Author: Jim

Day 56 Fort Pickens and the Northern Terminus

Today is the last day of the hike. Would I do it again? I am not sure….


The last day of a hike is always weird. Each hiking day is usually connected to the day after it – setting up for making the Post Office, the check-in time at a hotel, or something else that happens in the future. You have read about many of those if you have been following along in this blog.

But today is just today. The only goal is to finish in time for lunch. And with 10 miles, some on the beach again, that means heading out early. And for today, early means 7:30. Breakfast starts at 6:30, so it is not a hurried morning by any standards. I also removed a few more things from the pack that I know I won’t need.

Walking Through Pensacola Beach

The hike begins with more town walking. The bike path will be the hike for the next mile or two. I can’t pinpoint why, but I think I like Pensacola Beach and Ft Pickens road better than Navarre Beach. I guess it seems like a better mix of residential and commercial businesses to make a more well-rounded community.

Hurray for sidewalks!
Hurray for bike paths.
The obligatory Peg Leg Pete’s picture. We will have to come back here for lunch tomorrow.

Ft Pickens road turns from residential to another National Seashore. At this point, the bike path ends, and there are no bike lanes on the road. it is more beach walking.

The tide is similar to yesterday and is nearly high. I can’t tell if it’s rising or falling, but there is a decently packed surface to walk on if I stay just close to the water’s edge. A few small spots get steep, and a few small spots get soft. It is the same experience as yesterday while walking on the beach. The weather is similar, too – overcast with the sun barely peeking out a few times, and strong wind.

I can actually see some of the rip currents drawing water out into the deeper ocean. There is a rip current warning going on right now and the surf flags are at yellow (moderate risk). The water is nice and medium blue but turns dark about 80 yards offshore as the water deepens.

Great beach walking weather.
I am the only one on the beach.

I last longer on the beach today, about a full hour before my feet are getting sore from the slope, so I decide to try out the road when it gets close to the beach. The road here has a bike lane, but only about the normal 4 feet of width instead of the wide 5 feet of yesterday.

I can see the buildings ahead and see that I almost completed the beach hike completely. There was only about a half mile left before the trail comes back to the road. I am less than three miles from the finish and have less than an hour left to go.

Fort Pickens Park

I have been hiking in Fort Pickens park for the last hour, but now the buildings and gun batteries are visible to me so it seems to me like this is the beginning of the park. The trail goes back to the road from one of the beachside parking areas. There is a huge gun battery facing the beach. The trail crosses the road and begins the dunes walk at the base of one of the largest ones.

When I get onto the trail, I am delighted to find that it is a trail that goes through wooded dunes, not sanded dunes. The trail is crushed gravel and not soft sand. There is also quite a bit of shade, so this will be a great two-mile finale for the hike.

A nice gravel trail through a softly wooded area instead of squishy dune sand.

The trail goes right through the middle of the campground. It is a sardine-style campground. The camping spots are packed together very tightly with very few trees like many RV parks are. It is not like a State Park campground at all. I do not think I would enjoy camping here.

There are a few other people day hiking on the trail as well. It is a nice trail for a beach area. Near the end, an estuary pops up. I am tempted to go down and taste the water to see if it is fresh, brackish, or salty. I assume it is not fresh since it is so close to the water, but there does not seem to be any connection to the bay.

I get excited when I see the wooden bridge over the end of the estuary. I know that I am now just a few tenths from the end. I am hiking briskly, straining to see the end as the trail curves gently to the left.

Hey bozo, don’t fly past this thing without noticing it.

I finally can see the parking area, and I spot Karen parked right where she can see the trail and me coming. I can see the kiosk at the end of the trail, but I cannot find the terminus monument. Where can it be? It should be here somewhere. I search all over the parking lot, but I cannot find it. How can you miss a brick monument?

I consult the app, looking for information. It turns out the monument was at the wooden bridge, and not at the end of the trail. What? It’s called a terminus.

Terminus – a final point in space or time; an end or extremity.

Well, apparently the northern terminus for the Florida Trail is a few tenths of a mile from the end. Then why is this trail not marked as a blue trail like every other parking access trail? Some things just don’t make sense.

So I load back up and start heading backward on the trail. As I approach the bridge, I can see the monument tucked to the side of the trail at the northwest corner of the bridge. Holy smokes, I walked right past it without seeing it.

Now I can take a real finishing photo.

I go back over the bridge and get some video shots of coming over the bridge and seeing the monument. I feel like a fake. But I get my video, I get my photos, and it’s time to go back to the car and head out.

There is a ton to see in this park, and Karen had to buy a 7-day pass to get in, so we will leave now and come back tomorrow to explore. We will be meeting her cousin for an early dinner, so it is back to the hotel and shower for now. I have many blog posts to catch up on, and some work to do (including an all-hands call).

The hike is over. It does feel like it is over and I am ready for it to be over. It was a nice ending, being able to catch up with Jack and Mickey again and hike a few of the last days with them again. They will be finishing a few days later, as they delay their ending.

It is also nice being able to get picked up at the end instead of turning around and backtracking out of the national seashore. That would be a seven-mile backtrack to get out of the National Seashore to see if you could catch an Uber somewhere.

Emotion of the Day

I would like to pick something like joy or accomplishment or something befitting of the end of a long 1100-mile two-month journey like this.

But the crazy monument thing is just consuming my every thought. I am bewildered.

The rest of the day was great. I had fun walking on the beach, I had fun walking down Ft Pickens road, and I had loads of fun on the last dunes trail. Everything was great, right until the end wasn’t the end.

I am just bewildered that the end of the trail is not the terminus.

I think I need to get more active in the Florida Trail Association. There are many little things that could be improved to make the Florida Trail a better hiking experience.

Would I do it Again?

Right now, no. But I’m sure my mind will change over time as it always does. I will say that the stench of hiking in humid areas is not as fun as in arid areas. I know I will hike again, but I think I will look for a desert trail next.

Day 55 Navarre Beach

The beer I had yesterday at dinner caused a major headache that lasted all night and into the morning. I almost did not hike at all today. That would have been bad for the rest of the schedule since rooms have already been booked.

I Hate Headaches

There are some beers I cannot drink. Anything that AB InBev owns I cannot drink. And apparently, the beer I had was from a brewery now owned by AB InBev. Beginning at about 10 or 11 pm, I started developing a massive headache. I took aspirin, I took Ibuprofin, and I drank caffeine to try to know it out. I barely slept all night and at 6 am, I was nauseous and wanted to crawl into a hole.

I only have 17 miles to hike today, but quite a bit of it is on the beach and I will not be hiking as fast. If I don’t start by 9 am, I will not be able to finish by a reasonable time to be able to shower and have dinner. I want to be at the next hotel by 3 or 3:30 at check-in time.

We wander down to breakfast a little after 7. Let’s see if I can eat something and feel better. As soon as we hit the breakfast area, I smell burned toast and think I am about to throw up. I grab a carton of milk and two yogurts and head immediately back to the room (with some coffee). Back in the room, I eat the dairy products and crawl back into bed. Maybe I can catch an hour of sleep.

And apparently, that’s exactly what the doctor ordered. I wake up at 8:45 and feel 95% good. This is good enough to start hiking with. I pack up quickly and head out the door, I should be able to make the next 17 miles by 3 or 4 o’clock.

Let’s Hike Along the Beach

I am still in the thick of Navarre Beach, so the first few miles are just walking along houses and a few small businesses. I am feeling pretty good, and after an hour of walking, my appetite kicks in. I eat some of my walking snacks, and I am now walking at full speed – yay, the day is not ruined.

