Five hours later, I woke up worse for wear. The sun was shining in my face, and the car was a veritable greenhouse, the air inside swampy and hot and altogether unfit for breathing. Quickly, I got out of the car, and walked inside the air conditioned Walmart. I sat on a bench in there for a while, trying to get my head on straight, but I was just so tired, and trying again to sleep in the car was such an unsavory proposition. In fact, sleeping at all, had become difficult. I decided to drive to a park where I would lay out under the shade of a tree and try to get some rest. I stayed there most of the day, falling into various states of half-sleep, watching the sun climb across the sky and filter through the leaves deliriously. I never once slipped into a deep sleep, and I left later that day with only a deep sunburn.
After all that, you’d think hiking would be the last thing on my list. And it was. But after a few random turns here and there, I happened upon a trail in the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area near Kenansville, Florida. I hiked the whole 3 mile loop trail, spying a few bald eagles on the way, and came back feeling all right. I had taken 5 bottles of water, and I only went through one. I seemed less winded probably because the entire trail was shaded under these gigantic, sprawling oak trees. It was nice.
I spent most of my day under a tree in the parking lot because it was relatively secluded; no one else had come to hike the trail. It was around 5 o’clock when I left, and I made my way into St. Cloud. I had planned on sleeping in the Walmart parking lot, but the security guard seemed to be watching me. I thought maybe I was being paranoid, because I have a tendency to do that, but, in any event, I left and found a gas station with ample parking.
I left my uncle’s house at around 6:30 at night and I immediately went to the theater to watch Moonrise Kingdom (a great film; go see it). Then I drove east in the dark to a town called Okeechobee. And I realized how illogical it is to try to sleep in your car in the middle of a humid, summer, Central-Florida night. You can’t leave your windows down because of the mosquitoes, and, with the windows up, the inside of the car becomes a sticky-hot sauna. Sleeping sweaty is never fun.
From what I can tell, summers in Florida are the worst. There’s no point at which you can feel comfortable outside. The sun is hot, the atmosphere is moist, the insects are violent, and the thunderstorms and hurricanes are potentially fatal. The caveat to this, of course, is that if you actually spend a majority of your time inside, Florida is just as nice as anywhere else. I found myself wistful about the preceding month at my Uncle’s: the bed, the shower, the eternal air conditioner, the shelter from storms, and the ability to be outside in the heat for hours and come back to a home where I could immediately regain equilibrium.