Tramily – n. [trail family] – strangers who were brought together on trail, sometimes for days, sometimes for months, but grow into a supportive family who suffer through rough times together, and enjoy the fun times together.
We were able to reconnect with some friends at Billy Goat Day, seeing some weren’t too far ahead of where we were returning to. We knew we needed to take it easy since we had been off trail a bit between the wedding, foot ailment, and BGD. We were able to pick up the miles a bit from when we started, but didn’t want to push it right away. The first couple days, everything was feeling good, partially thanks to softer trail again, so we were able to pick it up to the upper teens for mileage. Though not the 20-mile days we were hoping to be doing by this point, upper teen day are still practical, and that’s how trail goes! Listen to your body – Rule #1. To keep our bodies on the mend, we opted to jump past the 30-mile road walk around the 300 mile mark. We knew the Florida Trail is incomplete and has several road walks. A few miles along the road at a time isn’t too difficult, though some times borderline dangerous, but 30 miles in one stint was a bit too daunting for our mending feet & legs.
This decision not only helped keep our bodies healthy, but we actually met back up with our friend from night 1 – Shawn/Mountain House, as well as another hiker we’d met in Clewiston, Bumblebee & dog, Brody. We had caught a hitch along a very busy highway from a former AT thru hiker, Ghost, into Melbourne, where we could shower & get some fresh fruit. On our way back to trail, we saw Mountain House & Bumblebee taking a break, so we hopped out to join them.
There is a noticeable difference in energy when there are new people in your hiking group. Since leaving trail for the wedding, it had just been the two of us, only meeting 1 southbound hiker along the way, which offered about 20 minutes of conversation. Now, we had many paths of entertainment among 4 hikers and a four-legged hiker. We could hike in a combination of groups, various orders of line hiking, or some solo time. We were all within a similar range of mileage per day, so we could compromise easily on which campsite to stay at each night. Mtn House & Bulmblebee had been doing a couple 20-mile days before we met them, but they were fine dropping to 16-18 miles, for us, but also for Brody.
We had several pleasant days on beautiful trail, making the days go quickly. Mtn House is the early bird of the group, making coffee and heading out just as the sun came up, or sometimes earlier. Steve & I would start to pack up, then Bumblebee & Brody would stir shortly after. We would leave camp 2nd, then B&B would head out after since he had to tend to Brody with stretching and breakfast before packing up. This staggered leaving allowed everyone some quiet morning time, but we’d meet back up at some point in the day, or at least in the evening at next camp. Having a tramily doesn’t mean you’re always together throughout the entire day, but you’re staying on a track together overall.
We passed through lackluster Christmas, Florida, a town that was on our radar for a while as the end of a 100-mile stretch with no resupply. We skimmed through quickly, as they apparently haven’t monetized their name with kitschy Christmas stores. Boring. But Mtn House did surprise us that evening with s’mores around the campfire! We also had our first on trail swim, though apparently illegal, and my first wild orange!
As we approached the Orlando metro area, we connected with the mother of another thru hiker we had met at BGD. She offered to house us, feed us, and help us run errands. All this, despite the fact she has a strong fear of dogs, she still took us in with Brody included. So amazing!
We showered, did laundry, had many meals, she sewed some items, and ran us to REI for some gear. Mind you, her son, who is hiking, isn’t even with our group, he’s a few days ahead. She just wants to support the trail communities that have supported her son on his hikes. It was such an unbelievably welcoming experience. Thank you so much, Manimal’s Mom. You are an angel of angels! Also, Manimal’s dad, a very accepting and patient man. Thank you both for opening your home to us to help enrich our trip!
She dropped us back to trail, where we started the 25-mile urban trail travel along sidewalks and bike paths. The paved paths were a bit tough on the feet, but safer than roads! It was interesting to be in such an suburban area, yet feel remote at the same time. We had a few luxuries along the way of being able to pop into a restaurant for a snack or a flushing toilet almost at any time. The camping options are pretty specific though this area as random camping in a park is frowned upon and less safe than the designated spots in the woods created for FT hikers.
After a couple days back on trail, Brody was telling Bumblebee he needed some more time off. So, sadly the two of them took a few more days to assess his situation, but hopefully the trail will connect us again soon. Then the next day was time for Mtn House to head back North for his scheduled 3-week break to go back for work. He knocked out an early 20-mile day for his last day, so we said our farewells the night before because we knew we couldn’t hit the 4am start he did. We hope to see him again when he gets back to trail after work.
We can definitely feel a big difference when it’s just the two of us versus hiking in a group. Neither is better or worse, just different. It’s a breath of fresh area to have new personalities and new ideas to foster conversation. Trail brings about very intimate connections among people since you spend so much time together with nothing else to do but talk to each other. Even a short-term tramily can be a lifelong friendship. That’s why tramily matters.