The next morning, now a few miles into section 3, I found the trail, closer to the river, on a access road. I eventually came to a "y" in the river and a lock. The caretaker was lowering a small fishing boat as I arrived, and I just continued onto a asphalt road towards a highway. There were a couple nice farms and ranches along the way. With my bag drooped over my pack I just continued on down the highway.
I crossed the highway,and followed the road till it turned left and turned into dirt. The road then continued till it came to a ladder over a barbed wire fence.
Now on a nice trail, that went from Hickory forest, to fields, I felt more at home. I had a few encounters with stubborn cows and an aggressive bull, as well as a large feral hog. The ranch land was beautiful, and the Hickory Groves were a lot like the oak groves, back in California. There was a couple of small swamps and muddy areas, but all in all it was a pleasant day walking. While trying to retrieve water from a covert, I was created by a very large Alligator. He was very aggressive, and was the first to scare the shit out of me. I could not retrieve water from here, for he followed me, where ever I went.
By evening I was back on the road, crossing the Kissimmee River, and next to the Historic Fort Basinger. I just continued the road walk though, along a busy Highway trying to make up the miles from a sluggish day. I was also now drinking crappy water, I pulled from a muddy creek. I was however using my filter straw, and it did not taste bad.
That night I walked late into the night and finished the road walk. This put me into a campground, just before it began to rain. There rain did not last long, and I slept well under a canopy of hickory trees. The next morning I would be starting "The Hickory Hammock" the so called "Jewel of the Florida Trail". [Although very nice, it is not in my opinion.}
Up early the next morning, I seached the campground for running water like it said in the guide book. After I was convinced there was none, I found the trail, and progressed North. I felt great to be off the road and began the day, jogging. Things were looking really nice. I even found a unopened bottle of water, just before another putrid water pump. I then exited the nice Palm Hammock, and entered the edge of the grassy everglades. There were signs of hogs everywhere, as well as tree stands for hunters. I passed right under a camouflaged hunters before noticing them twice, before I put my orange bandana on. Not far into neck deep of grass, I was now walking through water. To make matters worse, I could not see any trail. I did notice however, that there was a fence line that had signs that warned me of my entrance. I crawled under the barbed wire fence several times, back and forth, making my way to a wooden bridge. It must have took 3 hours to go 2 miles. Once upon the bridge, I could see that it was not going to get much better for a while. I saw some hogs in a clearing and a very large Gator close to the trail next to the bridge.
Eventually I made my way into Avon Airforce Base, where I noticed the guy who was ahead of me, had signed in a couple of days earlier. I was gaining on him fast and would probably see him in the next section. At the Kiosk, there were several geckos and colorful frogs as well.
Nearing dark, I made my way through a maze of Hickory Trees. Some of the Groves had large trees that I found majestic. As the light faded though, there was no way to see the blazes even if I would of had a powerful light. They were spaced very far apart, and rarely in a typical direction. It was hard enough during daylight hours. I eventually made a early camp and just gave up. I laid there in my bug tent, listening to the sounds of violent gunfire, while the Airforce Base was honing in their skills.
The last couple of days had put me behind schedule quite a bit, and I was starting to see that this was going to be a problem if it continued. If I was going to turn around, I was going to have to get back to my schedule, or I just wouldn't have the time.
The next morning, I could not get an early start, due to the visibility of the blazes. I just drug my feet, then eventually got things packed and went out searching for a blaze. It was not too hard to find in the light, and I was soon on my way.
Not far from where I started, I was surprised by a very large Feral Hog. He ran out to the trail and stood there listening and smelling the air for my presence. I pulled out the camera, and got some good footage of him. He finally figured my direction and grunted off into the brush. I wound myself through the forest and eventually out onto a cabbage palm prairie. I found myself on a dirt road, looking for blazes. Knowing I was getting close to my next resupply, I pulled out the I-Phone, and put in the address, and followed the road to another, and on to River Ranch Resort, my next resupply.
River Ranch Resort was a nice stop. I ate well, found decent groceries, and retrieved my box of new shoes and food for the next 3 days. I was lucky to find the Post Office open just long enough to mail out some supplies I thought I would not need. I sent my bottom and top thermals home, which later turned out to be a huge mistake. The weather had been so warm, and I just could not imagine it getting to the point of needing them. I also found out the hiker was less than a day ahead of me.
I was now on a hunt for a stronger flashlight like the one I had when I started. I knew that if I was not on open roads after dark, that I would continue to fall behind my miles. The resort did not have anything that would help.
I got back on the trail, and was soon out on the road once again, but only for a few miles. I turned down a long dirt road, that turned into something I have never seen. The trail was now atop a rototillered strip that followed a fence line. The path was a fricken mess, and near impossible to go as fast as a normal walk. It went on for miles, then turned into a nice trail through cabbage palms, making its way into a large Palm Hammock. It was dark by now, and I was trying to find my way with my headlamp. I actually did well, considering, but eventually lost the trail and stopped to make camp. That night I could still hear the Air Force Base, shooting off heavy explosives.
Woken early the next morning by Hunters driving on nearby roads to their tree stands, I jumped to the thought of being in the middle of their hunt. After figuring out where the trail went, I was treading across a small swamp to the trail on the other side. The next few miles or so were more poorly marked sections, that eventually improved as I went North. The worse thing through this area, was the water situation though. All standing water was black, green or brown. By evening, things did not change much and I was forced to an early camp, due to navigational problems once again.
After a night of war games in the distance, I awoke with the promise of new terrain along the Eastern Corridor. I still had a few miles to go though, but the trail was beginning to really shape up, and walking was starting to be more enjoyable. There were no more swamps, tall grass, or poorly marked trails. It was now the type of trail that held its tread, rather than a trail of constant overgrowth. Things were really beginning to shape up and look good, but I was now almost 3 days behind my schedule.