History Hikers

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History Hikers

Chris Harbig, Robert Bechard  and Joe Dunn at the remains of a homestead during the history hike of Oriole. Photo by Alice

Photography by Alice Mary Herden

Nestled in the Croom tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest is a forgotten town named Oriole. With only one hundred residents that settled in 1884, the town faded in 1918 which was rumored but not confirmed to have fallen to the influenza epidemic of 1917-18.

Three history hikers, Robert Bechard of Taped From Florida, Chris Harbig of Dirt Medic and Joe Dunn of Florida Trailblazer met at the Oriole site to do some exploring. These three men essentially explore long forgotten areas deep within the forests of Florida and write about their adventures on their blogs.Chris Harbig believes this may be the remains of a Sugar Mill.  Photo by Alice Mary Herden

“Each generation kind of made their own mark on the land,” stated Christopher Harbig, who is also a Firefighter/Paramedic for the Hernando Fire Rescue. “You have to figure out what time period they came from and what part of history they played.”

With an estimate of over 600 acres, Oriole flourished as a mining operation. The hikers stumbled upon another mystery. Brick, piping and structures, which lie just beyond the biking trail, may suggest that there was a sugar mill located in Oriole. This was a surprising find for them and provides an additional piece of the puzzle to speculate on.

Preservation is at the heart of what they do. “It’s a combination of getting out and enjoying nature and finding new things and trying to preserve (historical locations and artifacts) the best that we can,” Robert Bechard said. Bechard who works as an emergency dispatcher for Pinellas, has been hiking around Florida for many years.

“The cemetery typically gets left because it’s what’s respected, the rest of it no one cares about it, but often times you find the remnants and you can start putting the town together,” Harbig said.

As the years go by, much history of Hernando County is becoming forgotten, but people like Robert, Chris and Joe walk into those forgotten places and rekindle the memory. “When you first find it, there is that thrill of finding it, but when you’re there you start getting the sense of history which lived there and I leave with that,” Joe Dunn said. Dunn is a graphic designer by trade and lives in Land O’ Lakes, Florida.

“Today was just a scratch on the surface,” Bechard stated.

Chris Harbig and Joe Dunn observe a pipe located at remains of what may be from Oriole. Photo by Alice Mary Herden
The three colleagues continue to correspond and compare notes about the locations they visit.

Keep exploring with...
Joe Dunn at: https://floridatrailblazer.wordpress.com/
Chris Harbrig at: https://dirtmedic.wordpress.com/category/hiking-and-exploring/
Robert Bechard at: https://www.youtube.com/user/TapedFromFlorida