Before long, the trail comes to the first of two National Seashore sections. This is where the bike trail ends, and the beach walking begins.

Follow my tracks in the sand.

The sand is soft on the beach, but not too bad to walk on. I make my way closer to the water where the sand should be more densely packed and easier to walk on. It looks like it is nearly high tide, so there is not much beach that is not steeply sloped or covered in water. Still, I find a good line just above the water where I can hike nearly full speed. And with less in my pack (no tent, sleeping bag, clothes, or extra food) I can hike more quickly anyway.

The first of two National Seashore sections.

After about 45 minutes, my ankles have had enough sand. So I make my way over to the road at a section that is nearby. I am delighted to see that the road has a nice five-foot-wide bicycle lane. This will be my trail for the next few miles instead. I can still see the ocean and the sound as well, so this path suits me just fine. It is quieter than being right on the waves, too. It makes it easier to hear myself think.

After a long nine miles or so of the national seashore, the trail comes to the next beach town – Pensacola Beach. I have only a few miles to hike here before the next hotel – another Springhill Suites.

Pristine beaches ahead of me.

As I am hiking along the bike path, I see Karen pass by on her way to the next hotel. She does not even see me on the side of the road. I am the one with the bright red shirt, fluorescent orange hat, and big blue backpack – I am right here! Her mind is elsewhere. Could possibly be grapes (Ellen Degeneres reference).

Right at 3:15, I roll up into the next hotel and there is Karen staring straight at me – she sees me now! yay. We check in and drag all the gear up to the room again. It is shower time, again. I like these showers.

There are some odd folks in this town.

Dinner this time is at Flounder’s Chowder House. Their chowder is really good, and so are the seared tuna tacos. Possibly the best tuna tacos I have ever had. The food around here has been pretty darned good.

Emotion of the Day

Today was a mix – the day almost never started, then turned out to be great. I am not sure what to pick, but I think I need to pick uncertainty.

All night long and early in the morning, I was afraid today was not going to happen. Even though it started a little later than I wanted, it did happen and it turned out fine. but the long evening and morning of uncertainty had occupied much of my thoughts for the day.

I am greatly relieved that the day did turn out great. But I was uncertain that I would even hike today.

Day 54 Eglin West and the Yellow River

Today is the last day of the trail to include woods. Beginning tomorrow, the trail will all be on exposed roads, bicycle trails, beaches, or dunes.

Rise and Shine, Sleepy Head

Today is another long day, so I need an early start. I begin my routine at 5 am and am able to get out and rolling just after 6 am. Jack and Mickey are still slumbering silently, so I may not see them again. They are going to be taking a slower pace at the finish because they need to stall for time to make their connecting train back north next week.

The trail here is still pretty good, but some of the water crossings have wood that is rotten and there are some muddy spots. But it is all avoidable, so I do not get wet feet. I am not back in Eglin yet, but that is coming later in the morning. I am unable to get an updated closure report for today, but the last two forecasts were for no closures in this section.

The trail pops out into a neighborhood and the roads get progressively busier as I approach civilization. I have about three miles through this neighborhood to another convenience store. I will see what they have to offer as breakfast number two.

The Last Roadwalk

The last road out to the highway where the convenience store has a decent amount of traffic on it. Sometimes there is a shoulder, and sometimes not. There are no big trucks so it is no big deal.

Road walking through a neighborhood to get out of the Blackwater River state park and over to the last Eglin section.

At the convenience store, they do have a small hot sandwich section. They have an egg and hamburger bagel. That looks interesting, so I get it plus a Dunkin Donuts coffee for later. I liked the hamburger breakfast sandwich thingy. It was a little spicy, but it was pretty good. It was not worth the $5 price, however.

The highway I must hike now starts out with a right-of-way shoulder. It is a main highway to Navarre, so it has quite a bit of traffic. The main function of being on this highway is to cross a very wide river, the Yellow river, which I have been hiking near yesterday and this morning. The bridge for the floodplain is at least a mile long and has a dedicated pedestrian lane.

When the bridge ends, the guide says just follow the GPS tracks to find the entrance into Eglin. And they are not kidding. It is just a secret entrance into an 8-foot-high game fence. if they had not had an orange streamer on it, I never would have climbed down the steep embankment to look for it. The “gate” was just a cut section of fence with a carabiner hooking it closed. How ghetto for the Air Force.

A very long bridge over the Yellow River, but it has a dedicated pedestrian path.

I could have road walked this highway all the way to Navarre, but that would miss this last section of Eglin. And since Eglin has been really nice so far, let’s stick with what works. There are lots of bald cypresses around, but the trails here have been high and dry, and except for the first stream crossing, that trend continues.

This last section does remain true to the previous ones. High sandy pines, lots of oaks, and streams to cross, but not as many as previously. The structures here are a little older and in need of a little repair here and there, but they are all still fine.

Whoopsie, this section of Eglin has been logged – follow the little orange streamers across.
Someone has been practicing their bushcraft skills.

There are 13 miles in here before it, too, peters out into a neighborhood. The neighborhood soon pops out to the same highway into Navarre. Only this time, I am in Navarre and I have a sidewalk or bike path to hike in from now on. I have about six miles to the causeway over to the beachside where the hotel for the night is located.

There are several convenience stores and other businesses to look at. Once you get to the Santa Rosa sound, then the hotels start to pop up. There are two full-service grocery stores nearby, too. From this point on, you are in beachside suburbia except for the two national seashore sections.

Hello, Salty Water

Once highway 87 hits the sound, you will be within sight of water for the remainder of the hike. You only have five blocks or so along the north shore of the sound before you hit the causeway to go over to the barrier island of Navarre Beach.

The causeway is just over a mile long and goes pretty high. You are on a dedicated pedestrian path over the waterway. I am not a fan of heights, and the top section is suspended out over the water with gaps in the treadway where you can see down to the waterway below you. I kept my mind occupied so I did not think about the height.

I am glad I did not bother to pack a crossbow with me. Home sweet home for me is somewhere there in the distance.

When you get down to sea level again, you have passed your last water crossing, too. It is all pavement and sand from this point onward. (update – I was wrong, the terminus is right after a small wooden bridge). For me, I had less than a mile to get to tonight’s hotel – the Springhill Suites in Navarre Beach. My target time was 3 pm, and I arrived at about 3:15. Pretty good timing.

Karen was already there and waiting in the car reading a book. We checked in and dragged all our luggage up to the room. This place is pretty neat. They have an outdoor pool, hot tubs, and a lazy river. This would be a good place to relax, but I have more hiking to do with 27 miles to go until the end.

Sunset on the lazy river pool and hot tub.

As luck would have it, Jack and Mickey ended up going into town, too. They are at a hotel on the other side of the sound. We make plans for a late dinner after they have had time to do laundry. I have the luxury of having Karen bring a bag full of fresh clothes, so I can skip laundry. I only have a few items to wash at this point, anyway.

We pick Jack and Mickey up at their hotel, and it turns out that where we were going for dinner was just a block or two from them – we could have just walked. We had a nice dinner. I had a fried Oyster sandwich and a local beer. I should have skipped the beer – more on that tomorrow.

Emotion of the Day

Nothing would fit today except excitement.

Even though it was a long 27-mile day, I knew with an early start, I should be able to make the hotel around check-in time.

The Yellow River section went well, the Eglin West section went well, the weather was relatively cool, and it was just pleasant hiking.

I was excited to finally get to the beach, I was excited to not have to cook or camp anymore, and I was excited to see Karen again.

It felt like the first day of the end of the trail or the first day of a completely new trail. It was just an exciting day overall.

