Sunday, February 17th, 2019
We talked with the cop for a while. He was originally stationed in Panama City, but was temporarily put in the sticks, which he apparently hated. He explained that there was limited assistance, usually a 20 minute wait period before backup arrived at any given time, making his already dangerous job even more so. Also, he claimed that the locals were more prone to dashing rather than complying, so he had to pick and choose his battles with care. We felt bad. He was one of the good ones and had a tough job, especially after his transfer.
We also talked to the night clerk who explained how the blow downs has altered the local climate. There was far more moisture in the air with the mass loss of trees. The thick fog outside, which the clerk claimed was rare that time of year, affirmed this.
At 6 am, Hardee’s was open again, so it was time to eat! Then we started to finish the remaining 8 miles of the bypass. The aftermath of Hurricane Michael was still present as we walked through the tiny town of Fountain.
Earlier we saw trash piles and tree debris at the end of every driveway which was pretty sad to see. A lot of homes were destroyed, a lot of repairs were needed for some, and others were left homeless. The whole area was suffering with little relief in sight.
At least we had hit our 200 mile mark and were finally back on the Florida Trail!
Both of us were feeling beat up from all the road walking, so it was a morale boost when Tom from the Hillcrest Baptist Church pulled over to check on us. He offered us a ride, but we wanted to walk there, as tempting as that sounded. We did accept some water though. As we continued forward, we’d witness a rainbow in the sky ahead of us. Pretty symbolic if you ask me.
Next, we’d pass a house that had trail magic set up out front, then Wilton from the church would drive by with his daughter to inform us that he was heading home to grill us some pork chops which he should have ready by the time we reached the church! So far these guys seemed just as awesome as all the NOBOs had told us!
Eventually we made it to sanctuary! We were welcomed inside by Tom and would chat with several people from the church as they trickled in. Oh yeah, and Wilton’s pork chops were on point! That guy can cook! I only wished my hiker hunger had kicked in, because I was only able to eat 2 after all the snacks I ate leading up to it.
We met the pastor, Charles, and they had an evening service which we decided to attend. I’m nondenominational in the religion department, but was happy to still get something out of the sermon given by Joshua.
In a nutshell, it was about being honest with yourself and others, not letting your emotions and urges take over your behavior, and treating others kindly, especially your enemies and strangers. Wilton would add that the word hospitality comes from the Greek words, ‘love’ and ‘stranger’. All of this brought to my attention that I could definitely pay it forward more often than I have lately.
Although we have our differences, which we discussed further after the service, the members of the Hillcrest Baptist Church are all incredibly kind hearted people that treated us more like family rather than the complete strangers we started out as.
We were also pleased to say that we were some of the first to stay in their brand new shelter out back, which we slept well in after being awake for over 24 hours!
If you’d like to help the victims of the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, please donate to the American Red Cross.