Mar 7, 2012 at 8:41 am #1286750
I recently got turned on to The Hiking Life Blog.
The pictures from the Florida Trail have really captivated me for some reason. The sunsets are beautiful, the wildlife is amazing, and the swamp is like nothing I've backpacked through before. Waist deep in a gator-filled swamp. Are you kidding me?
I'm always looking for something different to try, and am starting to wonder if this is it. Can anyone share with me some pictures or experiences along this trail? Favorite sections for experiencing the swamp ecology? Tips for hiking in areas with venomous (or just plain enormous) reptiles?
IkeMar 7, 2012 at 11:17 am #1850100
@louisbLocale: North Adirolf
If your going to do the FL Trail you will want to start in January to try and beat the heat, think 105 in the shade with 98% humidity, and bugs. (There is a reason the mosquito is our state bird.) I pretty much refuse to camp anywhere south of Atlanta from June until October due to the humidity.
Best advice for dealing with snakes is to watch where you step and avoid them. Just remember, snakes usually bite the second person in line so you will want to be in the lead. :) Having grown up in the backwoods of north FL I would be more concerned with alligators or drunk rednecks than snakes.
If you really want to get a good look at the Oki you may want to check out the annual hike that the FTA puts on there every year. I am giving some thought to going this year as I have not hiked that area yet.
edit: Was just checking out his journal, nice stuff. But what ever you do, don't get into the moss like he did. Otherwise you will get introduced to red bugs or chiggers. Nasty bites from those. They itch like crazy and take weeks to heal.
–louisMar 7, 2012 at 12:55 pm #1850159
@funnymoLocale: Sunshine State
Ewwwwwwweeeeeeee. Chiggers suck.
Watch where you step, for sure. Snakes love trails in morning and evening.Mar 7, 2012 at 1:10 pm #1850173
Wow, this sounds like hell.
Venomous snakes. And the pythons–seriously Florida?
Humidity and obscene heat
Mosquitos that could kill a man.
I think I'll pass!Mar 7, 2012 at 2:28 pm #1850216
Ike, I have thruhiked the Florida Trail in 2010 and you can find my trip report plus recommendations for equipment and other tipps here on my blog:
The best section for experiencing the swamp ecosystem is the stretch between Tamiami Trail and I 75. You could even hike it as a loop because there are alternate trails in Big Cypress.
I have seen snakes on the FT as well but I did not feel too threatened by them. Alligators seemed to be much scarier but apparantly they do not usually attack adult humans. In the year I hiked the mosquitoes were no problem at all.
Hiking (or wading) in swamp was a unique experience for me and I can really recommend it, especially if you look for something different.
There are some incredibly beautiful and interesting stretches on the FT, but there is also a lot of roadwalking. If you do not want to thruhike choose your section carefully. The section leaders of the FT are very friendly and helpful.
Let me know if you have further questions,
ChristineMar 8, 2012 at 6:25 am #1850477
@louisbLocale: North Adirolf
Yes actually Pythons though mostly in the Everglades region. They are "escaped" former pets that have taken up residence and pretty much killed off most of the small game animals in the area. They are an invasive species that does incredible harm to the environment.
Another issue not mentioned is the water quality along most of the trail is pretty bad. A lot of is it brackish or fairly dark in nature. Several of the springs in North Florida are sulfur springs as well. (Thought they are fun to swim in on those hot summer days with an average temp of about 55 degrees.) Much to cold for gators or snakes.
Did I mention they used the swamps of North FL to train for Vietnam because of its jungle like climate?
Don't get me wrong, there are some really beautiful areas and North, Central & South Florida are very different landscapes. Really the best time to go camping here is in the winter and early spring. Right now I have the windows to my office open it is mid 60s, sunny and low humidity. To early in the year for mosquito and it is too cold for most reptiles to be very active yet. Even during the 3 weeks of winter we get in January it rarely drops below 20 at night and will be mid 40s during the day. In fact I would be on the trail this weekend if I didn't need a new pack. (Old one is borked)
–louisMar 8, 2012 at 6:58 am #1850491
Thanks Christine! That was a great read and had all the information I was looking for. If you were to pick one 300 mile section of the trail to hike, which would it be?Mar 8, 2012 at 10:05 am #1850570
As a Central Floridian, the FT is what I have available for weekend hikes. I've done 20 miles of the FT along the Suwannee River hiking east towards White Springs. That's a gorgeous piece of trail. The springs on it are awesome.
I've hiked a few places in the Ocala National Forest around Juniper Springs as well.
Florida is a great place to hike. When most of the country is frozen, the Florida hiking season is at its peak.Mar 8, 2012 at 2:25 pm #1850698
It is really difficult to recommend a 300 mile STRETCH. There are lots of very beautiful areas on the FT, but there is also a lot of roadwalking and not so nice stretches in between. So any 300 mile stretch on the FT while have some bad roadwalks in it.
If you are not keen on a thruhike you would ideally just go from one nice place to the next one and skip the roadwalk in between. But that would be a logistical challenge.
