Day 3 of the Panhandle Trace Hike, McVay Road to Red Rock Road Trail Head
Guest post by Gordy Hawkins, Suncoast Chapter FTA. Photos by Gail Baldwin.
Enter into a world of black and white and the continuum of grays in-between. That is what it was like for me the day we walked a recently burned section. It was Sunday morning and the burn had occurred the Friday before. There was still some mild smoldering. It was not a forest service controlled burn but one created by a neighboring farmer. The farmer was burning some of his land and the fire got out control.
This section was in a sandhill area with towering pine trees that were spread apart. No shrubbery between the trees, but dark remnants of diminished shrub blanketing the turf. This area of the route was a gradual descending incline. Trees were burned perhaps three quarters of the way up, maybe 25 feet.
The sand path was usually discernible but the blazes were not; they were all charred as was the bark of the trees.
Wiregrass on the ground was dark black and when stepped on or poked with a hiking stick, it would disintegrate into fine, black granules. Some trees that had fallen were charcoal logs and a few dead trees that had fallen over still maintained their brownish color as they lay on the ground, indicating that the tree had collapsed after the burn below it had passed by and burned itself out.
Glancing over the sterile expanse of landscape, one could see a scattering of small fires that were still burning. These made me imagine a scene from a Civil War documentary in which small groups of men, at dawn, would have campfires with coffee heating over burning wood.
A shelter that was for hikers no longer existed. There was cement for a floor that was covered with debris. Attached to the cement you could see the L shaped brackets with screws in the holes but nothing attached to the screws – no wood beams. All wood was burned with much of it blown away. The metal roof had collapsed straight down on the cement floor.
Life continued going on: All around there were tufts of brown sand covering pocket gopher openings. Apparently pocket gophers had gone underground during the fire and then after it passed, plowed their way up. Bowl-shaped spider webs were formed near ground level. Once in a while the webs were a few feet up between branches of charred shrubs.
Sterile, stark, black, gray, dirty white. It still conveyed nature’s beauty. I am glad I was there.