This week marks the 9th Annual Ocean to Lake Hike. It was a delight to learn last year that the 61-mile Ocean-to-Lake Trail is finally fully complete and open to the public. Last winter, John and I participated in the final three days of the six day group hike; the year before, I’d done the first three days. Both years, it was easy to follow the well-blazed, well-signed route, which had changed greatly in some places – particularly around Jupiter Farms – since the first time I’d done it in 2004.
Back then, during the first Ocean to Lake Hike – the only way you could backpack the trail at that time was with the group – the route was still in flux. Dedicated volunteers Dean Drake and Bea Rogers, trail maintainers from the Loxahatchee Chapter of the Florida Trail Association, worked for more than a decade getting the route tied down. Coordination between public agencies, all with different objectives, was the tricky part. Given South Florida’s tropical climate, this is a stretch of trail that needs year-round maintenance, also not an easy task.
During that hike, Bea and Dean were our trail angels and guides. They showed up at road crossings and campsites with water. They popped up in places where the trail was only flagged, not blazed, and led us through their proposed route. I was pushing a measuring wheel, trying to take accurate measurements, and finally handed it off to Dean after a full day in Corbett. It was just too swampy in there, and that extra effort exhausted me. I stuck to using a GPS to collect trail data instead.
Their task complete and well appreciated by local hikers – who now have a serious stretch of wilderness to roam not too far from West Palm Beach – Dean has written a memoir of the creation of the trail, which also serves as a guide with map. It recounts the history of creating the trail as well as the route itself. A copy of this guide is available for a $10 donation, which includes postage. To get your copy, send a check payable to “FTA, Loxahatchee Chapter” to:
9887 Cross Pine Court
Lake Worth, FL 33467