Day 1 / 34mi / Fort Pickens to Eglin
Woah woah wait I haven’t updated this blog since I was in virginia… well, I’m now 1,000 miles further down the east coast, and 3,400 total miles into my sobo Eastern Continental Trail thru hike. Frankly, I don’t have the words to describe finishing the Appalachian Trail (91 days w/ 14 zeros,) hiking the Benton Mackaye Trail to the Pinhoti, or my very long roadwalk thru Alabama(175miles) to the FT. I will come back to this. Don’t think I haven’t forgotten!! I just need some time to process, and reflect.
So how what am I up to? Attempting the self supported Florida Trail speed record! For those that know me, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and even planned for it before I left for Canada 5 months ago.
Rules for a self supported record are as such. I cant, and won’t accept any outside help. No magic, and no vehicle support. Im sorry! I know folks who wanted to trail magic me, but how about this! Come see me if you can find me, and we can chit chat, and i can make my way. I wont accept any assistance, but i would really love to see you!! Youre helping just by witnissing that yep, bes out there doing it! Documentation is a big deal, so witnesses are a good thing. In that same vein i will also be back to doing daily reports on my happenings, on this blog. Yay!!
A huge shout out to Joe Kisner who came before me and did a speedy hike of this trail some years ago. Hes been a big inspiration to me, and it is now my honor to hike his hike, and go after hus record. 29 days is what he laid down. Im aiming for three weeks. Only time will tell.
Today I begin to realize the dream. After being hosted by the kindest of trail angels in Pensacola so I could recharge, and evidently wait out a cold front, I started my hike south from the northern terminus at Fort Pickens today at 10:23am EST.
First, Coy, my angel, deserves a medal. He was super awesome, and helped me in every way possible to prepare for this hike.
Second, the Florida Trail is frickin amazing. I’m so happy to be here! Back in my homestate, back with my peoples.
I was dropped off at the fort, took my obligitory photos with the last blaze, and the new termini monument, that was litterally just installed by the FTA. After noting my start time, I began walking.
The trail winded away from the termini on a hard packed sandy trail, through an RV park, and past some historical stone structures. Eventually crossing the main road, and dumping me onto the beach. I didnt see anymore blazes but there was only ome way to go. So I walked the coastlime east. Through the sand, right along the Gulf of Mexico. It couldnt have been a more perfect day. Not too hot, not too cold, just right so that I could wear my puffy jacket.
Making my way through the sand was strenuous but i havent seen the ocean since i started this hike in Quebec, and thus i was happy. Being a floridian, and living near the water all my life i had missed it. Somewhere here I saw what I thought was a beached whale… my eyesight is poor at a distance. I was sad. But then it revealed itself to be a capsized boat! All was good again.
The beach walking ended and the blazes showed up again to take me through a really hoppin’ section of the Pensacola beach. Very developed. A roadwalk of sorts, but with a twist! Porto-johns everywhere! What luck. Typically I gotta hide!
After so many miles of sidewalk the developments stopped, and i enterred the national seashore again. The trail took a hard left, and took me on a ride thru lands of beautiful sand dunes. Up, over, and around them. I loved it!!! The pure white sand with all the beach foliage casting long shadows is magical. If i were taking this slower i certainly would have stopped to camp! The terrain was less shifty here too. Easier walking than the last beach, i assume because of all the plants. I followed pvc pipes with orange blazes painted on them that stuck out of the ground for miles. Witnessing some kids having a sandfight even. Like a snowball fight, but floridian.
This too had to end, the trail once again crossed the main road (theres only one,) and left me on the beach looking for trail markers. Nothing, so i followed the coast towards Navarre. Buildings behind me slipping away, while new ones ahead pop up. Here i alternated between the beach and the road. When i got tired of one, id walk the other! And visa versa. Stopping once to jump in the ocean. It was cold, but i knew id regret not doing it, being i wont have this opprotunity again for another 1,100+ miles.
At sunset i finished the beachwalk and entered the city of Navarre. Trail turned to bike path, day turned to night. I figured id walk till 9pm at least. Hiking this time of year is difficult because the sun sets so early! I barely have 11hrs. So for this record attempt i suspect ill be walking in the dark a lot. Actually i know i will, i plan to! Sunrise is 7am, sunset is 6pm.
In the dark i follow the road, eventually taking me to a bridge that gets me back to the main land. While crossing the bay, a man in his vehicle whipped a u-turn, and stopped. He yelled out asking if i was hiking the FT. I am! How cool, hes a former Appalachian Trail thru hiker, among other things. We talked for a little while, het offered to take me to dinner, and i declined the kind offer. It was great to run into a fellow thru hiker! Most folks just stare like im homeless. Even if i was, chill out, were humans too. After the bridge, and a few more miles of road through the city, and im back in the woods. I sleep tonight at the Eglin Airforce Base permit kiosk. Rather, just passed it.
So today was 34 miles of walking. Im proud of that considering i started close to 10:30. A good warmup. I hope this will be my lowest milage day on the FT.
Having lots of fun so far! Love the FT, and loved the sand dunes!!! Most folks would split this day into two, and camp in those dunes. They’d be wiser than I!
Words cannot express how impressed and proud I am of you!!!
What you have done, and are doing is Amazing!!!
I hope you come for a visit, I’d really like to buy you a beer🍻
Hey Rick! !! I love hearing from you. I will be back soon enough, and will most definitely come for a visit. Thanks for keeping up with me!
Looking forward to seeing your journey! Already missing the FT! (I always miss the FT!) 🙂