Looking for the most beautiful natural places in Florida? Give yourself time to explore the Florida National Scenic Trail.
I recently hiked a new portion of the Florida National Scenic Trail on the Eglin reservation.
I was both surprised and excited by what I experienced. It was cold, really cold, but worth my time.
I purchased my Eglin permits and set off to this new area, named the Cimarron section. It extends west of State Road 85 in Crestview. It is 8.9 miles and dead ends at the Yellow River.
Because of the dead end, thru-hikers who plan to walk the entire 1,000-plus miles of the Florida Trail do not currently use this section. The trail is marked with blue “blazes” denoting it is a side trail off the normal orange “blazed” thru-hike markers.
It begins with a crossing of Turkey Hen Creek. There is no footbridge, but a posted sign by trail volunteers at the trail head indicates future plans for one. I took off my shoes and slowly made my way through the frigid stream, stopping to take some photos of the crystal clear water.
The cold water and winter temperatures outside made me think it was best to keep moving to stay warm. Tossing aside my common sense, I decided to remain wearing shorts and Adidas sandals for the rest of the hike.
My destination was Duck Pond, which is short of the entire length of the new section, but it was still a decent hike to experience it.
The Cimarron section is similar to most portions of the FNST on Eglin reservation but much soggier. Besides the first stream ford at Turkey Hen Creek, the trail goes around Crane Pond a little more than 3 miles in and hugs the edge of the pond.
I had to bushwhack my way through some trees around the trail to avoid stepping in a flooded, muddy area of the pond. About 2 miles later, I reached Duck Pond, put on some more clothes, including socks and shoes, quickly built a fire and set up my hammock.
Explosions at the nearby 7th Special Forces Group compound greeted me and, a short time later, so did a nice FWC officer to check my permits.
After multiple trips for fire wood in the surrounding area, I settled in, cooked my steak and read a book by the fire.
The explosions ended by sunset and the cool, clear night revealed itself with a magnificent display of stars untainted by artificial light.
It was a cold night interrupted by howling coyotes and strange noises from people dumping something into the pond in the middle of the night. Trash? A body? I don’t know.
But I also look forward to doing the hike again.
Nick Tomecek is the Daily News digital editor for nwfdailynews.com, where this story originally published, and a part-time adventurer.Explore more of Florida’s natural beauty:
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