Day 53 Blackwater River State Park

The long road walks really make you appreciate the trails more. Even boring ones.

Early Start

I knew today would be one of my longest days on the trail, so I made sure I was at the breakfast room before it opened at 6 am so I could be out the door as soon as possible. There we already a few people there with the same idea. It was a quick breakfast – grab a few eggs, some bacon, toast a bagel, and a cup of coffee.

The strategy worked and I was out the door at 6:20. The morning was very brisk, so I was bundled up in a long shirt and gloves, but I was wearing shorts because I knew it would get warm today.

Crestview is a spread-out town and I was on the outskirts near the interstate where there was no sidewalk. Luckily, the sidewalk began just a few blocks past the hotel.

A quaint little downtown on Main street.

Being Sunday, most businesses were closed. But it was still fun looking at all the businesses that were there. It is something to keep the mind occupied and pass the time faster. I am always amazed at the large number of vape shops I see all over the place. I have never seen anyone go in or out of a vape shop, do people really go there, or is it just money laundering? I wonder sometimes.

The downtown area is where most of the one-off restaurants are. All of them are closed, except for one. And as I pass it, Jack runs out of the store and flags me down. They stayed in the hostel last night and we are all heading to the same campsite tonight. I need an early start to get there before light, they don’t have the same limitations.

A neat little food truck court downtown, but not open on a Sunday morning.

It is also nice that Main street is one block off the highway and the official trail is on this smaller street. It makes walking easier (and quieter). But eventually, the cuteness runs out and it is back on the main highway.

Road Walking

The highway through town is pretty busy, even on a Sunday morning. The shoulder is pretty narrow and sloped, too. The sloped (and wet) grass just wears my feet down.

Before long, a convenience store turns up. It is Tom Thumb. I was not familiar with this chain before this hike, but I am beginning to like them. They are all new, they are lean, and they have a good selection. I grab an egg and cheese empanada for my second breakfast. It is 10 am, after all.

The road after the convenience store gives me a lucky break. The power line right-of-way is freshly cleared and is a relatively hard and flat surface. I will be able to walk this path away from the road about 70% of the rest of the road walk. The areas I cannot walk it are where the power lines go too far into people’s front yards. I am happy with the 70%.

A very nice right-of-way to walk on away from the highway. This one happened to be a gas pipeline, but it was usually under the power lines.

My next destination is Browns Grocery, which is a Marathon gas station and convenience store with a deli. And by deli, I mean fried foods. I choose catfish, hush puppies, potato wedges, and turnip greens. I didn’t know it came with a fountain drink, and I had already bought a pint of milk to go with it. I did end up drinking some Powerade as my fountain drink. But slamming the milk after the food was probably a mistake. It sat in my stomach like a block of cheese.

After Browns Grocery, the trail turned onto a smaller road. And this road grew smaller and smaller until it was basically just a forest road. But it still had houses on it. And the catfish was calling. And by calling, I mean it wanted out.

I was searching for a wooded section where I could sneak into the woods to go to the bathroom without being in anyone’s front yard. I did eventually find a place and ducked in fast. Let’s just say that 100 more yards would have been disastrous. No more fried food.

The last of ten crossings of Interstate 10. Four of them were optional (to go to hotels) but six are part of the trail, not including the numerous times we went close-to but did not cross this particular interstate.

Back in the Woods

Once the trail turned back into the woods, I still had 9 more miles to hike. The trail was decent. There were some cypress trees and swampy areas, which made me nervous. But the trail stayed away from the swamps and used wooden structures in most of the areas that were wet or muddy.

But most of the trail is in high sandy areas with lots of pines and smaller oaks. I hope the campsite is like this because I am looking forward to a dry night under an oak tree.

It is nice to be in the woods again.

When I only have two more miles to go, here come Jack and Mickey strolling up behind me. Apparently, they passed by Browns to stop at the Dollar General and saw me pass the store. Small world.

I hung with them for over a mile but then fell behind a bit as we neared the camp. When we arrived, I was happy to see that there were indeed lots of oak trees. And magnolias as well, which have even bigger dew-catching leaves.

I set up my tent under a big magnolia on a gentle slope. We had a picnic table, so I drug all my cooking gear over there after filtering some water to cook with.

I had packed out a surprise for us since I knew we were going to be camping together. I had bought a bottle of rum in Crestview, and also brought some red Gatorade and a Bare Naked mango smoothie. I was assuming they also had hot chocolate to give a third option, but they were out.

The red Gatorade went really well with the rum. It is basically a hurricane without the slushie ice. The mango smoothie was not as good. Something with pineapple would have been better. I had already tested out the hot chocolate the night before, and that is a winner as well.

A nice simple log to cross a stream on. They don’t need the fancy cable, but I guess some people like it. It just seemed to get in my way.

Emotion of the Day

I think driven is the word that comes to mind.

I had several missions today. 1 – get to camp before dark. 2 – start at the crack of dawn to be able to achieve #1. 3 – have happy hour.

Getting to camp was the real objective, and would lay the foundation for the rest of the trip. If I was not able to make camp that night, then I would not be able to make it to Navarre Beach the following night, and so on. I had to make reservations at these places and cancellations would be costly, so the timetable was non-negotiable.

And that meant focusing on one thing – making the Wild Azalea Camp by dark. Which I did, with plenty of time to spare.

And we had a nice evening talking and having happy hour.

Day 52 Crestview FL

Today was the first day the trails were clogged with day hikers. The people around Eglin must like to go hiking on the weekends. After all it is a nice place to hike.


I am in a hotel with dark window shades. I probably do need a bugle to wake up. I actually slept in until about 6:15. And it felt good to sleep so long.

I have 19 Trail miles plus 2 miles of road walking to do today. Breakfast starts at 7:00 and I would like to be out of here by 7:30. I sneak down a few minutes before 7:00 and breakfast is already being served so I go ahead and chow down. I grabbed a bagel and an apple for the road.

Today it may not be raining as I leave the hotel but it is very cold. It was 32° last night so I’m glad I didn’t have to sleep in it. My hotel room was toasty warm. But even with long sleeves and gloves it’s pretty chilly walking along the road this morning.

The ground is still frozen where the sun isn’t shining.

The road walk is a bit annoying because there is tons of traffic on it and no shoulder to speak of. Where are all these people going on a Saturday morning?

I received a text in the morning that Jack and Mickey had camped out near the highway that I’m walking on now to get back to the trail. I found out later that they ate dinner at the McDonald’s that was right next to my hotel. We were literally less than a tenth of a mile from each other last night.

But now this morning I assume that they are one or two miles ahead of me at this point. When I get on trail and can find areas that have sand I can see their footprints so I know they are indeed ahead of me.

Back on Trail

The trails here on the north side are just like the trails back on the east side. It is a mix of trees mostly pine and oaks. And there are creeks or streams every two miles or so.

I will be hitting two campsites today, so I will time first and second lunch to those campsites. The first one should be about 10:30 and the second one about 1:00.

Easy walking.

A Short Rant on Bridge Construction

The bridges over the streams here are a bit over the top and overbuilt. But overbuilt is far better than underbuilt or collapsing. Most of the larger bridges have handrails. All of them have asphalt shingles on the treadway to prevent slipping.

Of all the methods I have seen on slick wooden boards, the shingles are the most effective. The plastic coated hardware cloth I will rate second. And the bare metal hardware cloth I will rate third. The ones that just have cuts a quarter inch deep or have no treatment are as slippery as ice if it is wet at all.

My favorite style of bog logs, two sturdy beams with asphalt shingles on top.

