Years ago, it was very common to see patches sewn on canvas backpacks. I believe it started in Europe and slowly found its way to the US. In the very early 1970s ,when I first joined the Florida Trail Association and earned the Boy Scouts of America 50-miler patch on the Florida Trail, the patches were sewn onto my pack with pride.
Patches are still out there, but mostly hidden away in a drawer someplace. Few people want to add the extra weight to their packs. During my last visit to the FTA office, I saw an old patch framed on the wall. And I’ve never forgotten it.
Now I’m wondering: just how many patches are out there for the trails in Florida?
I’ve seen ones for the Big O Hike, the Florida Trail diamond, the old standard orange FTA bootprint, and even a green bootprint that reads ‘Trail Blazer’. And then there’s the Florida National Scenic Trail patch with the FT included.
What else is out there?
As an older Scout, I hiked a historic trail in St Augustine. We were sent a form with questions that could only be answered with information obtained along the trail. When we finished, we sent it to an address in Gainesville and for a few dollars we received a pretty patch. Steve Rajtar kept up that tradition for Scouting for many years, providing patches for historic hikes he developed around the state.
During this time, there was also a Florida 100-miler award. Like the historic hike, you sent in the list of your Florida hikes, including location and distance. When you completed 100 miles, you could purchase a patch and an attractive medal to wear on your uniform.
I wonder how many of us out there ever earned one of these awards? Being somewhat of an over-achieving young Scout, I earned it twice.
Instead of sending a repeat hiker a second medal, they were sent a small little pin to center on the ribbon of the medal. The pin was a small square, of the “stars and bars.” And yes, I still have mine.
If I remember correctly, there were also patches for the Barefoot Mailman Trail, Fort Clinch Historic Trail, and the Olustee Battlefield Trail.
Ok my fellow hikers, help me piece together the history of the patches for hiking in Florida, as I bet it’s an interesting one. Look deep in those dresser drawers and boxes and tell me what you have. Send a photo and a story about your patch; we’ll feature it here in a special series on Florida’s trail patches.