I am announcing my intention to go for Self Supported FKT on Florida Trail beginning tomorrow morning (2/13). I will follow the self supported guidelines and established culture on Florida Trail FKT. I have not used caches but will send mail drops. I will not accept food, pacing, rides, or gear from strangers or people known to me. I will take the Moore Haven and Clewiston area re routes as Army Engineers are doing construction and turning hikers back. I will plan to cross the Econ River (whether on bridge or fording). I will stay on trail north of Lake Butler and not take the paralleling road. As for flooded trail further north such as Aucilla, I will pray conditions are passable by my arrival. I have made every effort possible to reach Eglin AFB at a time when passage is possible. I am aware that Dan Munsell did not take any reroutes but it is my intention to raise notoriety of the FT and can not see doing so if I am violating rules and laws (no offense to Dan personally).
My garmin link is attached and will ping hourly. I can be followed on Instagram @arashalbekord
Update: On 3/4/2019 Arash posted about abandoning the FKT attempt due to bad weather and being behind FKT pace: "I’m sad to announce that my FKT attempt is now over. I pushed hard on Sunday including a 6 mile section that was closed and involved heavy bushwhacking in hopes of reaching bradwell bay swamp before dark, but my efforts were unfortunately not enough. I met another hiker earlier in the morning and hiking with Swamp Water was a big emotional boost. When I arrived to where he had made camp just before the swamp, I decided to eat some calories and get a short rest before the rain would start that evening. Little did we know, it was a full on storm including a tornado watch which had touched down near Eglin. As we both sat and stared at the lightning and thunder, we both agreed it would be foolish and risky to go hike into standing water in this level of storm. I did my best to batten down the hatches but my gear setup being as minimalist as it is, everything I have was soaked and I was basically laying in a puddle waiting for the storm to end. By that point, with just a few hours until morning, shivering and wet, with a 12 mile boot slugging swamp ahead, and a full day behind the record pace with only 5 1/2 days left, I had to accept that the FKT was out of reach. My body had not strung together even 2 or 3 days of the pace needed, let alone 5 or 6. Emotions were mixed and the second storm (from my tear ducts) rivaled the first. Thanks to all for the support and belief in me. I wish things could have been different, of course. Props and respect @dan_munsell. He set a tough bar and no soft fkt as I considered myself trained and prepared. Good luck to all future attempts and I would be glad to help in any way as I made many mistakes along the way. Loving and accepting always, Spankrash of The Trail"
Daily reports from Instagram:
Day 1 (2/13/2019) has been full of ups and downs. Started at 525 am. Thanks for everything Dad! If you want to know a good way to put some hair on your lamb fries, go hike in a swamp at night. Within an hour or so, storm started and the rains persisted throughout the day until 5. Hence few pics and videos. Hard to describe how I looked in my poncho, but I liken it to Bruce Willis in Unbreakable (the pool scene), if Bruce Willis had the body of Mr. Glass. As I said in the video, headlamp fell out of pocket about an hour into the hike. Lessons of hiker trash. I tried to not let it bother. Did first 22 miles in 5 hours. Next 8 miles took 4 hours. Toughest hiking I can recall doing. Quicksand on top of slick limestone with many holes to fit your ankles. Mostly shin deep water. Occasionally thigh. Felt like forest gump in Vietnam because the swamp was splashing under my poncho rendering it useless. The more you exert on the muck, the more it sucks you in. Hamstrings cramping. Began to fear I wouldn’t reach my package drop by 6. Hustled north of I 75. Package picked up. $3 flashlight purchased. Hot shower changed my life, included sliver of old soap someone left behind. Winning. Burger x2. Onward!