I prefer their style of bog logs here too. Some would call them puncheon boards. They use two very sturdy beams side by side with less than a one inch gap. I didn’t measure them but they look like 4 inches by 8 inches. With shingles on top they are deluxe.

Other regions used smaller boards like a 4×6 or a 4×4. Sometimes they were spaced 3 or 4 inches apart. When they are that far apart it is easy to actually get your foot stuck between them. If you were to slip it would probably snap your tibia and fibula right in half.

Some regions build boardwalks. The top surface is usually just decking boards or sometimes they are 2×8 s. They may have two supports under them or three supports. You can never really see them and you can never really tell how strong or how rotten they are.

And the decking boards themselves often get rotten and you can find some of them broken. I just don’t want to be the person that discovers the broken one. In my opinion if they’re more than six or seven years old they’re probably unsafe.

I saw many bridges that were held together only by the fasteners. Fasteners are meant to keep two surfaces together not to support shear loads of a bridge. One bridge had actually collapsed. If I had been the one on that bridge when it let go, I probably would have broken my back.

Okay, I am done with the rant now.

Getting into Crestview

I mentioned earlier that there were a lot of people on this trail today. Most of them did not want to speak other than to say hello.

But one gentleman was eager to talk. He was a local and had been hiking around these trails for decades. He had not hiked any other parts of the Florida Trail but knew that it was the length of the entire state. I let him know that he was spoiled having a good section to hike for so long.

Silver creek is crystal clear.

He did also clue me in that Jack and Mickey were only 30 minutes ahead of me. But 30 minutes for people going in opposite directions is actually 60 minutes ahead. That means they were 3 mi ahead of me.

But shortly after talking to him I actually got a text from Mickey and found out that they were only two miles ahead of me. We are not staying at the same place in Crestview but we were going to make plans to have dinner together.

When the trail ended at the trailhead, there were seven or eight cars in the parking lot. This jives with the number of people I saw on the trail today.

The road walk into town was on a bigger road than I was expecting. It was a four-lane highway with lots of traffic. Luckily it is only three miles to the hotel. For some reason I was thinking it was more like five.

Only the first mile was empty road. The last two miles had businesses crowding either side of the road. Having things to look at does actually make the time go by faster.

One of the businesses was a convenience store that had a separate liquor store next to it. I have seen grocery stores with liquor stores next to them but never a convenience store with a liquor store next to them. I had to make a brief stop. You will find out more about that later.

It is still weird walking through a town this large and there are no sidewalks anywhere. It is amazing that the United States is so pedestrian and bicycle hostile. I guess this is one of the casualties of urban sprawl.

I got to the hotel just after 3:00 and heard from Mickey and Jack about 4:00. They did not realize their hostel was so far away from downtown so they were going to cancel dinner plans for tonight.

I already had my heart set on Thai food and had already checked out all the Thai restaurants in town. The two highly rated ones were not open tonight. But there were five or six others that were.

The closest one was a mile away. I don’t feel like doing bonus miles for dinner tonight. So tonight sounds like the perfect night to use Doordash for the first time.

One of the restaurants was hooked up with Doordash and online ordering. I ordered some Pad Thai and they said it would take 50 minutes to deliver. Sounds like a perfect time to take a shower.

The only problem is when I got out of the shower I could hear a knock on the door. They received my order cooked it and delivered it in 17 minutes. That’s faster than Domino’s. For one meal the $7 delivery fee is a little steep. But for a whole family I can see it being very economical.

The hotel breakfast starts at 6:00. I think I’ll try the same trick from today and go down 10 minutes early. If I can be on the road by 6:30 in the morning that would be fantastic. I have 28 miles to go tomorrow and I would love to be able to get there by 5:30. I think more than half of it is road walking so that should be achievable. I hope I sleep well again tonight.

Emotion of the Day

I think I will pick excitement for today.

The 32° starting temperature definitely had me walking briskly this morning. It was nice having a campsite to time for my two lunch stops. And it was nice having good trails and plenty of stream crossings without any worry of having to step in mud.

It was also nice knowing that I was close to Jack and Mickey again. I was excited to know that we were planning to meet for dinner even though it never happened.

Knowing that I am walking towards a hotel in a town with an endless list of restaurants and stores was also exciting. The south side of the town that I have walked through so far is not so great but I get to walk through downtown tomorrow. Most businesses will be closed on Sunday morning, though. There is a nice coffee shop downtown that would have been nice to stop at, so that is a bummer.

There wasn’t any major “one big thing” for today. It was just a combination of lots of little things that were nice and nothing that was a pain in the ass.

And it is exciting to have a good day on trail.

Day 51 Entering Eglin Air Force Base

I have always heard that the trails on Eglin Air Force Base were nice. I would have to agree. If the entire trail were like this it would be an awesome thousand mile hike.

Last Night’s Rain is Late

One of the reasons for getting a hotel last night was because it was supposed to rain overnight and into the early morning. Camping in the rain is not bad. Setting up or taking down a tent in the rain is bad. That’s what I was trying to avoid.

I woke up at 4:00 and could hear that the rain was just starting. I got up at 5:00 and started packing but by then the rain had stopped. Checking the forecast it looks like the bulk of the rain is supposed to happen between 8:00 and 10:00 this morning.

I am not thrilled about this new timeline because I want to leave by 7:00. I’d rather not have an entire road walk in the rain again.

By the time I leave at 7:30 the rain is starting to pick up a little bit. I have about 3 hours of road walking to do this morning and I was hoping it wouldn’t be raining very hard.

A rainy road walk for three hours.

The intensity picked up and waned on about 30 minutes cycles. I was wearing my shorts and short sleeve shirt because I didn’t want to get my long sleeve stuff soaking wet. The rain was coming from all different directions and it was hard to avoid it.

My shoes were soaked within an hour. My priority was keeping myself dry and not the pack. So it was pretty saturated within about an hour as well. My torso stayed dry, but the hems of my shorts were getting pretty wet.

I like the roads that Google had picked out for me. The first one leaving from the hotel had a moderate amount of traffic. But the next three roads had almost no traffic at all. And that was a good thing because there was no shoulder at all either.

Doesn’t this look like a nice friendly road to live on?

The last mile of the road walk it was evident why the section I was walking around was closed. Every three or four minutes, you could hear and feel bombs exploding not too far away. There is no way I would want to live here. This is worse than living near an airport.

Entering Eglin East

It took almost a full 3 hours to get there but I finally managed to get to the trailhead. It was a bit anticlimactic. I am used to Cape Canaveral Air Force Base and it’s typical guard shack entry.

There’s no signs or anything other than a casual “Road might be subject to closure” out near the houses. Is this really a secure base? I guess maybe further in it gets more secure. After all, this is the outer edges open to recreation.

Welcome to Eglin, I think.

The terrain was very similar to what I hiked yesterday. There were streams every mile or two and they were nice clear streams. There were some pine trees but the majority of the trees were oaks. I guess this area is not actively logged.

The campsites are about the same as the others in the previous area. A few benches, a fire ring, maybe a kiosk, and a trail register. But that’s about it. Most of them did have oak trees for good cover from the dew.

I carried a liter and a half of water from the hotel. I knew there would be plenty of water sources and the morning was going to be raining so I wouldn’t be drinking much. The late morning the temperature dropped from 58 to 51 after the rain stopped. I wasn’t sweating at all.

Ok, now I know I am on the Air Force Base.

I don’t think I would have wanted to try and filter water today anyway. There is a lot of clay in this area and the rain just stirs the clay up and puts it into the rivers. I could see that they were slightly cloudy as I passed each one. Clay in the water means your water filter is going to clog very quickly. I still need a functioning water filter for the next few days.

