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  1. Greetings, I have a passion for local history and road trips that I combined to create Heritage Trek. This project is a product of my frustration in not being able to find one online source of information and tools to conduct comprehensive tours of historic sites. This includes not only the high-profile sites but the lost and/or obscure sites in local communities, off the beaten path. Inevitably, conversations with locals (during our road trips) highlighted the history we were missing. This project integrates local knowledge into mobile apps that facilitate self-drive tours of historic sites. I believe our project will increase historical awareness that will promote site preservation and increase traffic within communities to enhance local economies. There are many historical gems that have gone relatively unnoticed by the public that deserve more attention. Please have a look at my Project Page; I would be interested in your feedback. Areas of personal interest include ghost towns and abandoned homesteads. Old homes come in all shapes, styles, and sizes and are stark reminders of pioneering families and the communities they built. Observing old homesteads create a window into the past: the wooden enclosure of a hand-dug water well, ornamental plants established decades ago to add beauty to a demanding, often brutal existence, unique building architecture, abandoned field machinery that once supported the farm, and broad, deep porches that entertained visitors and provided relaxing family time. As will all historic site and event locations, there is no substitute for being there. I am fascinated with how my perceptions of places changes when I become physically and emotionally connected to what occurred at historic sites. I created an Explore Forum, Abandoned Northwest Florida Homesteads photograph gallery, which provides examples of a few old homesteads. The gallery contains a photograph of the collapsed remains of a homestead in Westville, Florida that was the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the “Little House” series) for almost a year. They moved from Minnesota to Holmes County, Florida, in 1891 thinking the weather would benefit her husband's health but were unable to bear the high humidity and moved to South Dakota in 1892. They were an early version of the “snowbirds” that now, seasonally frequent the Gulf Coast. I would have never known Mrs. Wilder lived in Florida, if I had not passed the historical marker commemorating this chapter in their lives. You never know what you might find, once you get off the main thoroughfares and explore rural communities. Thanks! Mike Rainer
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