I first realized they were on to me when a car passed by in my direction going suspiciously slower than most of the traffic, and in the darkness I could see the lights (unlit) on the top of the car.
When the car pulled over to the side of the road, I knew they were after me. They waited several seconds before there was a break in the traffic and they made a quick U-turn, then slid up in front of me.
Two officers stepped out the car Which kind of pleased me--the last two didn't bother doing anything but roll down their window--somehow I felt more important that they'd actually take the effort to step out of their car. For little old me! =)
So they asked what I was doing there and if I carried any ID, which I passed over to one of them to run a check on. We chatted a bit, and I asked if they'd seen someone a couple of months back riding a skateboard to California. They hadn't, but one of them had seen the guy on the news while watching television. That skateboard dude sure got a lot of attention.
When my identity cleared without any outstanding arrest warrants or whatever they were looking for, they told me to be safe because there are a lot of kids out for spring break driving to the beach to party.
And being a Saturday night, no less, I told them there were likely a lot of them driving drunk as well, and wished them luck catching every one of them. Frankly, I didn't want a drunk running off the road and plowing into me. Or a sober person for that matter, but dang, 331 was a heck of a busy road for being so late at night.
I continued walking, though, as far off on the shoulder as I could manage, and am happy to report that nobody, drunk or otherwise, plowed into me.
I stopped perhaps 200 feet short of the trailhead for Eglin Air Force Base, and set up camp behind some trees next to powerlines. The roar of the traffic was a problem, and it never went away completely, but it did die down some after midnight.
In the morning, I filled out the form provided at the kiosk at the trailhead, signing my life away and marking my entrance, exit, and other details of the hike. Paperwork, even on the trail.
The trail through the air force base was nice and well-marked, and the day was absolutely perfect. The temperature was cool, the sun was out, and the traffic behind me.
It's actually tough weather to hike in because I found myself wanting to lounge around and enjoy my surroundings than actually hike. If I had a book or magazine to read, I might have lounged anyhow, despite the fact that I was supposed to stop at Bull Camp according to my permit and that was what I told the lady I talked to the day before.
My map warned not to touch anything that looked like an explosive--not something I'd likely have done anyhow--but that one of the primary goals of the base was to test munitions. Seems kind of odd that they'd test explosives on an air force base. Shouldn't they be testing planes or something?
Actually, I know for a fact they test and train pilots, because I'd been seeing and hearing the fighter jets overhead everyday since leaving Blounstown, seeming to be in mock dogfights. While it's true I didn't see where the planes took off from, Eglin AFB was the most likely location.
I ended the day at Bull Camp, which unfortunately was close enough to I-10 that I could hear the traffic all night long. I was still far enough away that it didn't disturb my sleep, but it did take away from the seemingly remoteness of the location. For most of the day, I didn't hear any traffic at all.
One barely noteworthy event, which I mention only because there is so little to report, is that someone left behind what appears to be a large tent and one of those head pillows you see people with on airplanes. Oh, so soft....
The pillow was in remarkably good condition and didn't look like it had been out in the wild for more than a couple of days, so I took it. =) The tent might have been nice, but it was WAY too big for me to carry out of there, but the pillow--yeah, I could do that. So for now, I have a very nice pillow to use each night. At least until I see Amanda to give it to her or reach a post office to mail to myself for later.
I also picked up what trash I could at the campsite. My name is on record as having stayed at that site, and I'd like to think whoever checks the site later and sees it so clean might think I had something to do with it. Or at least they won't automatically think I'm responsible because the person before me trashed the site. Actually, it wasn't too bad. A few cans, foil wrappers liked you'd find around individual pieces of gum, and the pillow and tarp. The previous campsite has a heck of a lot of trash littering it, but this one is pretty nice now--except for the tent, of course, which was too big and heavy for me to carry out.
The next day was largely a repeat. The weather was nothing short of absolutely amazing, and I found myself wanting to lounge around enjoying it and the scenery than to spent my time hiking. Hiking, however, is my job, and hike I did.
I set up camp at the Jr. Walton Pond campsite, a nice little setup at the edge of a pretty pond. And even a picnic table to use for cooking and dining. The good life. =)
I picked up trash again--this time an empty cigarette pack and a receipt from a Burger King printed out two nights earlier. Whoever this litter bug was, they did their evil deed within the last two days.
While cooking dinner (Hamburger Helper!), I thought I could hear explosions in the distance. Hmmm....