Saturday I spent the day at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park near Keystone Heights, Florida. The regional conference was an opportunity for the NE Florida chapters of the Florida Trail Association to get together and share information. The day kicked off with a short wildflower hike which was followed up by various presentations.
The FTA leadership was well-represented along with our USFS partners. The Park Service also lent a hand through a very informative presentation by the Park Manager for Gold Head. Sue Turner gave great insight into her backpacking choices and what’s allowed her to cover over 7,000 trail miles. Unfortunately I missed the presentation by the Master Naturalist since I was setting up for my own presentation.
Due to the heat the other outdoor presentations had all moved to the air-conditioned recreation hall. I decided to brave it, though. I felt that I needed more space and I certainly needed more time to setup which I couldn’t do with another presentation in the same space. There was a gorgeous view, too, and a nice breeze that cooled it off a little.
I managed to cram three hammocks under the pavilion. Of course no sooner had I done so the skies opened up and it began to rain. This wouldn’t have been a problem for me, but it was a problem for the poor folks that had to walk 100 yards to get to me. A few brave souls made the trek in the rain but fortunately it was short-lived and the others weren’t far behind.
I would estimate I had about 20 in attendance. I think it went very well and we had some good dialogue back and forth. They had some great questions and hopefully I got them on the right track. I have to give major props to Brian at Butt In A Sling. After an 11th-hour rush he provided me a special Weight Weenie hammock for me to raffle off. I couldn’t believe it when I put it on the scale and it read 9.1 oz! The woman that won the hammock in the raffle was part of my audience and I think she got the questions she had answered. She was excited about the opportunity which made it even more enjoyable.
Things were going so well that I ended up talking an extra 30 minutes. I called it quits and let everyone head back to the rec hall for dinner while I packed everything up and loaded the truck. When I arrived at the rec hall I was stopped by the FTA’s Trail Resource Coordinator. She told me that folks were talking about my presentation and asked if I’d be interested in doing it again. So I’m thrilled to say that I’ll be speaking at the FTA State Conference on March 16, 2013!
I also had an opportunity to discuss the State’s pilot program for hammocks with the Park Manager. I was surprised that following the site survey conducted in June no sites had been designated for hammocks. However, the PM is new and was open to my assistance in conducting another survey. He had done the survey at his previous park and supports the pilot. More good news for hammock hangers!
Day turned into night as several of us landed around the campfire and enjoyed fellowship, old stories, and even some pirate jokes. After a long day I turned down the numerous offers to stay and hit the road for home. I pulled into the driveway shortly after midnight and, as much as I love my hammocks, it felt good to be showered and in my own bed.