Florida man | Hatch Journal
A number of years again, I had three vertebrae fused in my decrease again, the “answer” to nagging sciatica that, when the surgeon reported to me, post-op, was attributable to my S1 vertebrae cracking and slowly splitting.
“I guess you didn’t know you’ve been strolling round with a damaged again,” he stated, noting the crack and break up hadn’t proven up within the pre-surgery imaging. “In all probability for a couple of years.”
No. I had no thought. However I did know that I used to be in fixed ache. Typically gentle, typically crippling. However at all times fixed. It might begin in my decrease again, pulse by my left butt cheek (typically the best one, too), and burn down by my leg to my foot, the place, on significantly unhealthy days, I might watch my huge toe twitch.
I considered what the physician stated. Damaged backs don’t simply occur – there needed to have been some trauma. Considering again, I pinpointed the most probably wrongdoer: a mid-stream rock the scale of a Smartcar in Virginia’s Hughes River. It was a complete slip-and-fall occasion – the product of an overconfident boulder hopper in his mid-30s pondering that invincibility is, A) actual; and B) that it utilized to him.
I hopped up onto the rock – it was to be the best casting platform from which to forged upstream to the Hughes’ keen brook trout – and my toes instantly slipped on the slimy floor. Down I went. Onerous. Like… so exhausting that I simply sort of lay there a second, sprawled out on the rock because the river moved round it because it had for eons. Surprised, I slowly made my strategy to a sitting place, however I used to be harm.
I gimped my method off the rock, and waded by a hip-deep part of the river to the financial institution, the place I climbed as much as the path and began an arduous three-mile hike again to the rental automobile. Uphill, after all. I used to be depressing.
It bugged me for a couple of weeks – a uninteresting ache that I assumed was a big bone bruise. However I used to be in my 30s. I might stand in entrance of the mirror and slice my pores and skin open with a rusty hacksaw and watch as the injuries began to shut.
In fact, over time, the ache grew to become everlasting. The sciatic nerve acquired and stayed indignant. And a few 15 years after I took the autumn, I went underneath the knife.
Now, 4 years faraway from surgical procedure, I can report that I don’t have the fixed ache I as soon as did. I may also report that I’ve misplaced vital core power and that my steadiness is fairly jacked up. And, as predicted by a pal of mine earlier than I had the surgical procedure, the correction might very nicely end in vertebrae farther up the backbone misbehaving. I haven’t resorted to a different spherical of imaging – ignorance is sort of blissful. However, as they are saying, “one thing ain’t proper.”
Principally, I believe, it has to do with the climate. The colder it will get, the extra I really feel it. And the place I reside, in japanese Idaho, I discover myself feeling like a hammered owl turd as a rule. So, following the recommendation of a sure Caribbean troubadour, I set out a couple of years in the past to alter my latitude. I wasn’t choosy. I simply wanted respectable fishing and dependably heat climate.
I combed the apartment markets on Zillow for hours at a time, ruling out the far-too-expensive locations just like the Florida Keys or the hurricane-prone coast of Grand Isle. For some time there, I used to be fairly sure I’d find yourself someplace Port Isabel, Texas – nice inshore fishing for redfish, trout and sheepshead, completely breezy climate all yr alongside and a straightforward two-day drive from japanese Idaho. However simply as I used to be about to dig right into a apartment buy, two issues occurred. First, I used to be knowledgeable that the property I recognized couldn’t be listed on the short-term rental market once I wasn’t utilizing it. Second, the true property growth erupted, and I used to be shortly priced out of the market.
I’m a journalist. I’ve by no means been rich. This enterprise to ease the ache in my again was going to should stroll a monetary tightrope. Getting away from winter a couple of months of the yr was going to have include some steadiness – wherever I ended up, the home or apartment (at one level, I used to be satisfied I might simply “work from the highway” in a trailer towed behind my truck whereas I chased winter sunshine throughout the South) was going to have pitch in a bit and assist pay for itself.
So I saved trying.
As a child, I spent my youth in East Texas, about 60 miles west of Shreveport, La., and whereas it was a terrific place to be a child, I additionally keep in mind a couple of brutal winter weeks the place it will actually rain ice and sleet. I additionally remembered that 45 levels in East Texas, with its plentiful humidity, was bone-chilling chilly at instances.
So I drew a line throughout the South. I didn’t wish to put money into property that was any farther north than, say, the Houston suburbs. And, after recalling a few prodigious hurricane seasons (together with 2017 when Harvey blew by southeast Texas), I noticed I actually wasn’t as much as storm watching from afar. So… a bit inland can be finest.
The search slowly migrated east and I believed perhaps Lake Charles can be a stable touchdown spot – tons to do, nice fishing, wonderful native meals … however then Laura and Delta struck the area inside six weeks of one another throughout the 2020 pandemic. So farther east I went.
Biloxi? No. Too coastal. Gulf Shores? Lovely, however loopy busy and proper on the seashore. A sitting duck. Then I began taking a look at Lake Seminole. A lake home. Now we’re speaking. However simply as I acquired critical, my employer eradicated my job after 16 years (too outdated, too costly, too… nicely, you get the thought).
Then, as I adopted the Zillow map throughout the Southeast, I got here throughout a spot that, regardless of possessing all the attributes I used to be after (good fishing, good climate, a little bit of safety from named storms, and many others.), remained a bit undiscovered. The Suwannee River nation of north Florida and southern Georgia has remained completely rural, largely undeveloped and, dare I say, pristine.
Definitely, there are points. It’s been plowed over and logged, regrown and relogged plenty of instances because it was first polluted with European explorers once they landed on its shores 500 years in the past – Spain’s Juan Ponce de Leon first wrote about Florida in 1513, and St. Augustine is the nation’s oldest completely inhabited metropolis. At this time, threats come from mining corporations digging within the sand for titanium dioxide and different treasured minerals, and there are typical water and air-quality points that appear to pop up if no person pays consideration.
However the fishing … I used to be reminded of the stealthy and prehistoric bowfin of the Okefenokee, swamp and the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers. A lot of the lakes and ponds within the space have some public entry, and Florida, regardless of its seemingly never-ending need to chop off its nostril to spite its face (you listening, Gov. DeSantis?), maintains probably the greatest state park techniques within the nation.
And, after all, wherever in Florida is near the seashore – and the snook and pompano and redfish of the state’s inshore waters.
So, years later, I discovered the latitude I used to be after. I constructed slightly home within the woods and purchased a pair of knock-off camo Crocs (when in Rome, proper?), moved a modest quiver of fly rods south and right here I sit, nestled completely into the gorgeous white sand on the banks of the black-water Suwannee River having fun with the warmth.
I’ll be again in Idaho in a few weeks for summer time. If you happen to’re searching for a spot to remain when you’re fishing north Florida or south Georgia, I can hook you up.
However for now … my again feels nice.