The morning was spent on white blazes avoiding very rough orange-blazed trail. Posted signs advised us to use the detours. Mosquitoes were constantly trying to land on exposed skin to quench their mighty thirst. As soon as I entered the visitors center of Olustee Battlefield, I switched into long pants. The center is a small and self-sufficient with video information and displays about the battle which took place here on February 20, 1864, ending in a decisive confederate victory.
Osceola National Forest had a nice path through pine and palmetto, but it was a little weird at the beginning because there was just a strip of bush-lined trail through an area cleared of underbrush. Turkey Run had boardwalks on the side of dirt roads that helped us bypass the big puddles where rain water had collected. However, many of the wooden structures were in a badly dilapidated condition or didn't extend far enough, so we had to bushwhack along the edges to get back to where the road was actually dry.
The big event of the day took place upon our arrival at the primitive camp near West Tower. When I came into camp, I saw an older man sitting at the picnic table. I greeted him with a friendly hello, but got no reply. Joining him at the table, I soon realized that he was totally disoriented. He couldn't hear or talk much and didn't even know his own name. He just kept saying, "I'm pretty messed up" over and over again. At first, I thought he might be some old guy suffering from Alzheimers out wandering the woods or perhaps someone exhibiting the symptoms of some kind of heat stroke as it was fairly hot out. Jon strode up about ten minutes later and used his phone to contact the county sheriff and emergency services.
Leaving Jon in charge of the man, I went to nearby West Tower Camp for water. To my astonishment, it was RV central, having been completely taken over by vacationers owning vehicles the size of buses. I asked people there if they knew of anyone that fit the description of the man we had back in the primitive camp, but they shook their heads and said no.
By the time I brought water back for Jon, Gary (he could remember his name by then, but little else) had improved slightly. We wanted to get him on his feet and walk him to West Tower so it would be easier for EMS to find us. We started that way, but then Gary led me away from it and down another dirt road to his pickup truck where we sat and waited for help to arrive. In the meantime, Jon went to West Tower to direct the emergency people our way. I kept asking Gary some simple questions and slowly the answers came. His name was Gary Ball from Kentucky. He was 62 years old and was on medication for his blood pressure and some stomach ailment. He was able to describe what had happened to him just before I saw him for the first time at the primitive camp. Needless to say, I was relieved to see a person from the forest service arrive in his SUV to take us back to West Tower. I relayed what information I had that I felt would be helpful and then my job was done. With sunlight at a premium, I went to set up camp. Returning to West Tower to fill up on water, I stopped to talk to the paramedics. Their diagnosis was that Gary had had a mini-stroke and it was their desire to take him to hospital to run a few tests. Unfortunately, like too many in this country, Gary didn't have health insurance and refused to go.
Back in camp, I quickly ducked inside my tent to save myself from the murderous mosquitoes. Gary dropped by in his pickup, thanking us for being there in his time of trouble, and then headed off for home in kentucky. I wish him well.
A Little Swamp Water
Olustee National Battlefield Monument
Osceola National Forest
Area of Prescribed Burn