Saturday, January 7, 2012

WESTERN PANHANDLE


Still walking a road shoulder, and in a new time zone, I made my way to a Kentucky Fried Chicken. I had passed many chicken places along the way but only ate there once. I had seen the KFC on the map for quite some time, so I was ready to put on a good grind by the time I arrived. It did not take long to fill up, and considering there were more stops later in the day, I left with a half charged phone. But about a mile down the bike path, I came up on a old train with Christmas lights. I had been seeing things like this quite often and found there are always a place to plug in the phone. So after another half hours break, I was off, and a short mile later, back on the highway.
With a fast walking pace and a jog here and there, I put myself on schedule, before the next store closed. And some 12 miles or so later, I arrived just before they were suppose to shut there doors. It was a odd store that had a variety of just about everything, but not much for descent food. I did however, purchased about 3 days worth of potato chips and candy bars, water and gatorade and left just in time to find out there was suppose to be a violent storm approaching.
The weather had been so nice the last couple of days that bad weather approaching seamed hard to accept. But after a quick look on my phone it was confirmed. So I continued walking down a now uncrowded country road, looking for a good place to make a camp. Eventually I found a wooded shoulder with a small hill, and I hiked up away from the road and began setting my camp up in the dark. I tied everything down tight and climbed in and began my feast on junk food, just as the storm began.
First there was a light wind, then distant thunder and flashes of lightning. But before long, just as the weather channel predicted, the whole county was a light show. The wind was furious, and the rain began to pour. In fact, the storm was by far the most violent of the trip, and sort of caught me by surprise. I never expected such a extreme downpour and lightning show. But as soon as it came, it was gone.


The next morning, it was foggy and cool, but I was up and hiking by four, because the new time change was going to be light an hour earlier. It was now light at 5:15 and dark by 4:45. So I was attempting to change my internal clock back one hour. Anyways I was out on the road for a few hours, when I walked up on a new store. It was a nice one at that too. I ate a bunch of microwave food and ice cream, while drying my tarp and bag out on the fence. The sun had came out, and it was beginning to warm up. After filling my tank on more sugar, I set off to do the last few miles of now dirt road to the trail.
I was looking forward to the Ecofina Wilderness for I had hear good things about it. I passed by another memorial of another pedestrian death on the road, and I filmed it. I feel it is disrespectful to film such things, but at this point, I needed to make a point.
Up until this last road walk I was still fickle about turning around when I hit Pensacola. But the roads had finally taken there toll. I had enough, and all the negativity. I had many more miles of roads to go, but it was taking all I had to keep things positive. I had saw so much death, with the memorials, so many close encounters with big trucks and asshole drivers, I had enough with crazy's yelling homeless crap. I was just sick of it all. I had also realized that after 46 years of existence that the Florida Trail Association, does not care about the continuous footpath across the state. What they like is there little hammocks of wildernesses separated by miles of roads. That is why the Department of Interior is taking away all the power from the association and giving it to the Forest Service. The FTA is receiving a million and a half a year, and most of that goes to their leadership, while rather than completing their trail, they have been just sinking the money into what already exist.
Back on trail, I was now walking in a wonderful water shed, Ecofina Creek. It was beautiful and the small feeder creeks were crystal clear and tasted fine. I met another thru-hiker, Skittles, and actually sat down a while, talking trail. He had started in Canada, and had hiked most of the AT and roads to the FT and was just about sick of roads too.
I had hopes of reaching highway 20 that night, so I couldn't stay long. The tread was nice and the scenery was even better. I walked late that night and camped at the trailhead on highway 20.
The next morning, I was up early walking along highway 20. The road walk in this area was about as bad as it ever got. Traffic was heavy and the shoulder was thick grass full of thorns. I remember cussing the FTA the whole way, in total disgust.
Before long I was at a gas station, where I pigged out on pre made egg and sausage sandwiches. I bought a new hat and sunglasses, and set off for the next gas station.
The route ventured off the road a few miles but eventually was back out on the highway. The next resupply option was closed permanently, so I had to back track a mile to a gas station, where I bought 2 subway sandwiches, and gatorades. Still on the highway, I continued at a now slower pace to the next resupply.
Near dark I made it to the last resupply option, where I bought 2 1/2 days worth of food and set out for the last 5 miles of roads. It was ridiculous once again, with no shoulder, and plenty of traffic. I made camp quickly after finding the trailhead, in a pine farm on a thick bed of pine needles.
The next morning I was once again walking in hunters paths and happened up on two hounds who followed me for miles. I tried everything to shoe them off, but they continued to follow at a distance. Eventually they disappeared, and I found myself in some nice river drainages, with some small hills that actually felt good on my legs. I saw 2 large hogs, and several white tail deer.
Before long I was back on the road, for a short road walk to the Eglin Air Force Base. This Road walk had a shoulder, and was not too bad of a mission. It also had what looked to be the highest hill of the trip.
Eglin AFB was a nice wilderness, but there was lots of hunting going on. I came across tree stand hunters and hound hunters. I walked very late that night, and passed the high spot of the FT. There were many creeks and bridges, as well as small swamps and hardwood stands.
The next morning, I was up to another early start, hearing hounds by day break. I walked right through several hunts and just acted stupid. I had my orange bandana, and made lots of noise with my hiking stick. I am sure I pissed a few of them off. Eventually I worked my way out of the wilderness, and was on the road again by 3pm. I found my way to a Tom Thumb, sort of like a AM/PM on the west coast and did my resupply. The route was going to be on roads from here until section 8, some 40 miles or so, so I was in no hurry. I figured I could walk late that night and was sure I could finish in two more days if I walked late tonight.
I went by many fast foods, but just ate at the Tom Thumbs along the way, usually getting a Monster and a snack of some kind. I walked late once again, and found a quiet place to sleep outside a neighborhood along some power lines. Later that night NewYears Eve was starting early with gun fir everywhere all around me. Also the fog came in and the trees began to rain.

The following morning, while road walking, I saw a tree that was carved up like a bunch of goats. The road was pretty empty, probably due to it being New Years Eve, but eventually I arrived where the trail splits off either North or West. The Northern trail is meant for the continuation of the Eastern Continental Trail, and the West is the route to Pensacola. There was small market at the intersection. I was so glad to be off the road and was looking forward to the trill once again.
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