for 90 minutes over sand with thorn bushes all over the place on a four-mile hike I thought would never end (I even threw away my socks after it was all over because the thorns won the battle).
One of my personal features is that I panic in uncontrolled situations that I consider even slightly life threatening. So as we wandered down the path, it became apparent that Florida does not mark their national forest trails very well, nor do they maintain the paths much better. It makes me nuts and makes me not want to hike them. After a few minutes, we got to the first “Y” in the unmarked path with no indication of where the paths went. So, it became a guessing game as to which way to go.
I don’t like guessing games in general. In particular, I don’t like guessing games when I am out in the middle of a strange walking path, knowing that if we make the wrong turn, it can add three more miles of exercise to the day.
Wendy uses a slimmed down version of “All-Trails,” meaning she has the free version that kind of, sort of, lets you know where you are. So we were able to kind of, sort of, know where we were unless we lost the signal.
We lost the signal quite often. Fortunately, Wendy guessed correctly.
Did I mention we did not take water with us? I was just certain that I was going to suffer some dehydration-related incident and never be discovered again. I was able to overcome that by reminding myself that I drank a small glass of water earlier that morning.
Then, just as I was starting to feel that life was OK, we heard the sound of some animal in some sort of distress about 200 yards away. A few minutes later, we heard it again and it was 100 yards away. I am fairly certain it was a mountain lion even though a mountain lion has never been in Florida to my knowledge. Being the defender of the family, I grabbed a rotted branch and decided if the mountain lion attacked, it may take defenseless Wendy before it took me.
At that exact moment Wendy started sing “Fal-de-ree, Fal-de-rah, Fal-de-ree, Fal-de-rahahaha, thinking that if that song was as annoying to the mountain lion as it is to everyone else I know, it would just go away, rather than eat us alive.
Her song must have worked. We never heard from the lion again. (Wendy thinks it was a wild pig, but if it was, it ruins the story, doesn’t it?).
So, using our on-again, off-again All-Trails and stopping every 500 yards or so to pull the stickers out of my ankle socks, we finally discovered the path back to our auto. I was SAFE!
Yet another self-induced crisis avoided. Fal-de ree, Fal-de-rah!