Hiking the Yellow River Ravine section of the Florida National Scenic Trail
Tina and Ruth hiking on the Yellow River Ravine section

Blog of FTA Panhandle Trace Hike

Panhandle Trace Hike #10, 2013

Actually a subBlog of Wholeo weB log 2013 where I put the unhike thoughts. New entries go on top but each entry is chronological. Entries: March: 25, 31. April 03, 10, 24.


Today I'm publishing a two-minute long video of the hike. Call it a trailer for the DVD. Choice of Vimeo or YouTube versions. I have created an hour-long video for the DVD to give to Peggy and make available to hikers. I'll post here if and when and how to get it.

2013-04-10 +

The hike was great. I had to leave one day early, so I missed hiking with the group on Day 9. Each year the Trace hike is different. I can see why. Let's review the changes to this year's plan. First of all our leader Peggy decided it was more fun to go home each night than to stay on the campsite in her van, so I inherited her campsite. With one exception. Marjorie had planned to backpack and sleep on the trail each night but didn't realize she couldn't do this from Day 5 on 4/2 on.

Bigger impacts were the burns in the forest, both uncontrolled and controlled. The first was a wildfire that spread from a neighbor that lost control of his fire. It destroyed blazes and a lean-to on the Florida Trail. On 3/30 Joe, the FT volunteer who cares for the section, said he had walked the trail and flagged it, so hikers could follow. I got pictures of the northern part of the burned section at the intersection of Old Martin Road.

The second was a controlled burn, which preserves the trail blazes and does not burn the trail, in Helen's section. On 3/31 she told us she didn't know about it until afterward. The air was bad and we could smell smoke for a couple of days at the campground. Some hikers did complete that part of the hike.

Eglin AFB scheduled a military training or test mission on the northern half of the Weaver Creek Section planned for Day 6 on 4/3. So Peggy had us do the Day 7 plan that day. It rained heavily and was cold. I went to the breakfast at Sailor's Grille and got a few pictures from my car window of hikers in the rain.

Rain caused the biggest changes in the schedule. The forecast for storms caused Peggy to cancel the the Day 7, 4/4, hike completely. Day 8 became doing the southern six miles of Eglin, to complete part of the Day 6 plan, but leaving out the beach hike from Opal Beach to Pensacola Beach planned for Day 8. Day 9 went as planned, as far as I know. Peggy said on the Meetup page that she was very happy with the day's events and hike's conclusion.

Since then I've been reliving it in image and video.

I loved being outside, in wind, seeing moon, stars, sunsets and and rises. Love improvising with camping gear. Hate camping hassles. Being in the Blackwater area so long made coming back to South Walton feel akin to coming back to New York City. It seems dull, lifeless, constrained to human development, which seems artificial. And yet I can't care for myself well in the outdoors, so I must be here. Compromise is it.

Sandra Friend of Florida Hikes is an author of hiking books who joined several of the Trace hikes and added side ones of her own. She wrote a blog about the Panhandle Trace Hike here:

Later Florida Hikes posted photos and pages, then added hiker Gordy's essay and Gail's photos of the wildfire burn hike here: http://www.floridahikes.com/through-smoke-and-fire-on-jackson-red-ground.


Sitting in my car at 8 o'clock in the morning. It is raining. The hikers left camp at 7 to start hiking from the East River Bridge at 7:30. I had decided to do the last six miles of the hike, which will be going down along the beach. That is, if we brave the rain or it stops. I should go help Linda break camp.

I did that, it was a good thing or she would not have been able to connect with and help the hikers on the trail. We got to the Sailor's Grill at the south end of the Navarre Bridge where wet hikers and Peggy were eating. I got photos of some of them on the sidewalk heading to Opal Beach.

Tonight Peggy had planned to take a break and go home for the night. Since I am sharing her campsites, I went to a motel and will continue camping at Ft. Pickens on 4/4 and 4/5.

leafscape, Day 5 Panhandle Trace HikeToday is publishing day for Wholeo.net. All I can muster is one leafscape, taken yesterday, on 4/2, Day 5. I pick it because it seems to sum up the changes and the resulting creative beautiful adaptations of this trip. For most of my life, most plants I know become refreshed or newly green in spring. I associate golden and red tones with plants in fall, dying plants, done plants. Falling leaves and green growth dried and shocked frozen. But this tree happily is equally vibrantly red and green at the same time.

I may be too tired to explain why the photo is expressive of what I wrote on Facebook:

I discovered that hiking is not getting from point A to point B. It is keeping on hiking when point A burns with wild fire. When it rains so hard at point B that hikers might get hypothermia. It is paying the bill when promises fall short and on the other hand, accepting a gift insistently given. It is showing up at the changed place at a different time and going a different way, doing a different hike than planned. It is posting to Facebook, not every time some thing interesting happens, but when the technology allows. It is having the option to leave, but deciding to stay it out. It is enduring the hardships and celebrating each wondrous view you have allowed yourself to experience.


