A WALK IN THE WOODS: 50 Hikes in Central Florida, by Sandra Friend (The Countryman Press, Backcountry Guides, $16.95, 312 pp) is exactly what its subtitle suggests: walks, hikes and backpacking trips in the heart of the Florida peninsula. Using clear topographic maps and with an eye for detail, Friend offers the kind of specific information on trails that hikers will appreciate. The hikes she covers range from one mile to 43 miles and are rated for things like suitability for children and availability of camping facilities. The author has introduced each hike with some painless history about its area _ honest. I have taken the hikes at Fort DeSoto and everything checks out. The book is clearly organized and contains black and white photos. If this book doesn't get you off your duff and out into the woods, I don't know what will!
Sandra Friend is a resident of Ocala and is author of Florida in the Civil War: A State in Turmoil and Sinkholes!
After your hikes you might want to look up at the Florida night sky. Yes, it is unique here, and you don't have to have a lot of fancy equipment to enjoy it. Just your eyes will be enough. The Florida Night Sky: A Guide to Observing from Dusk Till Dawn, by Elinor DeWire (Pineapple Press, $24.95, 400 pp) is packed with facts and figures for both professional and amateur astronomers. Rarely have I seen so much information presented so readably and attractively.
Why is Florida different? Among other things, says the author, "the ocean horizon provides excellent opportunities for finding the elusive planet Mercury and observing such unusual phenomena as the Green Flash and Zodiacal Light." An actual photo of the Green Flash is in the book. I also learned that I don't need to travel to Australia to see the Southern Cross. It is visible here in the spring and early summer.
This would be a good Christmas gift to just about anyone on your list. Elinor DeWire is a former resident of Florida and is author of several children's books.
Haunted Lighthouses and How to Find Them, by George C. Steitz (Pineapple Press, $14.95, 248 pp), is a tour of 10 lighthouses in the United States. Fortunately for us, two are in Florida and one is in nearby southeast Georgia.
The first one, the St. Augustine lighthouse, is located on Anastasia Island just outside of the city. It is striking with its black and white spiral bands, and its powerful beacon is visible from 19 miles at sea. But if you visit it, you should be prepared for the ghost tour. More than one spirit is said to haunt the lighthouse. One may be the ghost of William Harn, a lighthouse keeper who was murdered there. Another pair of spirits may be those of two little girls who drowned near the lighthouse.
If you visit the second Florida lighthouse, in Pensacola, watch for the bloodstain that no one can remove in one of the bedrooms. This lighthouse is 150 feet high and painted white on its bottom third and black on the upper two thirds. It is located on the Naval Air Station, and tours are offered to the visiting public.
No. 3: "The white lighthouse on St. Simons Island rises magnificently a hundred feet above the lush Georgia coast," writes Steitz, a filmmaker as well as author. The original lighthouse was pressed into service for the Union forces during the Civil War, and retreating Rebel forces blew it up. That was the start of its darker history. Illness and death continued to plague the residents of the rebuilt lighthouse, and their ghosts are said to come around from time to time to creep you out.
The author gives travel tips, including phone numbers and hours of operation on all of the lighthouses. He also recommends accommodations in each area.