Saturday, January 7, 2012

PENSACOLA BEACH


After leaving the market I walked over a small bridge, I found myself at last on some sandy tread. The trail went through some small forest sections and a some dense thickets. I happened upon a blue blaze trail, and took it out of curiosity to a small swamp that was absolutely breathtaking. Some local people obviously use it for a swimming hole, for there were diving boards and roap swings.

Back on trail, I was finding my way through more dense thickets, that eventually lead to a dirt road. The dirt road went through a area that was being used heavily for ATV's and had lots of dumped trash laying around. Soon the route was upon asphalt, that went next to a private lake, with small row boats, and eventually ended at a larger road. This larger road had lots of nice houses that were mostly new, and some lots that were graded and ready for build. Some of the properties had nice fish ponds. After several miles I was on a major highway and at another Tom Thumb.

After a couple of microwave burritos and a bag of chips, I was back on the highway for a few more miles. I went over a large bridge with lots of boats going back and forth, apparently to better fishing spots. The end of the bridge was also the beginning of some more forrest walking, that did not last long, due to some controlled fires. I followed the path as long as I could, but eventually went back out to the road due to not being able to find the burt trail and blazes. I saw a small bear run across the road, but only got pictures of his prints.
Eventually I found where the trail crossed the road, and was back in the forrest just before dark. I had planned to hike the next 5 miles to the next trail head, but found plenty of energy to continue on, being it was my last night on trail, and New Years Night.
There was lots of traffic back out on the highway, but there was road construction going on and I had a large 2 lane swath dirt road to walk on, traffic free.
I then began to search for a camp, that lead me to about a mile, to where the constructions turn out was. I found a concrete pipe that was nice and clean, but obviously was going to be cold. I first blocked the visual of both sides with some plastic pipes, and crawled inside for a stealth camp.
That night, it was like a war zone. The fireworks and gun fire, went on till late in the morning hours. Being surrounded by concrete made me feel safe, but was really cold. Eventually I just got up around 3:30, and started walking. I immediately was at another Tom Thumb, eating donuts and coffee. After a few miles and just before daybreak, I reached roads end and saw one of the most amazing visuals I have ever seen.

I got the first site of the long awaited bridge to Pensacola. It was only a shadow in the night sky, but at day break the colors of the bay were remarkable. The sky and water were both purple, blues, reds, yellows, and oranges. It was amazing. I stopped at the park just before the bridge, and charged my phone for a day of photo's. I also threw away all the gear I did not need anymore including those thermals I never wore. And with a charged phone and light pack, I began walking towards the bridge.
From atop the bridge you could see for miles. The morning was also quiet and empty of people and traffic. It was a pleasurable walk down the other side of the bridge, and to the next Tom Thumb.

After gorging myself on Chimichungas, and donuts, I began my trek along a nice bike path that was separate from the road. I eventually found a beach access, that was not too far out of my way, and went for a swim. There were lawn chairs and tables to hang out on, and I swam long enough to clean my clothes and body. I then walked a mile or so barefoot, till my feet were dry enough to slip my shoes back on.
I was walking through the beach community of Navara, the best kept secret in Florida, their sign said. The was absolutely no commercial property the entire length of the city, unless it was in the 3 giant hotels I passed without stopping.

After walking through Floridas best kept secret, I was now doing a long beach walk. The sand felt unreal on my bare feet, and the water stung all the little cuts from the weeks of thrashing my legs. Eventually though, I got back on the road and hopped over to the other side, near the bay only to find the sandy walk much too slow. Before long though I was back on a bike path heading for Pensacola.

The bike path led right by some large hotels and beachside cottages. Some were very large, but all residences were on stilts about 15 feet above ground. I ate a early lunch at Subway, and stopped one more time at another Tom Thumb, for snacks to walk with. I then made my way to the outskirts of town and eventually at the gate to Fort Pickens.
The last few miles seemed to go forever and to make matters worse, the road was narrow, and traffic was heavy. Eventually at 3:30, I arrived at Fort Pickens. I walked a loop through the whole place and began walking back to a small camper store I had passed earlier.

After trying to Thumb my way out of Fort Pickins I eventually gave up and power walked back to Pensacola, where I got my first Hotel Room and Bed.

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