After noon, the sun tried to come out briefly. But by 1:00 p.m. the clouds were breaking and the temperature was rising. Now the weather was perfect for hiking.

My shoes were almost dry, so I stopped to switch into dry socks at about 2:00 p.m. to give my feet a break. The shoes are still wet but with dry socks they will dry out within about 30 minutes.

Nice easy walking on soft pine needles.

If the forecast for the rest of the week is correct, then I should have seen my last rain of this trip. Wednesday shows a small chance of rain, but it also still shows sunshine. I can live with that.

I also hit two milestones in the hike today. At some point in the afternoon I hit the 1,000 mile point on the trail. This is good news because it means there’s less than 110 miles left.

Yay, only 110 miles to go.

The other milestone was hitting the highest point on the Florida Trail. It is a whopping 247 ft above sea level. It is not the highest point in the state, just the highest point on this trail.

The highest point on the Florida Trail is hard to notice if not for the sign.

Since I only had 20 miles to go today I was taking a more leisurely pace with short but more frequent stops. Sometimes it just felt good to sit in the Sun for a few minutes and soak up some rays.

The coffee I had for today both in the morning and afternoon was coffee that I got from the hotel. I didn’t think it tasted too bad at the hotel but now that it was cold it really tasted bad. I think I need to stick to my Cafe Bustello and Trader Joe’s instant coffees. Unless I am toting out a Starbucks or a Dunkin Donuts.

More Hotels

I arrived at the hotel just before 4:00 p.m. just as I had estimated. The shoulder on the highway up to the hotel was nice and wide so it was an easy walk.

It was such a cold day I didn’t even bother jumping in the shower first. In fact I don’t even stink. My feet are just barely dirty.

The first order of business today is taking every single item out of the pack and make sure that it can dry. All the clothes in the dry bags are fine but the outside of the dry bags are wet and need to be dried.

The biggest pain of the butt after a rain is drying all my money. I bought a new wallet for this trip because it’s supposed to be waterproof. But it’s far from it and all my bills get stuck together and my credit cards as well.

Another crazy sunset.

I feel like a poker player laying out all my dollar bills next to each other in a row. Do you know how hard it is to separate a stack of wet bills? It can be quite challenging.

The water has also damaged my American Express. The back plastic is delaminating from the metal core. I can’t lose this part because it has the numbers on it and the magnetic stripe. It has everything but the chip on it.

By the time everything is straight about the room, it is just about time for dinner. My choice is either the Love’s truck stop next door with a McDonald’s and a Subway or across the street to go to a Waffle House.

It’s been so long since I’ve been to a Waffle House and I’m actually craving breakfast. So across the street I go. Waffle House is good, but it’s not great. Sometimes it’s more fun just to go and watch the people there.

Then it’s back to the room to shower and start blogging. It was getting really cold outside so I couldn’t wait just to get under the hot water. I’m really not very dirty considering I just hiked 20 miles.

The hotel breakfast doesn’t open until 7:00 in the morning, so it would be another slow start tomorrow. That is just fine, I only need to go 19 miles. It’s the day after tomorrow that I need to kick it up a notch.

Emotion of the Day

I’m not sure I can zero in on a single emotion.

The morning was unpleasant with the rain and the cold. Then the middle of the day was quite cold. Then the afternoon warmed up. And now I’m in a warm and dry hotel room.

But the whole day all I was thinking about was walking. I felt a bit like Forrest Gump. “I just felt like running.”

I had a good rhythm. I wasn’t rushed or hurried at all. I was just hiking. Even on the road walk in the rain, it still felt like hiking.

I guess the emotion would have to be ordinary.

Nothing stood out today. Rain is normal. Road walking is normal. Cold temperatures are normal. Walking in oak trees is normal. Crossing streams on little Bridges is normal. And apparently now hotels are normal.

Exploding bombs aren’t normal, but that was only about 30 minutes of the day.

Day 50 The Last Map of the Trip

Another milestone achieved. Today I moved on to the last map of the trip. The end is nearing.

Peaceful Morning

It was rather warm last night. I spent some time inside the sleeping bag and some time outside the sleeping bag. It was hard to get comfortable temperature wise.

But one thing that was comfortable was the air mattress. I started out with it not inflated quite enough so I did have to add a little air. But once I got it set it stayed perfect all night. I’m not sure if I slept anymore but I sure felt better.

Early in the evening I could hear coyotes off in the distance in the direction of the campsite I was supposed to be at. The comments in the app reflect that not only coyotes live there but panthers as well. I think I’m glad I camped where I did.

I spent the morning munching on granola and listening to music. I’m not sure why, but I was in no rush to get moving. But I did make it out of camp by 6:20 which is really only 20 minutes later than I would like to leave. Sometimes it’s nice to just be able to pack up and have natural light instead of using the head lamp.

I was eager to get to the actual campsite to see what I missed out on. And when I got there it ended up being a really nice campsite. It had lots of big oak trees to provide cover from the morning dew. And despite where I camped in pine trees I didn’t get too wet last night. I would have been hiking in the dark for 20 or 30 minutes if I had pushed on last night.

This would have been a nice campsite.

The terrain this morning was similar to yesterday. There were ravines and creeks every few miles and pine trees in between. There were a few boardwalks around some of the creek areas that were muddy. Dry feet again.

Is Eglin Open or Closed

Spoiler alert – closed.

Just before crossing the highway that indicates you are entering Eglin Air Force Base, I came across a southbound hiker. His first comment was I’m carrying five days of food but I haven’t eaten any of it in five days. He was commenting on all the stores and restaurants along this end of the trail.

I asked him about the trail closure in Eglin. He indicated that they had military police posted at the trailhead where he needed to exit around the closed section. He had to road walk into DeFuniak Springs, and came from there this morning.

Lots of streams and boardwalks.

I guess there is my answer. Instead of going on to the base until the closure, I might as well just begin the road walk and get into town early. I tried downloading an updated version of the daily closure map but, it keeps downloading the same one. I think I need to assume that the forecasted closure for Thursday and Friday will continue and it will not open up until Saturday. I will be hiking this area on Friday.

As I begin doing the math in my head, I am figuring that by the time I finish the road walk into town and then the road walk back out to the other trailhead it will basically be the end of the day. There is a campsite a few miles later so it would be a long day indeed.

Since I am hot and sweaty and already stinking pretty badly I decided I might as well stay in town instead of finishing the road walk back out to the trail. It is also supposed to rain overnight.

The official alternate has you hiking through town and then west out to the trailhead. There are a ton of hotels in town, so I need to figure out which one I want to stay at.

I use Google maps to check the distance from town to the trailhead. Google maps has picked a route that is very different from the official road walk. It looks like it might be a little shorter. But more importantly, it doesn’t go all the way through town.

There is one hotel on the road it uses to leave town and that is a Holiday Inn Express. Then this is where I will stay.

Air Force Base Trailhead

Where the trail crosses the road that leads into town, It actually enters woods on the other side for a few miles. The trail there is quite nice and only about 100 yards away from the road. You can still hear it but you can’t see it. But then the trail pops out to the road for the last mile or two to the official trailhead.

Doesn’t this look peaceful?

Since my air mattress is working perfectly I don’t want to be carrying this gigantic pad strapped to the top of my pack. It is windy today and the extra pad just blows me around.

I am hoping that at one of these parking areas it will be a developed parking area with usage and I can leave the extra pad here hoping that someone will throw it away for me.

The first indicated parking area when I crossed the highway was not really a parking area so I could not leave it there. When I get to the actual Air Force Base parking area it is official with a kiosk, but not really space to park. It probably does not receive much car traffic but I can’t carry it on the road walk all the way into town 6 miles away.

