With two hikes behind us, we drove toward west to join the Panhandle Trace Hike. Knowing that after ten years of leading this event long-time Florida Trail Association activity leader Peggy Grantham would be retiring, Sandy wanted to participate this year and fill in a few new spots on the Florida Trail map.
We arrived at Blackwater River State Park before the rest of our group, without a camping space reserved. When we went to book the site, we discovered that the park had been sold out for the holiday weekend. Our reservations started the next day, and had us breaking camp and moving every day to a new site. Parking in a site reserved by our friend Linda, I noticed a lone bicyclist setting up his tent. I realized that since he didn’t have a car, it might be easy to squeeze in Primrose and share the site with him.
Tony happily agreed to share the space, and we split the cost. We had a place to stay, and he saved a few bucks along the way. Being an old bicycle tourist myself I was eager to hear about his trip. It was the first night of his five week ride from Pensacola to Atlanta. Once a year, he loads up his touring bicycle and heads out on an adventure. He was excited to meet up with us: fellow adventures, a fellow cyclist, and sharing his site with a vintage VW Camper van. What a great first day. He’ll have plenty to write about in his journal!!
Little did we, or he, know how many pages of his journal it might fill. One by one, our fellow Panhandle Trace hikers (aka “Tracers”) arrived. Soon Tony was surrounded by a crowd of fellow adventurers. As the group grew, he met each and every one of us. I would later overhear his conversation with Thom, a hiker in our group from the Tampa Bay area. He used to live in Pensacola. It turns out his and Tony’s homes were just two streets apart! They didn’t live there at the same time, but they shared and compared their local knowledge.
After a group dinner in Milton we called it a night, warning Tony that we’d be up early to start our trek.
The next morning we said goodbye to Tony, and carpooled to the Alabama border to start the Panhandle Trace Hike.