If you want to hike a continuous stretch I would recommend starting at the Southern Terminus at Loop Road and hike northward. For me personally Big Cypress has been the most interesting stretch of the whole trail.Mar 14, 2012 at 6:16 am #1853521
@flriderLocale: The Southeast
I did the Ocala South portion of the trail–in August–this last year. It's an experience; I met literally no one out on the trail proper the entire three days I was out there.
I'd recommend going somewhere with a little elevation change–especially if you're going to be doing a 300-mile section (that's nearly 25% of the trail!)–since the flora (and the fauna that feeds on it) changes dramatically down here with less than fifty feet of elevation change. The water table is so close to the surface here that drainage is the majority factor in local ecosystems, with fire being a close second. In ONF, for example, in less than fifty miles of trail, you'll experience everything from true swamp bottoms to midland hardwood hammocks to mixed longleaf pine scrub/scrub oak stretches, to wet prairies, to dry prairies and everything in between. There's maybe fifty or a hundred feet of elevation change through that section, and every ten feet of climb shows you a different ecosystem. It's almost unbelievable.
Definitely plan your trip around water, no matter which time of year you go, though. The water sources down here aren't like the AT or the Cascades where you can get water every couple of miles. There are stretches where the only water to drink is "FL Tea"–tannic swamp water–and there are other stretches where the water sources are eight or ten miles apart. And if you hike during April to October, this goes double.
Anyway, I definitely recommend the trail. It isn't for the faint of heart, but it's an whole lot of fun!Mar 14, 2012 at 9:52 am #1853618
I've started prepping my wife for this adventure, well in advance. I will probably try to do it next January. The two areas I've been considering thus far are Big Cypress to Ocala(per Christine's and your recommendation) and the Eastern Panhandle (section 3) including Apalachicola River, St Marks Wildlife Refuge, Gulf Coast, and Aucilla River.
I'll probably order the guidebook to try to narrow it down a little more. I'd appreciate any feedback on these sections (roadwalk to good scenery ratios, etc)Mar 14, 2012 at 11:38 am #1853686
@flriderLocale: The Southeast
Unfortunately, my personal experience is limited to the ONF South portion of the trail; I only got into this hiking kick over the last year. Before that, it was front-country campgrounds that I could get to via bike (hence my handle).
However, a great resource is Florida Hikes! (yes, the exclamation point is a part of that); they have several hikes listed in fairly decent detail on their website, including some on the FL Trail.
One of the great tragedies of the FL Trail, in my own opinion, is the paucity of actual information on the official website. I understand the reasons for it, but it's somewhat annoying from a consumer standpoint.
Anyway, if you have specific questions about the Ocala South section, I can help you there for certain. Elsewhere, well, I can do research, but it's not the same as having walked the trail.Mar 14, 2012 at 11:44 am #1853688
@funnymoLocale: Sunshine State
The Aucilla section can make you hike thru water in January if a rainstorm has just come thru……fyi.
One year a friend and I were going to do that section (I believe it's called the St. Marks section) but it was forecast to drop below 20*, so we spent the weekend elsewhere for the fear of hiking thru shin-deep water in those temps! And we saw 19* temps one night, so it can happen. I know cold doesn't scare you but wet and that cold just might:)
On the upside, the water would feel warmer than the air in that stretch :)Mar 14, 2012 at 7:17 pm #1853956
I too grew up in Fla. (just using that abbrev. instead of FL says Im not that young)
Traveled all around the woods of NW Florida growing up. Hunted in many WMAs,camped in the state forests and National forests, fished a lot of the lakes larger than about 500 acres.
You couldnt pay me to hike there beween May-Oct. Its hot, humid, extremely buggy.
I have laid awake at night sweating profusely, unable to fall asleep until around midnight when it finally cooled off enough to do so.
And if youve never tried to sleep near a woodland swamp, believe it or not, the bugs and frogs actually can make a deafening racket for hours. Unbelievably loud, it will make you lose your mind (have earplugs!)Mar 15, 2012 at 1:35 am #1854062
Ike, I think going from Big Cypress to Ocala is a great stretch of the FT. You will see a lot of variety. There are a lot of trail angels in the Orlando area who could help you shuttle around the rather ugly and boring stretch on paved bike trail in the Orlando metropolitan area. Here is some input on that stretch:
1. Big Cypress: Your mileage will drop to 1 mile per hour in the swamp. Plan your food accordingly. Getting to Loop Road or the Visitor centre on Tamiami Trail without a car is almost impossible. Have you figured out how to get there? If not, drop me a PM and I can give you some ideas on alternative transportation.
2. Lake Okeechobee: Although the walk looks nice it is mostly on pavement and South of Clewiston very close to an incredibly busy and noisy road, Sugerland Highway. Plan well in advance where you want to camp so that you do not end up sleeping next to a highway with 100s of semis thundering by all night long.
3. North of Okeechobee: If you do not want to hitchhike to resupply you will have to carry about 9 days worth of food. Your last decent resupply is Okeechobee and then there was nothing all the way up to Christmas.
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