(Top left) Gretchen Matt organizes her few items in her tent. Matt tries to keep her pack as light as possible. (Bottom Left) The trail begins in roughly a 30 mile trek through knee deep water in Big Cypress National Preserve. Depending on the rainfall each year, the water levels can vary from a few inches to a few feet. (Right) Gretchen Matt, also known as "Dirty Bowl", turns around to adjust her pack while wading through the swamps of Big Cypress National Preserve as she begins her 1,100 mile hike on the Florida Trail on Wednesday, January 25, 2017.
(Left) After hiking 9 miles through the swamp, a fraction of what she would hike on a dry trail, Gretchen Matt sits at her campsite and begins to write a blog entry for the day. "The Florida Trail feels like it has the spine of a thru-hike. It’s there. There are just additional challenges like walking in water all day and trying to figure out how to filter water when you might get chomped by an alligator," she writes. "Despite its lack of elevation, the Florida Trail has some serious game." (Middle) Gretchen gathers the trash she picked up from the day. At the end of each day, she weighs the trash and makes note of it on her blog. (Right) Walking between two and three miles an hour, Gretchen does not take many breaks. She follows the orange blazes on the trees, marking the path, and takes the occasional photograph of the scenery.
Cyrilia Trudel-Gazquez and Gretchen Matt simultaneously fill their water bottles with water from a creek near the Suwannee River. Cyrilia, a fellow thru-hiker, began her journey in the Florida Keys and continued hiking north after completing the Florida Trail to the Appalachian Trail and then plans to finish in Canada.
During a break in the afternoon, Gretchen Matt rests on her backpack and ground tarp. Having already hiked 25 miles, Matt and the other hikers still had five more for the day.
(Left) Gretchen Matt flips through one of the trail logs at the 13 mile campsite before setting up her tent. Hikers often write their trail names and the date in these logs to let other hikers know that they've been there. (Right) Cyrilia and Gretchen brush their teeth in the motel bathroom.