Hiking the Florida Panhandle


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It's not an adventure until somebody screws up...

ANF: Bradwell Bay March 13, 2007

Today was the day that rwtb and I were supposed to hike Bradwell Bay together. We fell out of contact late last week, and I hadn't heard from him to find out if our plan was still a go. Last night I rode over to Porter Lake Campground to see if he was there, and didn't see him. Since I had already set it up with my Mom to watch the kids today, I decided to go ahead and show up for the hike this morning, just on the off chance he would make it.

I got down there a little after 8am with the sun beaming brightly through the pine trees. Right before the trailhead, I had to wait while three deer went across the road, one of them a little yearling. After futzing about with my gear a bit, I set out on the trail at 8:25am.

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Sunlight through the pines.

Now entering Bradwell Bay.

The first leg of the trail parallels the Sopchoppy river. I saw two varieties of wild azalea growing in that area. One I can identify as sweet pinxter azalea, but the other I'm not sure about. I couldn't get close enough to it for a good picture.

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Unidentified pink azaela.

Pinxter azaela.

Another shrub I can't identify

Other flowers were in bloom along the trail, and I spent a lot of time snapping pictures. Once I got away from the bulk of them, though, I settled in to hike. I wanted to push myself a little and see how fast I could cover the distance. My plan was to hike through Bradwell to the middle spur trail, and then take the forest road back to the van. The total distance is about eleven miles. I'm a slow hiker, especially when I have my camera, so I tried not to take it out unless something really caught my eye. Lots of stuff did.

The FT gets a lot of complaints about lack of maintenance, and the complaints aren't entirely undeserved. The trail through Bradwell is pretty well traveled, though, and the terrain around it is so overgrown that it would be difficult to get off the trail. Still, after hiking for a quarter mile or more without seeing a blaze, one does start to long for some reassurance. The blazes are so sporadic, I would get used to not seeing them, and then suddenly realize that it had been quite a while since the last one. Even the most faded bit of orange paint on a pine tree gave my spirits a lift.

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A faded blaze...

Is better than no blaze at all.

Besides the deer, I saw a few squirrels, dozens of songbirds, woodpeckers, and one swallow-tailed kite. I heard a hawk screaming in the distance at one point, but never could get a glimpse of him. I was able to get a decent picture of the kite, but the other animals eluded me.

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Swallow-tailed kite.

Side view.

When I reached Monkey Creek, I was gratified to see that the water level was about a foot lower than it was the weekend before last when I hiked to it from the middle spur trail with my nephew. I was able to cross without wading, but my toes got wet jumping from one log to another.

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Monkey Creek from the east.

From the west.

I had intended to eat lunch at the creek, but the bugs were so bad, I just kept on hiking. I completely forgot that I was also going to filter water while I was at it. I was down to half of a half-liter bottle. When I stopped to eat lunch farther up the trail, I downed all of that except for two good swallows. Peanut butter and pita bread are pretty dry without plenty of water to wash them down.

I was only a short distance from the road, though, and then it was only 2 more miles to the bridge over Monkey Creek. I figured I would be there soon enough, and could get water then. I was parched when I got there. A buzzard was circling overhead when I came in sight of the bridge sign, and I taunted him about missing out on a meal.

It was only another mile and a half or so from the bridge to the van, but I didn't want to go any farther without water. It was just too hot walking along that road. I filtered a liter and a half of water, and poured the first half-liter straight down my throat. I had to stop one more time before I got to the van and dump some water on my head to cool down.

The total time for the hike was just under five hours, so I felt like I did pretty well. I'll be feeling it tomorrow, but right now it's a good tired.


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