I find a tree right near the gate where I can wedge the rolled up pad securely so it won’t blow around. I hope someone else either needs it and uses it or has a car and can throw it away.

I am not fond of abandoning gear on trail. But at least I took it out of the back country and brought it to somewhere with road access for easier disposal.

More Road Walking

Us 331 is a big highway. It is four lanes and has tons of traffic. Trying to walk on the paved shoulder would prove to be super annoying today.

Luckily, there is a dirt road under the right of way of the power lines. I follow the dirt road for about a mile before it disappears.

Plenty of shoulder for road walking six miles today

But now there is a small levee that is still very far from the road that makes easy walking. The entire road walk is finding either dirt roads or this levee to walk all the way into town.

As far as six mile Road walks along busy highways goes this has been the best. I was never any closer than 30 yards to the highway. And most of the time it was more like 40 or 50 yards. Other than the noise it was actually not a bad hike.

But the best part about road walking is the services. And in this case as I approached town the restaurants begin to pop up. They are building a brand new Chick-fil-A and there is a Zaxby’s and a Kentucky fried Chicken. By this time next year there will be three chicken options before even getting to interstate 10.

But I have my heart set on a burger. That leaves the options of McDonald’s and Whataburger. Whataburger it is. They have tables outside so that’s where I’ll sit because I smell like a sewer.

Hotel Bound

After finishing my late lunch, I have only a half of a mile to the Holiday Inn Express. It is down a side road about a quarter of a mile. This is also the road I will be leaving town from.

This is the first time I’ve been to a Holiday Inn in probably 20 years. They are always more expensive than other hotels. And when I get there I see it is quite nice. It is on par with the Marriott properties I am used to.

Walking in soft deer moss.

The other reason for picking this hotel is they have guest laundry. And I need to do laundry quite badly. So after I shower that is the first order of business.

After laundry is done it’s time to start looking over the last map and plan out the last days of the trip. Other than the Air Force Base and one more management area, the rest of the trip is all on roads or bicycle paths. So that means there will be definite places I will need to be stopping.

And I already know that three of those places will be Marriott properties. And given the days and the spacing, it looks like I will be spending a night in another hotel and one more night camping. Five of the last six nights of this trip will be in hotels. I think I like the sound of that.

The only catch with this plan is that two of the days will have to be very long. The day to the campsite will need to be a 28 mile day. And the following day after that will need to be 27 miles. The rest of the days are in the 20 to 22 mile range except for the last few which are shorter.

We’ll need to muster all my energy to make sure that I make that 28 mile day. The 27 mile day right after ends with 5 miles of road walking to a hotel, so that day is less critical.

The only thing left for today is dinner. I noticed that up towards town there is a Beef O Brady’s. I have been craving a Watterson sandwich this entire trip. The restaurant is almost a mile and a half away, so I would like to Uber there instead of walk.

But as usual in the smaller towns, there is no Uber service and there is no Lyft service. Or at least there is no service at dinner time. This is what I discovered back in Palatka. The driver’s work when they want to work and they don’t want to work during dinner time.

I decide to go ahead and walk it. What’s another three miles? The walk is not bad but there are no sidewalks for the first half. I am carrying my umbrella because it should start raining at some point. It has been overcast and cloudy all day long.

When I get to the restaurant, I am horrified to find out that they no longer serve the Watterson sandwich. All of this trouble for no reason. I could have ordered Domino’s and had it delivered.

Emotion of the Day

I think I need to pick relaxed for today.

Even though I woke up with plenty of time to head out at 6:00, I just casually did my morning routine. 20 minutes is not much of a delay but it means one less mile hiked in the day.

On the trail all morning, I felt relaxed as well. I was in no hurry to get to a specific destination. I stopped once to eat an early lunch when I saw the southbound hiker, and then at the Eglin trailhead to pick and book a hotel.

And once I knew I was going to be in a hotel and not camping I was definitely relaxed at that point.

Having good surface plenty far away from the highway for the 6 Mile Road walk was also relaxing because I did not have to stress about cars.

And I got to the hotel by 2:00, so I had plenty of time to plan out the rest of the hike.

Other than two really long days planned for the remaining hike, all of the other days will be relatively short. And the fact that I am only camping out one more night means that this end to the hike is going to be somewhat luxurious.

Maybe I can use luxurious for the emotion one day soon. I like the sound of that word.

Day 49 Chocktawhatchee and Lafayette Creek

It’s really nice to be back on trails again.

Hurry up and Wait

The Post Office doesn’t open until 8:00 a.m. so I tried to sleep in as late as possible. But I went to bed with a slight headache that only got worse as the evening went on. At 4:00 a.m. I finally had to take it aspirin.

I know this headache wasn’t triggered by caffeine. I have been regulating my caffeine intake as closely as possible. But one thing I did do last night and I also did a few days ago which caused a slight headache is each sugar.

Last night I drank part of a drink that was basically just flavored sugar. I thought it was a fruit soda but it was a kid’s drink. I also ate a few sugar cookies which I had also eaten a few days ago when I got a headache.

When I finally got up at 7:00 a.m. both of those items went into the garbage can immediately. I still felt lousy but I walked over to the gas station to get some breakfast sandwiches and some milk. My head was hurting so badly that I didn’t want to eat but I knew I had to.

One of the things I needed to take care of today was to get a permit for Eglin Air Force Base. I didn’t realize until a few days ago after talking with Jack and Mickey that you have to watch a training video take a test and purchase a permit.

I did all that in about 20 minutes and had a PDF of my permit. I went to the front desk to see if they would let me email it to them and have them print it out for me. They agreed happily and so now I have a printed permit that is good for one year.

When 8:00 rolled around I headed over to the Post Office. I got there right as she was unlocking the window. I got my box quickly and headed back to the hotel to finish packing.

I have most of the food items I will need for the rest of the trip now. Towards the end of the trip I will be walking by stores and restaurants frequently so I won’t need much food for the end. Most of the food I will need to carry is for today and the next two days on Eglin Air Force Base.

The other chore was to get the repair tape from the box and reinforce the inflation valve on the air mattress. I had Karen send a giant piece just in case. So I will use giant pieces to reinforce the area around the valve. I really do think this is a very poor design on this mattress.

Start the Day with a Little Road Walking

I came into town on road walk and so I must leave town on a road walk. But the good news is, once I make it to the trail I think I will be on trails the rest of the day. Won’t that be wonderful.

Traffic is just insane this morning. Where are all these people going? The traffic is far worse than at any time yesterday.

Hello trail. It is good to see you again.

It is cool this morning, but not cold, so I am wearing my shorts and a short sleeve shirt. When it is this nice this early in the morning it usually means it’s going to get pretty hot.

Chocktawhatchee River

This section of trail is fairly new. It is 8 1/2 miles of trail that replaced 10 miles of road walking. Hallelujah.

There is a campsite at each end of this trail section. The campsites have metal benches and a fire ring. I used one of them to have lunch. The metal benches are nice because they are breezy and never covered in mold the way a wooden picnic bench can get.

The trail changes quite a bit throughout the day. Sometimes it is down near creeks or swamps and gifts a little bit muddy. There is a large cypress swamp that has a boardwalk that goes right through the middle of it. But most of the time it is high and dry in sandy areas with pine trees.

A really nice boardwalks across the swamp.

This new trail section is a great improvement over the road walk it replaced. Mainly because half of the road walk used to be on County Road 20 which is just an insane road walk. And the fact that the trail is shorter than the road walk is an extra bonus.

