Monday, February 28, 2011

Hike 5: Holt, FL through Crestview to Eglin Air Force Base

On Sunday, February 28, 2011 Five of us find our way back to Holt, FL on Highway 90 to undertake an 18.5 mile hike along two major roads in the Panhandle. It's unfortunate that the Florida Trail has to follow such roads but until the land is acquired to keep it all off of the beaten path this is what one has to do to hike the FT. We begin at 8:30 am in 70 degree weather. It is overcast and that is a good thing as we would be exposed to the sun all day given where we are hiking. At the start is a very interesting chainsaw carving on an old Oak tree that had been struck by lightening. It turns out to be the most interesting thing we pass all day.

We hike through Holt heading due east on Hwy. 90. Most of the hike is just off the edge of the road and we keep an eye out for errant Sunday drivers. at 9.0 miles we pass through Milligan and cross the Yellow River.

As we enter the greater Crestview area we pass a very nice home with a pond complete with ducks and geese. It is about here where I decide my left foot is getting a blister and I change out from my running shoes to my Crocs. The relief is immediate.

We pass through the heart of Crestview and do get a short respite from the Highway by turning down quaint Main Street before connecting up with Highway 85. Unable to fight the urge, I stop at a Tom Thumb Store and buy a soda and a hot dog for that little energy boost i need to keep plowing ahead. We pass over the Shoal River at 17.8 miles and a short 0.7 miles later we reach the entry point to the wooded Eglin Air Force Base portion of the FT. We've covered 18.5 miles at about an 8 minute and 30 second per mile clip. This proves that road hiking is much faster, and easier, than trail hiking as we've averaged over 20 minutes per mile on all of our previos hikes even though they were shorter. True to form Brian and Lickety split (Lynn) arrive ahead of the rest of us by about 10 minutes. Brian and i compare foot blisters and decide that his is larger, about the size of a beverage coaster, but mine is more painfully located, on the very ball of my foot. all in all, it wasn't as bad a hike as I feared and we are ready to enter the woods of Eglin on our next trek.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hike 4: Indian Ford Road to Holt, FL

On Sunday February 14, 2011 I wandered outside about 7:00 am only to find frost on my windshield - one of the few times I've had this happen this Winter. Regardless, I loaded up and went with seven others to take Trek #4 on the Florida Trail. By the time we began our hike just after 9:00 am it had warmed considerably and promised to be a sunny day in the low-mid 60's. We began at Indian Ford Road just east of Juniper Creek. In no time we crossed a small unnamed creek and headed into a pleasant Pine forest. At 1.6 miles we came to a dirt road that we followed a short way (1300 feet) before turning back into the State Park by crossing a locked gate. We soon came to another small water crossing. There was limited mud to hike through, more so than in other hikes. Although, I must say the softer ground was pleasant on the feet. after a good rain I'm sure it becomes more of a slog. It was also about this time that we first noticed the think black smoke ahead in the distance. My first thought was that we might have our hike cut short by the burning of a forest along the trail we plan to hike today. I had visions of hiking back to our car along the roads instead of along the trail. At 2.7 miles we arrived at the Deaton Bridge Trailhead. This location featured a great view of the Blackwater River, a swimming hole (that we did not venture into) a park (complete with running water) a bridge (Deaton Bridge, I assume) and a great beach to play on. The photo at the top of this entry shows a Cypress bog located at this same location, as well. We pause briefly to conduct our first business meeting on the Trail. A motion is made, seconded and approved, to award trail names to two of our hikers. Mike Van Dyke is officially dubbed "Sherpa" because of his propensity to pack enough on his hikes to keep all of us in supply of any and every need we might have from Moleskin, to batteries, to a desalinization processing plant in case we find ourselves stranded out on the Gulf. Ben Gillam is granted the moniker "DT", which stands for Dick Tracy, due to the high tech watch he wears that tells us how far we've gone, how fast we've gone, how many calories we've burned, any elevation changes we've encountered, our average pace of hiking, our anticipated 2010 IRS Tax Refund, and which spouses back home are currently engaged in inappropriate behavior while we're out hiking this trail.

