Monday, September 19, 2011
On Sunday, September 18, 2011 five of us decided to take the last hike needed to cover the Florida Trail through Eglin Air Force Base. We knew it would be a bit warm but our Base passes expire at the end of September so we figured we better squeeze this one in.
At 7:00 am we meet at the College and we get on the trail at 7:50am. The temperature is in the low 80's and, by the time we finish 5 hours later, it is probably about 88 degrees. It is warm but not too uncomfortable.
The trail begins on an old paved road that used to be hwy. 285 before it was rerouted. After a short half mile we cross the new 285 and head into the woods. We walk at a brisk pace and reach Red Deer Campsite, appropriately located near Red Deer Creek after 2.5 miles. We do see a deer near this location, although I would not be telling the truth if I said it was Red.
We continue on at a solid pace and cross a number of dirt roads and small creeks with names such a Wise Creek, East Hog Creek, West Hog Creek, Live Oak Branch, Buck Branch, and Bullhide Creek. Usually we cross the creeks on a small platform (two pieces of timber) but one of them has a well-built bridge and I'd have to guess which creek it is.
I was a bit worried about my fitness for this hike. I have been upping my activity level to include intense exercise every morning at 5:30 am for the past four days. I'm a bit sore because of this and therefore worried that I may struggle to keep up. The pace, at better than 3 miles per hour, is challenging and I fall behind by 50 to 100 yards every now and then but catch up because the others have to pause to knock down the occasional spider web. It is nice to not be in the lead as the first hiker on a trail and I use this rationalization to continue to fall back.
About halfway through the hike we come to an area that completely burnt last spring. One weekend last spring we had planned to hike this section but were prevented because base officials closed it off due to a forest fire. This picture shows the result of that fire. Of course, fire kills but it also breathes new life into a forest and this section will surely recover over the next few years. It appears as though some after-the-fire logging has occurred so maybe all was not lost.
At 10.9 miles we come to Bull Camp. This is a slightly nicer area than the previous camp site. However, if I were going to camp after a long day's hike with a bunch of tired hikers I would prefer to camp at a site named No-Bull Camp than Bull Camp, personally.
Shortly after the campsite we come to what I consider to be a comical marker. It reads, "Highest Point on Florida Trail". I'm sure with technology such a location can actually be found, but as flat as Florida is, this hardly seems to be a Trail Milestone worth celebrating. Truthfully, I'm not sure if the point they refer to is the elevation of the ground or the height of the sign above the trail.
We finish the hike at about 12:45 pm having covered 14.6 miles at a 3.0 mile per hour clip. The one picture worth taking that I simply forgot to take was of a snake skeleton near the trail. It was practically whole (without the head), bleached white, and probably belonged to a 4 foot long snake. I imagine it was a Rattler but it could just as easily belong to a corn snake, I guess. we head home tired but satisfied and will hike again once the weather cools off a bit more.