Lafayette Creek Wildlife Management Area

The Eastern side of Lafayette Creek where I entered is nothing but pine trees in sandy areas. But every mile or two it crosses a creek where the trail gets damp but not muddy.

It is nice being able to filter water whenever you need to instead of having to plan where to pick it up and how far you have to carry it. That is one of the biggest annoyances with roadwalks. You never want to filter water from the side of the road because it is always contaminated with wash off from the road.

I ended up filtering water twice today. They were both from small streams and were very cool and clear water. It was hot enough today that I needed lots of water too.

Dry pine trees

Time to Camp

I am trying to make a campsite called Steep Head which would be over 25 miles for the day. If I had left plenty early this would be no problem.

But because I had to wait for the Post Office to open and then still do some chores, I didn’t get out of town till nearly 9:00. So right off the bat I’ve lost 3 hours of hiking time.

As the day progresses It is evident that I’m going to be two or three miles short of the campsite by the time the sun goes down. I will aim to stealth camp at about 5:30. But at this time I will be right on the trail that goes along Lafayette Creek which is prone to flooding. We have had so much rain in the last few days that I’m worried that I may not be able to find a good campsite here by the creek.

There is a high water alternate that I decided to take instead because it is under power lines and should have plenty of flat clear ground to camp on.

I am almost back to the regular trail again when 5:30 hits. The sun has set and the light is beginning to fade quickly behind the clouds. I find a good spot on an abandoned road bed that has no weeds and just a sand and grass base.

This is where I will set up the night. When I check the map I am less than 2 miles from where I intended to be. I could have pushed to that campsite but it would have been at least 10 or 15 minutes after dark.

Entertainment for the day.

There is no point in pushing myself tonight. I will just get up early in the morning and see if I can still make my intended campsite tomorrow.

The usual chores ensue. Tent, cook, set up, eat, blog. It is only about 65° tonight which is pretty warm. The forecast says it’s going to stay 65° all night so I doubt I’ll even get in the sleeping bag.

I go ahead and check the closure report for Eglin Air Force Base for the next 3 days. It looks like the opening section I will start in is closed for the next 3 days. But based on comments I see from other people It looks like Florida Trail might have an exemption for those early sections. I will have to double check that tomorrow.

If the first section is closed then I will have to road walk around it. That road will add several miles but it will also add convenience stores and restaurants. So either way tomorrow will be interesting. It could either be no road walking or more than half road walking. Stay tuned tomorrow to find out.

Emotion of the Day

I think I will just pick simple happiness.

It was nice having a day that was almost entirely on trails instead of roads. It was very rarely even on forest roads, but it did cross a lot of them.

The fact that the trail was dry nearly the entire length was nice. It was also nice to have creeks for streams every mile or two.

The trails themselves were nice as well. When they were near the creeks they were thick and lush. When they were in the pines they were grassy if they were mature pines and sandy if they were freshly planted pines.

I am not the least bit sad that I did not make my intended campsite. I left so late in the morning that it would have been a miracle to be able to make it. The fact that I’m only 2 miles away is actually quite good.

Other than being a little warm, It was just a nice day on nice trails. And that makes me happy.

Day 48 Headed to Ebro

The second half of the Econfina Creek area was far less impressive than the first half. And Titi swamp was not that great either. But what I found in the swamp is amazing. Keep reading to find out what it was.

Chilly Evening

The temperature was supposed to be about 40° last night. It felt a little colder but there is no frost on the ground. And speaking of the ground, have I mentioned that my air mattress won’t stay inflated more than an hour?

I don’t want to start walking in the dark so I wait a little later to start getting ready. It is nearly 7:00 before I actually get packed up and leave. This is an hour later than my usual time. And the Sun is already high in the sky to greet me.

When I get to the actual Rattlesnake Lake campsite, the gate has been locked and there’s a closed sign posted outside. My suspicions are correct and the entire campsite is permanently closed.

I am betting it is because it flooded and there was a porta-potty in the area that also got flooded. Nothing says closed to camping like having human waste spread all around the campsite and lake.

The Sad Econfina

Even though this is still the Econfina watershed, the river is nowhere near where we are hiking. We are hiking in hilly areas with scattered lakes. And every single pine tree for as far as the eye can see has been destroyed. It looks like a nuclear wasteland.

The wasteland of a forest.

There are grasses and other small vines growing up amid the destruction. Together they both soak me with dew and scratch up my legs. Nothing says fun like wet cuts on your leg.

When the trail is in bad shape like this and there are Forest roads around, I will sometimes elect to take the roads and just connect back to the trail later on. But these roads are really sandy and don’t really go in the directions I want to head to.

The map shows a road that will bypass a small section of trail right at the exit of the area. But when I get to that spot the trail looks amazing. It is a very wide open area of soft grasses and pine trees that are even nicer than the ones in Ocala. It looks like the trail goes right through a wheat field. I must take this trail.

But the trail is very short and eventually I come to the parking area. And a parking area means is roadwalk time again.

Road Walking

This road is State Road 20. It has a fair amount of traffic on it and it has just been freshly paved. The shoulder is pretty wide and nearly flat in many places so I spend more of my time walking in the grass than trying to walk on the road.

How could I skip a beautiful section of trail like this?

It is about five miles to a convenience store. The walk goes quickly and the temperatures are still nice and cool.

The store itself is a Chevron and they have a pretty extensive selection of fried foods. Chicken wings and a corn dog will be lunch today. They also have a nice picnic bench to eat lunch on. But of course I need to get ice cream before I leave.

Yummy Chevron fried food.

Now it is another 9 miles on the same road. This side of the road seems to have more traffic. The shoulder is sometimes wide and sometimes narrow and steep. So it is a mix of walking in the grass and walking on the bicycle lane for the rest of the walk.

It is also starting to get warmer. I am drinking a lot more water and feeling more tired than yesterday. I think it is partially from the temperature and partially from the boredom of this road. The sad part is there is still much more road walking ahead on this trail.

Boring road walk, but the first half is freshly paved.

Titi Swamp

When the road does finally end it begins with a dirt road under power lines. Not exactly sexy but there is no one passing another car from behind me and four feet away from me going 90 miles an hour either.

Yes, that happened to me three times today on County Road 20. No courtesy honk. No beep beep. Just a massive rush of air and a few skipped heartbeats. Jackasses. And one of them was a log truck.

The trail eventually makes it into actual woods. It starts out as pine trees but makes its way to a small creek in an area called Titi swamp. This is supposed to be one of the nice areas again.

Boards over most of the swampy areas.

To me it just looks like thick woods and swampy trails. There are boardwalks over most of the wet areas and some over areas that are quite dry. I get my feet just a little bit muddy as I misplaced my feet on a few steps and sunk into mud a little deeper than I would have liked.

I can’t say that I liked Titi swamp, but I liked what I found within it. Remember me mentioning many times about my lovely air mattress? And remember me mentioning that I normally use a closed cell foam pad called a Ridgerest?

Well right there in the middle of the trail in the middle of Titi swamp, I found an abandoned Ridgerest pad. It is a full-length pad exactly like the one I used on the Pacific Crest Trail. And you bet your ass I rolled it up and strapped it to my pack.

The camera angle makes this Ridgerest pad look huge on my backpack.

On to Ebro

My last resupply box is waiting for me in the post office is only open from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. My original plan was to Camp only 2 miles outside of town and then head in about 7:30 in the morning.

But I am only 3 miles from town and it is only 3:00, so I might as well just go into town and hit the post office in the morning from there. I called the only hotel in town and it looks like they have a room available so off I go.