After individually worrying about the forest fire up ahead, but being unwilling to discuss it collectively in fear of putting a hex the hike we finally come to the fire we've been seeing up ahead. Two State Forest officials are using kerosene to ignite the fire. Luckily the trail stays to the west of the blaze and the wind is blowing to the east and our hike is not interrupted by the fire.

At 8.03 miles (DT's watch is very precise) we emerge from the woods at the intersection of Deaton Bridge Road and Hwy. 90. This is the point where the trek from Alabama connects with the Trek from Pensacola and we begin or Eastern push along the Panhandle. WE have 8+ miles to hike along the highway which, at first blush, I fear will be boring. But it's not as bad as I figured. We are frequently able to hike down dirt side roads that shelter us from the traffic. We pass a farm with a small but excitable dog, many chickens and a couple of huge turkeys (enlarge the picture and look at the top left corner to get an idea of size). we hike through Floridale and we chuckle at a sign that warns us to "Watch out for Jesus?".
finally, we pass a well-to-do horse farm who's owner has plenty of time to try and educate motorists who drive by at 60 miles an hour and certainly to not have time read his/her treatise that continues to elaborate on the other side of the sign as well. We arrive at the car after a total hike of 16.5 miles at 3:00 pm having hiked at about a 2.75 mile per hour pace. I have two large blisters on the balls of my feet that will keep me hobbling for a few days I'm sure. To be fully truthful, I must say that I'm a member of the last pack to arrive at the car, Brian chose to run the last 8 miles and beat us by about 90 minutes and the two women on the hike motored away from us to finish about 10 minutes before us.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hike 3: Beaver Creek Road to Indian Ford Road - Sunday 1-30-2011

On Sunday, January 30th 2011, five determined hikers took on the longest hike yet on the Florida Trail. We began at about 9:30 am where the FT crosses Beaver Creek Road. In order to prove I was on the hike I made sure my index finger appears in several of the photos. Actually, I used a different camera than I usually use and wasn't as careful as I should have been. The first 1.4 miles followed first along an open cotton field and then through a nice pine stand. When we came to paved McVay road we followed it a few hundred yards to FL HWY 4 and turned west. After 0.3 tenths more we re-entered the woods.
At 3.6 miles we came to a primitive trail shelter This shelter was located fairly close, as the Crow flies, to HWY 4 and I suspect you can hear traffic if you spent the night there. In this same stretch we also came across trail signage letting us know we were on the Jackson Trail. Recall from my last post that the Jackson Trail is so named because Andrew Jackson used it to march 1,200 troops into Florida in a failed effort to remove the Seminole Indians.

The Guidebook warns us that the trail may be wet and muddy but we see little of such as we progress. We do come to a number of bridges and wooden walkways that must span mud at other times in the year, but are dry today.

We soon must hike through an area of recently burned forest. The trail is practically invisible but fortunately the orange blazes are about 100 yards apart and we are able to pick our way across the setting even though their is no trail.
We Cross the paved Sandy Landing Road at 9.0 miles and begin the beautiful part of the hike. As we move off into the woods the trail begins to wind through a Palmetto grove. It is very sandy as we work our way up to "the Bluffs" overlooking Juniper Creek. We are frequently engulfed in overgrowth and must take care not to snag our clothing our hit our heads on the growth and the overhanging limbs of trees. We follow this interesting terrain for several miles until we reach Alligator Road. Along the way we come to a nice shelter and take a short break. Crossing Alligator Road at 14.0 miles we soon reach and interesting bridge spanning Alligator Creek - a feed stream for Juniper Creek. A short 1 mile later we reach our destination for today, Indian Ford Road. We were able to park the car within about 20 yards of the where the trail reaches the road. We've hiked 15.3 miles in about 5 hours for a 2.6+ per mile pace. We seem to be no worse for the wear even though we've upped the mileage a bit.