APRIL 11: The journey is over, but I am still on trail time. Up early for the morning sunrise on the beach, which I had all to myself at that hour. Then it was over to Fort Pickens to take the individual self-guided tour. Joe, the volunteer ranger in the visitors center, offered to take us to the supermarket after he finishes his shift at five this evening. The tour was quite informative and the coolness that the thick brick walls provided from the soaring temps was an added bonus.
Back at camp, we played move the picnic table from shade to shade as the sun arced across the sky. We passed the hours eating, resting, writing postcards and updating journals. Jon wrote some adverts for a ride to the Pensacola Greyhound Station and posted them at the camp shop and in the bathroom area. Less than three hours later, a guy rides up on his moped and tells us he can fulfill our request. A load off both our minds.
Joe arrived as scheduled and took us to Publix where I bought more food than I should have, but maybe I should pork up a little bit before tackling the Appalachian Trail. We had a wienie roast over the flames of our campfire which was a great ending to the day. Adam, Joe's stepson, stopped by on his bicycle and we spent a while chatting. He seems like a nervous person, a bit twitchy in my opinion. Anyway, out of the blue he stops in mid conversation and says, "OK, where are the trees?". I'm sitting there looking at the pine and scrub oak surrounding us, thinking, "What the hell is he talking about? Is he off his rocker?". Jon was the translator. Adam was asking if we had any marijuana joints to smoke. He assumed that hikers like us would quite naturally have a stash. Not a bad assumption since there is a segment of thru-hikers that are into the drug culture. (Not) Sorry to disappoint, but we're high on life. You want to get high? Go climb a mountain! The dude is trying to get his life back on track. My advice, best stay away from drugs. Well, it's late, my belly's full and my eyes are droopy.
April 12: There was a mini-storm last night just to remind us that we're still in Florida. It basically came out of nowhere and started with a big rush of wind. When the rain started falling, Jon said, "You've got to be @*#%ing kidding me!". Fifteen minutes later and it was gone as soon as it began.
By 8:30 we had taken up position near the flag pole at Fort Pickens awaiting the air show by the Blue Angels. They took off precisely at 9 and gave us all a marvellous demonstration of power, precision and speed. A couple of times they passed right overhead with a deafening roar. How thrilling!
In the heat of the day the relaxation continued along with a little napping. As it grew cooler, we went off to explore some of the other areas around the fort like Battery Cooper and the jetti. We walked along the walls and along the beach, waiting for evening and wishing for a brilliant sunset. Our wish was granted.
April 13: We were dropped off at the bus station early by the man who'd volunteered to take us the day before. Thanks so much for the kindness. Speaking with the woman at the ticket counter, Jon tried to change his departure time so that he could ride with me on the overnight bus to Atlanta. Unfortunately, it was not possible to do without paying a fee, so at 10 o'clock, with a manly hug and a wave, Jon boarded the outbound bus and was gone. It was the first time I'd been without a hiking partner in close to a month and it felt strange. I went inside the waiting area, sat down and pulled out the Appalachian Trail's Thru-Hikers' Companion. Between that and people watching, the minutes slowly ticked off the clock. One guy that came in had a backpack, so we struck up a conversation. Turns out he was headed out west to do the Pacific Crest Trail with a friend. He had done the Appalachian Trail a year or two before, so we sat there swapping information until his bus pulled up to the station.
From 7 to 10 p.m. the station is closed, so I wandered over to the McDonalds and grabbed a meal. I settled into a table on the side to eat, read and wait. Around nine the strangest thing happened. A man came over to the table, laid down a couple of bucks, patted me on the shoulder saying as he did so that he wished he had more to give. I was speechless. Before I could say a word in protest, he was gone. He must have thought I was a homeless bum, but how was that possible? I was clean shaven, had showered at camp that morning, and was wearing my best hiker clothes. :-)
At 10:45 the bus to Atlanta arrived. Goodbye Florida! I'm off on another adventure.
Blue Angels Above Fort Pickens