Excerpts from A Walk Across Florida by Bob Kranich
It was chilly and damp from the weather the previous night….
My map showed me that there was a railroad “Y” just south of Starke on the main Seaboard Air Line track heading towards Gainesville. This would take me towards the east a couple of miles…...
I headed down the railroad track and sure enough, there was the “Y” and the Seaboard Air Line branch line heading east. There was a railroad freight station almost at the “Y”. A station attendant hollered in a friendly way to me as I walked by,
“I bet when you get to a stream you’ll take a swim!” I laughed and shook my head yes.
It was nice hiking this old track. It was also overgrown like the two other tracks I had been on. The ties were sunk in the dirt, consequently there were no bumps. It was very much like hiking a woodland trail….
There was a dark oil stain down the center of the tracks. I guessed that the diesel switcher that made this run must be a very old veteran. According to my map the railroad curved to the northeast and that was when I should find a road on the right heading south. The track made its turn to the northeast. There then appeared on the left side of the tracks signs on some pine trees:
Posted No Hunting Keep Out
Du Pont Industries
My map had the crossed picks on it which stood for a mining operation. A small one-lane paved road came in from the left; it had a cattle guard across it. This road crossed the tracks so I took it to the right. I didn’t see any signs there. As I came out of the extreme dense vegetation along the railroad right-of-way, I was surprised. I was now in what had the appearance of desert-drifting sand dunes with occasional clumps of grass and low bushes hanging on precariously. It was really a mined over area. They had removed all of the top soil, took what they were looking for and left just sand. It seems that this mining operation was very large, for as far as I could see there was just sand and scrub vegetation.
I have since done some research on this Du Pont mining. The area is called the Trail Ridge Deposit*. It was discovered by Du Pont geologists in 1947. In it were heavy titanium minerals such as ilmenite, leucoxene and rutile…..
After about three miles I came to an intersection. There was another fence across the road that I was on….a sign proclaimed:
Road Closed Detour Impact Rd
Stabilized by US Eng. Btn.
I took the road, supposedly called Impact Road heading east. There was no street sign on a post. After a couple of miles on this bright, hot, sandy road, I came to a small creek and filled my canteens. I didn’t know exactly where I was but I was heading in the right direction. In about 4 miles I came to a huge shiny aluminum tower on the left. I started to pass it but then reconsidered. I’d go up and look around, maybe I could see that forest tower that appeared on my map near the Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park. This would be my next destination and hopefully campsite for the evening. I set my pack down and started up. There were nice metal stairs and a handrail, freshly painted silver. On the top it had a roof and except for the posts holding it up and the metal locked shed, it was open with a railing all around. I was about 60 feet up and it was nice and windy up here This sure wasn’t a fire tower! The view was great. There was a clearing, and I could see water towers to the north and lots of lakes. I couldn’t see the fire tower southeast towards my destination. It was somewhat far away. I climbed down and was just about to put on my pack, when I saw a sign lying face down in the dirt at the base of the tower. My curiosity got the best of me and I flipped it over. It read,