|Stile into a military base|
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Law enforcement and the military
I had been warned by other hikers that I would be stopped by the police very often. There is a huge homeless problem in Florida and the police just want to make sure you are not going to cause trouble. So when I was (un)happily hiking along a road on a very rainy day a police car drove by, stopped, turned around and came up to me. I put on my happiest smile and prepared for the worst. Inside was a very nice police officer who immediately offered me help. No stupid questions, no ID check - just a offer of help. No, thank you, there was not anything he could do for me (he could not stop the rain, couldn't he?). But maybe he knew the weather forecast? No, he didn't. He left after offering help 2 more times - but came back 5 minutes later. So what was wrong now? Well, he said, he just went to a place with cell phone reception to call his mom (yes, his mother!!!) to find out about the weather forecast - and had come back to give it to me!!! I was impressed.
The FT crosses several military installations - the first one for me was Avon Park Airforce Base. This park is usually open to hikers on weekends, but can close anytime for military operations. I was supposed to call them and find out, but well, I did not. So I just arrived at the Southern gate's information kiosk to see a notice posted with this week's trail closures. And it was of course just my luck that at this very day from 1100 to 2100 it said: "Closures as required". So what did that mean now? Closed or not closed or closed in certain sections or what? I decided to play stupid and decided to hike on. I started to regret that decision when about 1 hour later two helicopters showed up and started practice shooting - about 1 mile from where I was hiking. "RATTTATTTATATTTA" and helicopters overhead all the time. I started to feel like in a Vietnam war movie - only that this was not a movie, but reality. The shooting would not cease and the trail did not veer from it either. First I was just scared that some military might stop me, but soon I was more worried about not getting killed. At that point I did not have much choice and just hiked on. The shooting would not cease until 9 pm and by that point I was pretty convinced that the trail had indeed been closed. But I had made it through alive without being arrested - and was rewarded with a free solar panel cold shower at the designated camp site that was predictably empty.