Thursday, February 14, 2008

Your Tax Dollars At Work

I never really finished my chat about footprints because of those pesky limitations on PocketMail, but in a nutshell, all of us hikers seem to spend a great deal of effort analyzing and learning from them.

Snap and Gretchen finally called it a night, and so did I.

They left early the next morning, a bitterly cold morning it was too. I was loathe to leave my warm sleeping bag, but eventually was forced to by my bladder.

The trail zipped past Lake Delancy, which was hoping with what seemed like hundreds of people with ATVs. Thank goodness I didn't end up their for the night! So that's where all those campers went!

Just before Penner Pond, a ribbon was tied across the trail. On it, someone had written yesterday's date and that the trail was closed due to prescribed burns.


Since it was dated yesterday, I assumed that meant it was safe to pass and I ducked under it.

There were small areas that had burned, but as far a fires went, I'm not sure they needed to close the trail for this one. There wasn't much that had burned.

I pushed on to the Rodman Reservoir.

This reservoir was the result of a failed public works project. Your tax dollars at work. =)

The idea was to build a canal across through North Florida so boats and barges could get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico without having to go around the entire state of Florida.

Talk of such a canal started in the early 1800s, but it wasn't until the Great Depression that work on it started. Get jobs for people, and benefit North Florida for decades to come.

Due to environmental or cost concerns or something, construction eventually stopped after just 3% of the project was completed.

But no, that wasn't the end of it. The US Army Corps of Engineers took another whack at it in the mid '60s. They spent millions of dollars, destroying swamps to create Rodman Reservoir and building canals and locks. Progress went much further this time, but once again, it was never completed.

Due to environmental concerns, the project was officially scrapped in the early 1990s, and the section that had been completed was turned into a public greenway, which the Florida Trail now followed along.

The trail follows along a completed section of the canal, and ducks under a wonderfully enormous bridge for SR 19. The bridge seems to tower a hundred feet above the canal, originally so large barges could cross under it. The barges never came, though, so now it looks monstrously out of place.

The trail crosses the canal at Buckman Lock, and I arrived just at the same time the lock attendants were leaving.

Not that that bothered me--I had the combination for the locks that kept most pedestrians out. =) The FTA will give thru-hikers, and only thru-hikers, the combination for the locks that keep other people out. I had called the FTA office the day before from The 88 Store to confirm that the combination hadn't changed since I first got it.

I unlocked the first gate, relocking it behind myself.

A man came out of the building by the lock, asking if I relocked the gate behind me (yes, sir!), then directed me out the front gate saying the trail followed alongside the road to the end.

He didn't seem especially friendly, and I felt like my being there was an annoyance to him, so I left the lock and headed to the Visitor Center instead.

Inside, an older gentleman named Carl sat behind a large counter to help tourists and other visitors with whatever problems or questions we might have.

I sat in a chair near the entrance, happy to get off my feet, and told Carl a bit about my hike, including the URL for my blog which he pulled up right then and there on his computer while I explored the dislays explaining the history of the failed canal.

When I finished and walked back to Carl, he said, "You sure do look clean for a thru-hiker!"

I laughed. "Hey! It doesn't count when you just read that comment in my blog!"

I headed back outside to make dinner on the conveniently placed picnic tables with spigets with safe-to-drink running water.

While making dinner, someone behind me called out, "Hey! How did you get over there?!"

It was Gretchen, with Snap, who I had passed on the trail earlier in the day. The lock was closed, but they also had the combination for the locks and crossed into it, but they didn't seem able to get out the other side.

I looked at the entrance--closed now-pointing at it and said I walked through. But the gate was open when I walked through. Gretchen said that it had a key lock on it, not a combination lock, and couldn't get through, fearing they put on the wrong lock.

"There must be another entrance," I concluded, and spotted a smaller gate off to the side. "What kind of lock does that gate have?" I asked.

It had a combination gate, and the two made it throgh the lock joining my dinner preparations with my own.

I decided to push on for another hour of hiking before sunset, while they ultimately decided to cross back to the far side of the lock (they had the combination and knew the route!) and camp at the campground there.

The trail delved into a series of dirt roads, filled with trucks and ATVs zooming around. Large piles of trash littled the roadside, and I could hear gun blasts in the distance.

Not really a fun environment to walk through. I finally stopped minutes before sunset, camping well off the dirt roads. Only two ATVs passed later during the night, and quiet finally settled in.

I set up my tarp once again to protect against dew, which was so thick it rained down as tree snot from the trees above.


Anonymous said...

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Tree Snot! I heard it is great on toast! ;) T

Anonymous said...

ok, and does toe jam go good with that as well??????????

on to a much better topic:

glad to hear that when you run into those non friendly types there seems to be someone right around the corner that picks up the human race on the friendly end of things. first the lady outside of Christmas and now Carl.

happy hiking Ryan.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Must make yo feel kind of privy to have have those lock combinations. :)

Too bad it didn;t keep out the noisy rif raf and ATV'ers, too.

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers