#28 Britton Hill, Florida (345 ft.)

Lowest of the low, least tall of them all, swampy Florida, in all its spongy glory. This was the  first of our four highpoints in a swing through the Deep South. Mom and I both flew separately into New Orleans.

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She was picked up by Cousin Zane and given a whirlwind tour of the Big Easy, complete with alligator sausage, while I rented a car and met them in Biloxi, where Zane lives. We ate dinner in Gulfport with Zane and were almost treated to a brawl after one particularly drunken restaurant patron so offended his neighbor that said neighbor stood up and threatened fisticuffs. We were kind of disappointed nothing happened, but then down South you never know when someone’s packing, so it was all for the best that the peace held.


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Mom and I spent that night in the Malaga Inn in Mobile, AL, an antebellum building with a triple-decker inner courtyard. Supposedly haunted, the Malaga was a fun place to stay in a city that was obviously still recovering from Katrina.

We headed due east after Mobile, into FLorida and the curious pine forests of the panhandle. Eventually we turned off to see DeFuniak Springs, home to one of two perfectly round natural bodies of water in the world as well as an old Chautauqua community.

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The community was developed as a resort centered on the springs, and the architecture of the surrounding buildings is consistently eccentric.

From there it was a short drive to Britton Hill, located on a gentle rise opposite broad farmland. We took the obligatory photos with the “summit” marker, noodled around the site, and then I went off to explore the small trail behind the marker, where the true highest land is found.

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That trail passes a few benches and is relatively unremarkable except for the presence of the golden orb weavers. These are spiders. Really, really big, colorful spiders. And they are everywhere on that trail. Most disturbingly, they like to build their webs across the trail directly at head level, so that the unsuspecting hiker might knock into them and brush off a few (“clearing the cobwebs”) before he or she realizes that the owners are just inches away. You then spend at least 20 minutes back at the trailhead frantically brushing off your clothes and hair before getting back into the car.


I’ve climbed some mountains that made my heart race by dint of steepness or altitude, but nothing like those spiders and my Indiana Jones moment at the top of Florida.

       




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