In the official description of the Ultimate Florida Challenge, the 370-mile Stage 4 is described variously as a "foot-shredder," a "heart-breaker," in an event that the organizer promises "is a long and grueling event that will chew you up and spit you out."
TwoBeers and Moresailesed, as I type this from the warm comfort of home on the second Monday of the Challenge, are pulling the Miss Patsie along a country highway between two flyspeck Georgia towns, portaging between the St. Mary's and Suwannee Rivers.
We scouted that road in December.
It's been a droughty year for Florida, which, we feared, meant that Moresailesed and TwoBeers would be dragging The Miss Patsie up or down the rivers in the ignominious fashion of Christopher Robin conveying Pooh down the stairs.
For his part, TwoBeers worked on the tactics integral to those choices, like water-ballasting, a handy sea-drogue, and a righting line on Spawn, while The Miss Patsie has a modest water-proof skirt, tie-down points for cargo, and an easy-to-furl little sail.
They got the okay for these navigational options from the sole arbiter of the event –– the Chief of the WaterTribe –– and then kept a sharp eye on the atmospheric conditions.
What we didn't predict was that a cold front last Saturday would drop a metric butt-load of rain over the 438,000-acre Okefenokee Swamp. There's still a drought, but there's also some overflowing of the riverbeds.
All to say, our fellas started walking early today. In addition to the 40 mile portage they expected to make between St. Georges and Fargo, Georgia, they slogged another 18 or so miles today alongside the flowing St. Mary's.
At 4 pm, my favorite skipper announced that they'd arrived at the long-anticipated convenience store in St. Georges. Hurrah them! They'd been walking since 8 am. They were tired. They were going to take a break.
When I inquired about the state of his feet, TwoBeers' response was uncharacteristically waspish: "They feel as if they have walked 18 miles."
And the road so far? Not bad. Moresailesed chimed in: it was all logging trucks.
Were they wearing the slow-moving vehicle reflective sign? Yes, on their safety vests.
Had they eaten some fine convenience food? No, they had just plopped down on the curb outside the mart.
The mighty paddlers have, at last stuttering SPOT ping (damn its inconsistent heart), something like 27 miles to push or pull The Miss Patsie to the Suwannee –– or, most likely, to that rustic little hotel next to the canoe launch where they'll rest up for a bit.
They plan to carry on walking/resting/walking overnight as much as they can bear, because, naturally, as is par for this challenge this year, they are racing against the weather. A rainy cold-front is predicted to swing through Tuesday afternoon.
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