Christopher Kuhl ’77 | December 11, 2020
Pushing down U.S. 98 to Route 30A, cutting a wedge through towering Florida Panhandle pines — 50 to 80 feet tall, looming like sentinels on both sides and sweeping up to the dimpled starry skies — almost there! Then entering St. Joe peninsula with palm trees leaning over the slender road at 45-degree angles. Warnings? Premonitions? These last remaining wilderness places in northwestern Florida are vanishing inexorably — the process of greed destroying environmental beauty and biological systems through land deals.
Driving out west on the cape is like scrawling an Arabic letter that dips south-north-west-north — a 20-mile jaunt that passes old Air Force missile silos, white sandy earth mounds resembling Aztec ceremonials and the USAF Vetro Site, bulging with state-of-the-art electronic gear and a crew that never leaves the blockhouse. And that same old Air Force pickup always parked at the locked gate. Looks like it was at Area 51 back in the ’60s. Surrounding the base is a healthy chunk of prime wilderness that should forever remain in its primordial glory. Originally, the Department of Defense owned the entire cape. Nothing here back then except a roving band of cattle . . . before that only Native Americans — an independent Seminole band that roamed 50 to 100 miles near East Bay to be murdered or bushwhacked by salesmen of trinkets.
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