It's the end of Day 3. Wonderful hiking. Great people. Fascinating stories to tell in words, photos and video. Campsite is natural, set in the forest but has electricity and is comfortable. Email and Facebook on the iPhone keep me in touch.

However, I have not completed task 1. I imagined myself winging photos to Facebook, to web sites, and to Florida Trail Meetup pages. My camera is not wired and there is no Wi Fi for a computer Internet connection. But I thought I'd learn to transfer photos to my iPhone and post whenever I got something good. At least daily. The first obstacle is that the trip itself is fun but challenging me timewise. So today is the first afternoon I've spent completely focused on this task, solving these interface problems.

I did find a way to put photos in iPhoto on my computer so iTunes can transfer the photo to iPhone. So there it is, ready to go. I'm in Facebook but when I click the "Upload Photo" button, it gives me a text box and only accepts words. Hmm, didn't try Meetup. Will do. Ah, that worked. I uploaded one photo to Day 3. Here it is:

Easter sunrise with Helen and Peggy discussing the burns, both wild fire and controlled and how they affect the hike.
Easter sunrise with Helen and Peggy discussing how the burns (wildfire and controlled) and will affect the hike.


Luk the external drive
Luk, the tough, fast Thunderbolt drive
The night before the Trace hike, I've packed my car ready to leave at 5:30 a.m. in the morning. Here's my new drive, Luk, which I just disconnected from Fascia, the laptop. I've had three external drives fail, perhaps not surviving long hot drives in the car. This rugged case looks like it might survive a car camping trip. It will back up photos, web site, and everything else that happens electronically. We shall see. {Note: Luk lives on, but was not big enough to back up the 85GB of photos and video uploaded to Fascia. Need a bigger SSD.}


Starting to write about and photograph this increasingly exciting trip. For me it all started with meeting Peggy Grantham, the FTA Western Gate chapter dynamo and self-described trail angel who sponsored a weekend trip close to my home. By the way, the chapter is the "Western Gate" because the northern end of the Florida National Scenic trail starts there by the Gulf of Mexico, in the far west of Florida. I had heard of the Panhandle Trace over five years ago but it seemed too far away for a day hike and too long for the whole thing. Peggy convinced me that I could do it and inspired me to make the commitment. The Panhandle Trace goes north to Alabama, intersecting with the main trail that branches off, going east.

I'm 78 years old and slowing down. Backpacking is too hard on my hips and I tire on long hikes. On the Trace everything is optional and flexible. Peggy will pick me up at intervals whenever I need to stop each day. Or I can do the start or the end of each day. I can camp, go to a motel or even home for a night. If my car camping supplies aren't enough at the campground, I can eat out at restaurants or buy supplies at local stores. The campgrounds have electricity so I can stay wired and keep my web addiction fixed, that is, happy. I have an Eglin permit and am a member of the Florida Trail Association. Everything is free except my living expenses.

For weeks I've been stockpiling things to put in my car. Food that doesn't have to be refrigerated or cooked much. Clothes for temperatures below freezing to above-tolerable 80s. Boots, hat, umbrella, hiking poles, and day backpack. Car camping gear including tent, sleeping bags, chairs, stove, fuel, utensils and pads. As much documenting gear as I can muster and afford. I bought two new batteries for my camera and borrowed more SD memory cards to store a day's images and video. Packed the extension cords, battery chargers, power strip, and RV electrical adapter to hopefully keep iPhone, computer, and camera charged each night at the campground.

I started these web pages and a Facebook page for the trip. I hope to blog and post photos each day, which might depend on Wi-Fi or me figuring out how to do it with iPhone. Yesterday trying to look at all the previous Meetup pages and photos, I connected with Scott Lunsford, who took so many great photos, especially of plants, in 2012. Today I realized that Sandra Friend is doing the Trace this year. She is author and photographer of 18 hiking books who has the web site floridahikes.com and the Facebook page Florida Hikes. What great companions I'll have.

Insect and water repellant sprays
Insect and water repellent sprays *

Today is sunny and if the wind dies down, I'll continue to spray clothes and tarps. I'm afraid of getting wet with no way out of rain to get dry. Also wondering if chiggers and mosquitoes will appear. I know ticks have been here all winter. Permethrin lasts through 6 laundries, so the label says, and I know it repels chiggers and ticks from shirt, pants and socks, which is one outfit that directions say takes 1/4 of the bottle of spray. Good, I have four outfits. Waterproofing my tent, jackets, rain pants and hat is a dream.

* By the way, I'm not endorsing these products; they are what local stores offered.

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