Day 2. (2/14/2019) The highs and lows appear to getting more extreme despite my efforts to have a steady day. As mentioned, strong headwinds on levee which lasted until about 3. Major low when I called Moore Haven Post office to confirm package for tomorrow and was told it was returned to sender because it didn’t say “general delivery”. The other drops were successfully delivered. Morale was about as low as my cell battery life. General pains and fatigue prohibited faster movement but the blisters are ripening and hopefully trail legs will kick in soon... Wildlife report: most just me and the buzzards out there but I did see some gators. Couple white tailed deer yesterday in the swamp must’ve thought I was Bigfoot.
Ultimately, couldn’t reach my goal mileage Walmart came to the rescue and I got a headlamp and some ramen to replace the food lost. Is it a thru hike without ramen?
Day 2- 103ish
Day 3 (2/15/2019) Started the morning taking care of that blister. Great news that the package ultimately arrived at Moore Haven! Subway was best and worst decision of the day. Feeling low on road walk re route until Betty Loomis (local trail angel) showed up. It took all my emotional strength not to collapse in her arms crying. Instead, i waited until she left. Thought I was good to make big push in afternoon but terrain changed to gravel with lots of medium sized rocks after lakeport. That did in my feet/ankles. Camped at Indian River (139?) and woke very early in hopes of a big day!
Days 4 & 5: (2/16-17/2019) In case anyone is wondering, I did not find the meaning of life or God on the Herbert Hoover dike (despite looking for both). What kind of existential crisis is this??? I did find Roger Federer repeatedly yelling “C’mon!!!” and I am well acquainted with the Jackson 5 as “ABC-123” is a regular fixture of my days. Yay!
Logistics: by most measures, made a tactical mistake last night as I failed to reach west gate Ranch in the evening. Just got too strung out and ankles hurting and back chaffing to go on and stopped about 2.5 miles short. Once the dream of BBQ and a cabin was dead, just having a hot shower and getting my package last night wasn’t enough to endure the pain. Plus, it’s very easy to get lost under the live oak hammocks where the trail opens up into large spaces that headlamp can’t see through fog and hogs dig up signs of trail/foot traffic. So made it to 233 after 5 days and 190ish after 96 hours. Result is leaving much later than planned from the ranch.
Health: left ankle is pretty much better and much less pain although still tight. Right one is tight and painful but hopefully will respond to the full nights sleep. I do appear to be losing weight but struggling with lack of appetite.
Wildlife: otters, raccoons, lots of white tailed deer, gangs of hogs 50 ft from camp last night, armadillos, snakes, signs of bears
Day 6 (2/18/2019): mile 266 (4 off the record pace). 34 mile day.
It is frustrating to choose rest for yourself. To choose it for someone else is more tolerable but to accept that you need it has been challenging for me. Especially since I’m not actually that tired for sleep. I know I’ve kept saying it, but the tendinitis keeps getting better and better. I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting on trail legs to arrive. I officially reached the point where I had to throw out the old itinerary and just become one with this thing. Until then, I listen to @curry.adventures and take what the terrain gives and @brennan_john_p and listen to my body.
The attached video is dual podiatric therapy. Cold soaking the ankles with tiny fish to eat off your dead blister skin. That is, until I dropped a chip in the water and they became distracted. You can never find good help these days.
Day 7 (2/19/2019): stopped at Jane green camp 294. Was able to hike 12 pretty much continuous hours yesterday before hitting some boot sucking swamps,which are the destroyers of my ankle tendinitis. Less concerned about miles. Just want to get physically better. Constantly reminded of Mike Tyson who said “everybody’s got a plan till you get punched in the mouth”
The pain that comes with each stop and start (even 1 minute) causes me to neglect nutrition and hydration with the eventual physical and emotional bonks to come. Thankfully, I can’t really hike much slower than my top speed at the moment so the slowdowns aren’t so costly. Today, the pack is lightest, courtesy of @palantepacks and I’ve got large road walk which aren’t bothering me as much physically anymore. Racing to get home to see family, town food, and known turf.
