Our little stealth spot in that patch of woods lastnight was a mecca for salt marsh mosquitoes. We found that out just as the sun was setting and I noticed the large black bloodsucker land on my leg, and I knew right then I was in for a rough night. I haven’t had a bug problem since giving up my bug net but one night, and now this makes two. Treehouse even broke out his hammock and bug net lastnight instead of cowboy camping like usual.
Night time was rough, but morning eventually came, and the cool temps had drove the skeeters away. I didn’t sleep much, but the energy level in camp was high as we were about to be hiking on the beach! We have hiked over 1000 miles through all Florida has to offer and this was to be our first beach day! After breaking camp, or first stop was a Tom Thumb gas station for food and water resupply, then we made “the big right turn” towards Pensicola (from here on out, we hike due west for 30 miles until we hit the end at Ft. Pickens).
At the big turn, we stopped at a fishing pier so Treehouse could get bait (he’s been carrying a fishing pole since Grey Beard left). As we left the bait store, we collectively decided to grab a celebratory beer right there at Wind Jammers (the bar/restaurant on the pier) overlooking the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Well, one beer turned into another with appetizers and we ended up spending over an hour at the pier, but thoroughly enjoying the view and company.
Leaving Wind Jammers, we still had 12 miles to go until camp, so we hustled along along the sidewalk stopping only to use the porta potty by a construction zone. The sidewalk was nice and fast, but once we left Navarre, it was time to start the actual beach walk. The sand was soft beneath our feet and a real workout for our legs, so we moved to the sand at the waters edge. It was easier, but still rough and our miles were slow to pass. There were also pockets of quicksand that would give way under foot and you have to move quickly to keep out of them.
At our second to last break, we decided to move back to the road since we were all worn out from the miles of sand and ready to get to camp and relax. It was a good move too since it was getting late and the wind was picking up to a fierce 19mph (sustained) and the soft sand was blowing with it. On the road the days hike was clearly starting to wear on us as we were still slow going. The temperature had dropped to upper 50’s, and the wind was relentlessly taking the heat away from our clothes making it seem much colder than it was. There was no place to take a break either on the road with traffic to one side and soft sand dunes to the other, so we pressed on until we got to a trash can on the side of the road. Mickey used the trash can as a wind block as we took a much needed break to add layers of clothes. While we were getting ready to leave, Grey Beard pulled up and waved! It was nice to see his smiling face and talk with him again. He is going to hike with us a little bit when we leave the sand dune trail and see us cross the finish line, which I think is pretty cool.
After leaving or trash can break spot, we crossed the road and into the mile+ of soft sand dune hiking towards camp. It was a brutal way to end our hike for the day, but the campsite ended up being sheltered from the relentless wind, which a big relief. We got to work after a short break to set up camp and gather firewood. We hadn’t had a fire in a long time, actually we haven’t had a fire as a group and our last fires were before we started hiking together. It was a great night watching the flames and relaxing by the fire, which we did until 11pm. We only have 8 miles tomorrow, so we get to sleep in a bit come morning and take it slow, so staying up late isn’t a concern. There is no reason to rush the beach, and we want to enjoy the last few miles of trail as much as possible.
The view from Wind Jammers on the pier
Leaving Navarre, next stop Pensicola
The amazing beach
Treehouse trying to figure out life
the end is just a few miles past those buildings
This is by our campsite, just beautiful
Our last campfire on the Florida Trail, we made it a big one