The road walk into town is not too bad. It is a four-lane highway so the traffic is more spread out. The shoulder is also very wide. And halfway into town it turns into a sidewalk.

I love it when the bridges have dedicated pedestrian walkways.

The walk is easy and I make it to the hotel by 4:00. They have a special hiker rate and the room has a bonus. It has an actual tub instead of a shower.

So not only do I have the closed cell foam pad to use tomorrow night, but I also have a bathtub that I can use to find the leak in the air mattress tonight. Today just keeps getting better.

And it does get a little bit better. I thought there was only a dollar general and a gas station in town. But the gas station also has a Subway inside of it. Even though I am not fond of Subway, they’re toasted sandwiches are far better than anything you can buy at either Dollar General or a gas station.

The normal priorities ensue. Take a shower. Dry out wet things like the sleeping bag and tent. Go eat dinner. Repair air mattress. Blog.

I ended up finding three holes in the air mattress. To a right at the very top in a similar place where the other one was punctured. But this one is also leaking from the corner of the valve.

This model has a crazy wing lock valve. The air mattress is glued to a hard section that houses the valve. That section has sharp corners. And those sharp corners look like they’re puncturing the air mattress itself.

I consider this a design defect and will be letting Thermarest know about my displeasure. They have over engineered something that wasn’t a problem and created a new problem.

I was able to repair the two punctures at the top, but I have run out of repair tape and cannot repair the valve. The box that I will be picking up tomorrow morning as a large quantity of additional repair tape. I will finish the repairs tomorrow.

And if I am lucky, tomorrow night I will sleep comfortably on an air mattress on a Thermarest pad on 1/8 of an inch foam pad. That sounds like heaven.

Emotion of the Day

I’m not sure whether to pick joy or delight. I think joy is probably the one to pick.

Neither of the roadblocks were full of joy today.

But I was very happy at the convenience store, so that counts as joy.

I was very happy to find a Thermarest in the middle of the woods which is exactly the item I need in case I cannot repair my air mattress. I am 950 mi into this hike and have found two foam mattresses. They are the only two I have found in about 7,000 miles of hiking.

And to find out that the hotel had a bathtub where I could find three leaks in my air mattress also fills me with joy. I have had some leaking pads in the past where I never found the leak.

The only thing that could fill me with more joy is finding a barbecue restaurant right next to the hotel.

Day 47 Econfina Creek Water Management Area

The guidebook says that this section of trail looks just like the Appalachian Trail. That is probably an exaggeration, but there is quite a similarity of flora and terrain.

Rise and Shine

I know with the new time zone that I should just subtract an hour from the time I normally get up. But that just sounds way too early in the morning. I lounge around until I can see it’s starting to get light outside. Now it’s time to get moving.

Mickey was already up and making coffee. There are some interesting pumpkin biscuits in the refrigerator so Mickey and I each had one of those. There was also one piece of sugar free pie that had my name on it. A few triskits in the gullet and I am set to leave.

There was a pretty heavy frost on the ground. All of the door steps were very slippery with ice and melted ice.

I managed to make it out the door at 7:00 a.m. which is really 8:00 in the previous time zone. This is an hour later than I wanted, but I knew it would be really cold this morning.

Let’s start the morning with heavy frost and the Sun to our back.

More Road Walking

This section may begin to sound like a broken record. But it seems like there is road walking every single day now. I have 10 miles of road walking before I can hit actual trail.

The one pay off of the road walk is there as a dollar general just off trail. I am carrying two days of food, but it’s always more fun to get fresh food. I should be able to get there by 10:00 or so. It will make a nice early lunch stop.

Along the road there are many dogs. Dogs are not usually fond of strange people walking by their houses. But I think that they hate hikers more because they think we’re mutants with this big giant hump on our back.

The dogs are usually either chained or fenced. I think about four or five times so far there have been dogs that were not chained or fenced. So far I have been able to control them with voice commands.

But today I finally met the first dog that would not respond to voice commands. It was a pit bull and it got within six feet of me, which is too close for my comfort. All I could do is stand there and yell at it while it barked at me. Eventually I think it got bored and I was able to slip away.

The rest of the road walk was uneventful except for the Dollar General. I had a Santa Fe salad, a yogurt, a Green Machine, and a frappuccino for lunch. I only drink half the frappuccino and we’ll save the rest for tomorrow morning.

The Econfina River

The road walk eventually turned into dirt roads as it entered water management lands. The trail turned off onto an actual wooded trail away from the road. It was a long a small creek that was flowing pretty heavily.

A really nice bridge over the Econfina.

I have been hearing mixed reports that this section of trail is either flooded or dry. It starts out dry but then a few muddy areas appear. It is easy to walk around the mud.

After about a mile, this creek merges into the Econfina river. It is a much smaller version of the Suwannee. This whole area has been devastated by hurricane Michael a few years ago. There are downed trees everywhere and almost clogging up the river itself.

Much of the woods away from the river is just dead pine trees. There is some undergrowth, but it is just weird not having tall pine trees to provide shade.

After a few miles it starts to get more hilly and the trail goes over exposed roots from the nearby trees. I also noticed that I’m starting to see both Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel which are trees you normally see on the Appalachian Trail. If there were taller pine trees providing shade this section would look a lot like the Appalachian Trail.

A few miles further the trail now starts to go along the edge of a bluff. Now there is not only Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron, but now the trail is on the side of an incline. Now this is really starting to feel like the Appalachian Trail.

Every few miles the trail changes its character. And about mile 8 it’s character changed to total destruction. There is hardly a tree standing and there is so much debris on the ground that it is very difficult to follow the trail.

Bomb diggity bridge over the Econfina.

There are blackberries and other prickly vines and bushes growing all over the trail. The combination of destruction everywhere and being scratched makes this area not much fun. I actually get lost a few times and have to backtrack or bushwack back to the direction of the trail.

After two miles of this unpleasant section of the trail it starts to get nice again. The hills return and now young pine trees begin to show up. Now it’s starting to turn into a fun trail again.

Finding a Campsite

The area where I wanted to stop is called Rattlesnake Lake Campground. You have to reserve it and it looks like it’s totally booked for every day for the next several months.

Comments in the guidebook app say that it is flooded. I am guessing that this means that the campsite is actually closed and not really booked. There is another campsite nearby that I will have to stop at instead.

I am still getting used to the new time, but I think I should have plenty of daylight to get to near where I want to camp. It is still an area of planted pines but there is a lot of thick undergrowth. The kind of prickly undergrowth that is not ideal for tenting.

None of the area around here seems flooded. And before long I’m actually within a few tenths of a mile of the actual campsite when I find a nice area off to the side that has lots of pine needles and very little of anything else. This will make a perfect campsite.

It seems odd going through the camping routine when I have been in either a motel or a hostel for the last two nights. But it is the same routine. Set up the tent. Cook the food. Configure the tent. Eat the food. Write the blog. Go to sleep.

I better find a campsite before the giant fireball disappears on me.

Emotion of the Day

Other than the one dog that was troublesome, the rest of the day was pretty good, even the 10-mile road walk.

But I think the emotion for today is actually sadness.

It is mainly sadness at seeing all the destruction of this section of trail. I bet ten years ago this was one of the best sections of the trail. But right now it is just a massive area of chaos for much of it.

Having fresh food doesn’t trump the sadness. Seeing plants you normally only see on Appalachian Trail doesn’t trump the sadness. Finding an excellent stream to collect water that has absolutely no color in it cannot trump this sadness.

It was actually a really good day today. But I am sad that I could not see this section of trail back in its glory. Maybe in 10 years I can come back and it will be somewhat restored. Only that will break the sadness of today.