Quick extra: two nights ago, I took my place as Hiker Trash Lord of Jackson Campground. The only water was from the boat ramp where there was floating fuel. A boat pulled in and the family of three threw out their food and drinks from the day of fishing. A mostly full water bottle, two half dr peppers, and 5 McDonald’s cheeseburgers!!!! A feast was had.
Another quick aside, my trail name for this trail is Spank Rash of The Trail aka Spankrash aka SROTT. But formal shoutout to my #at2016 brothers and sisters who know me as Melted Soul (le)!
Day 8 (2/20/2019) brought the return of hope as I was able to hike all day without breaks for the ankles and mostly on road walks. Thought I was making a smart decision to break for 3 hr sleep at tiger camp just before dark at the start of tosohatchee. I had done good miles and didn’t want to overload the ankles again. That proved to be a mistake as I didn’t use about 1.5 hrs of daylight and when I awoke to finish and hike on, I found myself in dense jungle, overgrown trail with frequent nonsensical turns and no steady heading. I did 2 miles before laying down until morning with the mosquitoes. Mile 328 at 24 hr cycle (32 miles off fkt pace). Day 9 brought renewed hope even more. My pack was basically empty. And the legs could start jogging again. And they would need to in order to reach Oviedo post office before 5 at mile 367. I mixed jogging with walking until my food ran out and came out the other side of bonking. Comedic moment of the day was my ford attempt on Econ River. I saw a crew working on the bridge and only a frame in place so I went upstream a little to cross somewhat out of sight. To use their words after “it started as nipple deep, until it wasn’t”. Now I was swimming and splashing and they started yelling thinking I was a gator. Pack submerged as did cell phone but seems to be operating well now. We shared a good laugh and they told me “we wouldn’t have stopped you from crossing the frames on the bridge” . not 5 min further down river, I saw one of the biggest gators I’ve ever seen sunbathing (pictured below). The day only got better from there. Nothing like family and friends to rally you. My HS XC coach met me on trail and was full of energy but disappointed that he couldn’t give me a chocolate brown and plum. Made it to the post office with 20 minutes to spare and had a great reunion with my family. We had dinner together and had a total boost! Left early morning from Oviedo and hit mile 375 at 24 hr mark (30 behind fkt pace). The RALLY is ON!!! #fastestknowntime#floridatrail #fkt #ftthruhike
Quick note to Bakwin and @dan_munsell , forest service rerouted me by direct order just prior to Econ River.
Day 10 and 11 (2/22-23/2019): making progress. Legs feeling much better. Able to hike near full speed and mix in jogging when needed to wake the legs. Back to back nights in laundry rooms (Alexander spgs and the 88 Store). Warm and no mosquitoes! Looking forward to pushing for miles. At mile 420 after day 10 (30 off pace) and 474 after day 11 (21 miles off fkt pace). Feet have stayed dry which has made me happy. Night hiking is so loathsome and a struggle to stay awake as I’m often sleepwalking.
Wildlife: forgot to mention Florida panther seen in Three Lakes WMA, countless nocturnal bunnies. So jealous of the animals and their supreme oneness. I know they’d mock me if they even knew what I was doing out here. Better to just graze...
Day 12 (2/24/2019): hoping to make sand hill camp in gold branch st park (mile 519) before another early rise. Battling chaffing and running out of balm while also battling some hemorrhoids. Yay! In case you were wondering, sunblock is a disastrous idea for both!!! “GET IT OFF!!!
Day 12 update: did not make sand hill camp. Stopped at iron bridge shelter (mile 505- 35 miles behind). Had the best sleep of my thru hike in this screened in shelter and met the first and only NOBO hiker, “Nonsense”, who was full of positive energy on his first thru hike and did everything he could to encourage me along through my suffering.
Day 13 (2/25/2019): Lake Butler mile 560 (25 back). Made it in to my new hometown just before Hungry Howie’s closed and got to see my #tumblefarm friend Nick before crashing in a sweet stealth spot with plugs and spigot.
