With the first week of January comes the annual migration of hikers to the southernmost reaches of Florida to start their journeys north on the Florida Trail.
Some are here to walk the length of Florida, from the edge of the Everglades through the massive Big Cypress swamp on a backpacking trip that will last between two and three months to reach the other end of the state at Fort Pickens or the Alabama border in Pensacola, a hike of nearly 1,100 miles. Others are doing a few hundred miles here or there to fill in the blanks of an ongoing section hike.
Some are here to walk the length of the East Coast, with the Florida Trail the beginning of an adventure that will last nearly a year and more than 4,000 miles, with the Appalachian Trail a part of their future. But first, they must get through Florida.
We have no mountains, and our hills are rather small. But what Florida lacks in elevation, it makes up for in tricky terrain and weather. There are swamps to cross – Big Cypress being the largest, a 3-4 day wade that separates the hard-core hikers from the not-so-thrilled. There is soft sand and hard-packed clay, crumbling bluffs and squishy pine flatwoods after a rain. Although our winters are moderate, the weather can change on a dime: blistering heat one day, freezing temperatures the next. A backpacker has to be prepared for it all.
More than 20 hikers are headed north tomorrow from the Florida National Scenic Trail terminus, newly located at Oasis Visitor Center in the Big Cypress National Preserve. They are being supported by Chuck Norris & Tigger. Another 8-10 folks are out there backpacking right now or are on their way to Key West to start walking north.
The following hikers are keeping online journals, so you can track their progress:
Among the hikers is my other half and hiking partner, JK. As he heads north, he’s going to be collecting new data for the Florida Trail guidebook we are working on. He’ll be sharing commentary now and again that I’ll pass on via this blog.
If you know of any other hikers sharing their 2013 Florida Trail hikes this winter, please add their journals in the comments. Thanks!