I never knew just what was going to be around the next bend in the road or trail. That is what made this trip so very interesting. But I got excited when I did my research 45 years later. There were so many things that I may have been puzzled about when I was on my hike but the technical facts answered those questions and where a joy to me when I wrote my book.
It was resupply time, and the only food store in town, a 7-11, was the place to go. Whenever I went into a place to get supplies I always took my pack in with me. I couldn’t take the chance of losing it. After all, now it was my home, just like a turtle’s shell. As I was leaving the store and starting on my way walking along the road, an olive-drab 3/4 ton Army truck drove by and a Green Beret soldier driving it gave me a wave.
I continued down highway 19 towards Lake George. As the road was crossing a creek, I looked down and saw a small alligator casually swimming along. It was about a foot and a half long. Then here came another Army truck, and the two soldiers in it honked the horn and waved. I guess I must have impressed them…..
The Navy fighters were overhead and at it again. I have since found out that the bombing range is the United States Navy’s Pinecastle Bombing Range. This is a restricted area of approximately 5700 acres. This is the only place on the East coast of the United States where the Navy can perform live bombing. The Navy drops approximately 20,000 bombs a year on this area. Most of them are duds, but a few, about 200 of them, are live. These fighters come in either from the Naval Air Station at Jacksonville or from aircraft carriers off the coast. They aim for the central 450 acres. They are authorized to drop up to 500 pound bombs. They have been using this area for the last 50 years with the U. S. Forest Service’s permission…..
With the help of some friends at work and some research I found out that these planes were carrier-based Vought A-7 Corsairs. The A-7 is a single-seat tactical fighter-bomber. According to combataircraft.com, “The A-7 Corsair bears an uncanny resemblance to a drainage pipe with wings.” It first flew in 1965. Even though it looks bulky, it had some real power and could deliver a large load of munitions. The “pipe” look comes from the large frontal intake. This was needed because the Pratt & Whitney turbofan engine requires a large amount of airflow, allowing it to attack targets at very high speeds.
I decided that I should get off this highway and see some of the back country. In a couple of miles I came upon a sand road entering the highway on the west side. I was sure that it was Forest Road (FR) 85, so I crossed over and took it, heading west. I hadn’t gone very far, when I observed panther tracks in the sand. It was walking, and then ran, and then according to the tracks it turned off, apparently very fast.