After the respite in Crestview, the trail angel Sean drove Tank and I to breakfast at Waffle House where I was able to order grits for the first time. There are numerous staple foods in the South that I wanted to taste and grits proved to be a satisfying dish, particularly when served with pancakes and syrup.
Meanwhile, a botched attempt at replacing my iPhone battery which had not been performing as it should, especially in the cold, led to the malfunction of my home button. That’s the button that does almost everything. I was dropped off at a cell phone repair shop as there was no certified Apple shop in town. Although the phone was not exactly repaired per se, the situation was rectified with a temporary “workaround.”
Sauntering out of town after a near-zero day, one is well-rested yet can start to feel sluggish and sedentary. Usually the hiker is back in the game a few hours after resuming hiking activity. A full zero or back-to-back zeros is often the result of what thru-hikers call the “vortex” as towns will suck one in with their comfort and amenities thereby making it difficult to merely pass through.
Coming upon the little flyspeck town of Holt at dusk, the two of us stopped off at the Dollar General to resupply. Tank came out with three or four sacks of groceries but I had enough leftover dinners and snacks to feed a family of eight! I stayed outside the store and pulled guard duty to keep an eye out on the packs. In Crestview, I had also sent a Priority box of warm weather clothes along with hot drinks, including hot chocolate and apple cider packets. I was ready to battle the cold.
The Western Panhandle section was where I was to make the critical connection at Deer Lake Junction—the split-off point for two routes, one that went west to complete the Panhandle and the other that went north toward Alabama. As an ECTer, I would be making an abrupt turn to the north to walk to Alabama via the “Blackwater Connector.” In lieu of the 56-mile stretch to the traditional ending point (NOBO) of Fort Pickens, the 45-mile Blackwater alternate would be hiked instead. Steadily, I was reaching the end of the FT proper; there was a pep in my step as I drew ever closer to the turnoff. For I had reached a point of transition. Although the beautiful beachy section of the FT would go unhiked, this was the route I was to follow as part of my larger journey to Canada. I had to remember what my mission was in doing a hike of this nature and review my initial reasons that prompted such an ambitious goal.
Someone once remarked that if you start to lose your way, climb a tree and get some perspective. It’s a long haul and keeping perspective has made all the difference.