Day 14 (2/26/2019): Milton’s store 605.8 (25 back). Super friendly staff. Hot shower. New clothes and shoes. Feet were in horrible condition after in and out of water all day. Foot wetness, other than my ankle tendinitis is what is most correlated with my poor moods, drops in energy, etc. biggest struggle otherwise (again, besides the ankle) has been overcoming sleep deprivation. I thought it’d be a strength for me but when night comes, I seem to fall apart and get strung out and can’t find the juice to get out of the bivy in the middle of the night/dark morning to go night hike. It’s now or never time though!
Day 15 (2/27/2019): disappointing finish to an otherwise good day. Fat belly’s fried shrimp and grits was delicious and White Springs was a delightful town I wished I could have stayed longer in. The emerging pattern is reaching somewhere not that great to camp in hopes of that getting me up after few hours nap, only to wallow in a haze of confusion and partial paralysis. And as I hit the mental snooze button repeatedly, feelings of guilt persist and prevent quality sleep. Most of my REM cycles are consumed by some bizarre form of trail hiking and calculus of hours and miles. Slept under US 192 at mile 641 (36 mile day, 34 miles back)
Day 16 (2/28/2019): hiking the banks of the Suwannee was a special experience. Ups and downs. Tributary crossings. Got rained on previous day, followed by my shoes soaking up all the dew the rest of day 16. The long road walk to end the day and start day 17 was actually welcomed as my body is in ok shape and I could cover ground without watching every step or getting lost. I dreamed of Waffle House for most the day. Killed steak with 4 eggs, two orders hashed Browns, three strips of bacon, stack of toast and 3 lemonades. Woken from sleep by unexpected rain and fidgeted under tarp for a while before desperately getting up to check the door on the motel boiler room 50 ft away. To my surprise, not only unlocked but door ajar. Tiny miracles of the trail...
Mile 691 (29 behind)
Day 17 (3/1/2019) started later than planned and departed from mile 691 with a full belly, wet gear, and a poor nights sleep to finish a long road walk. Pleasantly surprised to meet two southbounders, Frisbee and Stubbs. I nearly cried when I saw them. Conversation with them gave me a huge emotional boost and valuable intel on the trail ahead, including word that the Ecofina section includes a 3-5 mile section that has effectively been impassable due to hurricane Michael damage. We discussed a trail maintainer who is tying orange ribbon tape to re establish trail and the possibility of 1 mph in that section. They also confirmed that upcoming bradwell bay was not for night hiking and that my feet would stay dry after Appalachicola (mile 880) to the end. Soon after meeting them, got slapped by a sizable storm. The only thing worse than road walking in a storm was turning down so many people who stopped to offer me a ride to wherever and not being able to resolve the puzzled looks on faces as I declined. I spared explaining the intricacies of “self supported style fkts” while water was pouring into their windows. Eventually stumbled to mile 725 where I continued my trend of picking horrible camp spots out of sheer exhaustion/desperation/not giving a shit. It seems anywhere in the woods I lay my head becomes the rally point for Natty Light/Busch light drinkers and their loose girlfriends to rev their trucks and do donuts laps in the mud.
Day 18 (3/2/2019) started at 1 am so I think I was at mile 738 at 24 hr cycle. Did solid night hike through Aucilla. Rained on again in AM. Reached package pick up and recovered at JRs before heading into st marks. Pushed hard through some nasty swamp I have no pics of (but it was nasty). Destroyed the feet. Fought to catch the last ferry across st marks river. When I reached the river, I was ashamed to have done so. Sold as a high flow dangerous river not to be crossed by swimming, it was about 100 ft across and was hardly swaying with tidal flow. $25 for a 60 sec ferry chapped my hide. Dropped $45 on two subpar entrees at riverside cafe. Towns are just where you hemorrhage money. Passed out at 772 and woke at 9 pm for more on the long suffering road..