Monday, March 28, 2011

Hike 6: Bob Sikes to 331 on Eglin air Base

On Sunday, March 13, 2011 I left with the crew to make our first hike into Eglin Air Force Base territory. We left the College at 8:00 to drive to the finishing point but were quickly thwarted by road closures on the base associated with smoke from a burning section of woods. We ultimately wound up on the Eastern edge of the base hiking a section of the Trail that I have hiked twice before prior to committing to hike the whole panhandle section.

Because we had spent time hunting for a place to hike, and because I had hiked this section before. I volunteered to leave all of the hikers at the starting point on Bob Sikes Rd. and drive to the finish point on US 331 were I would hike the trail in reverse. I'll present the information and pictures, however, as if I had hiked it east to west so that the blog documentation in consistent. Leaving Bob Sikes Road you are immediately on Air Base property. The property is vast as Eglin is the largest Air Base in the world. We cross White Top Creek at 0.8 miles, Little Alaqua Creek at 1.7 miles, a small unnamed creek at 2.3 miles, and then Hellfire Creek at 3.3 miles.

In another tenth of a mile we arrive at Alaqua Campsite, a clean and pleasant area for tent camping. You must have an Air Base pass to hike in these woods and another to camp at the site.

From the campsite we cross Lyonia and Dikes Creeks 3.8 miles from the start of our hike. The terrain has been gently rolling and the trail is well-marked and enjoyable.

We cross Range Road #208, an improved dirt road at 5.2 mile, followed by Oakie Creek at 5.4 miles and Sparkleberry Creek at 6.2 miles. In spite of all of the creeks, we do not get wet as there are nicer than usual wooden crossings and the ground is not boggy.

We cross a couple of power line right-of-ways and then the trail gets more interesting. It begins to wind and dip and the foliage gets thicker. We cross Alaqua Creek on Demon Bridge. Demon Bridge is about 50 feet long and consists of two trees felled across the span and bolted together with a third half-tree laid on top. The walkway is about 10 inches wide and there is a thin cable strung across to act as a hand hold. It's not dangerous but it is thrilling.

In short order we come to the Florida version of a cliff and climb down a wooden ladder rather than jump. We then cross Blount Creek at 10.3 miles. This is an interesting crossing. I choose to cross on a worn felled tree that is slick and round. It's shorter than Demon Bridge, but trickier. The others all choose to take their shoes off and wade across the calf deep stream - they tell me the water was cold!

From the last crossing it is 0.3 miles to Eglin Portal Campsite, another fine looking place to tent camp. At 12.2 miles we cross Moccasin Branch Creek with no sign of the stream's namesake, thank goodness. From there it is a short 1.4 mile trek to US 331 and the Florida Trial kiosk and marker.

We arrive at 1:43 pm and have hiked 15.1 miles according to the signage, but only 13.6 according to the trail guidebook. Regardless, we have made great time over what is my favorite trail section to date.

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