In mid January I decided that I would take the first few months of 2011 and hike the Florida Trail. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this particular trail (that is probably most of you), it is a National Scenic Trail that runs from the swamps of Big Cypress National Preserve to the beaches of Fort Pickens near Pensacola, Florida. It is a pretty incredible trail and one that is only thru-hiked about a dozen or so people each year.
My interest in the trail started a couple years ago when I was in the Everglades and realized that the southern terminus of the trail was located on Loop Road, one of my favorite locations in the entire region. I had planned to do the Big Cypress section in 2010 but things didn’t work out. So, this past fall, when I was grasping at straws and quickly realizing I needed a significant change in life, I decided I’d do the trail.
The idea was to spend three months rediscovering the state I grew up in, and to have some good time to sort my thoughts out for the future. The plan was to get back into photography and return to basics a bit. So, on a Saturday in late January I hit the trail.
For the next four days, I crossed Big Cypress National Preserve on foot, starting on Loop Road and ending on Interstate 75. During those four days I got to experience an incredible place slowly and at my own pace. Unfortunately, about half of the 40 or so miles required wading in either shin deep mud or knee deep water. The water wasn’t a big deal, but the mud was brutal. Each step required sinking deep into the mud and then prying my foot back out to take another step. As a result of this motion, both of my heels turned into giant blisters.
When I reached I-75, I was met by family and returned to my parents home in Orlando for a break while my blisters healed (insert bad pun here). During the next two weeks, I rethought my plan. While I absolutely loved my four days on the trail, despite the mud and the blisters, I reconsidered my goal. After all, during those four days, I was typically too tired to take photos. The act of carrying my camera gear meant an incredibly heavy pack. On a practical note, I love food too much to want to eat oatmeal and noodles for three months. Those reasons, combined with a couple job opportunities and a chance to go back to school, meant that I decided to head back to New York, a decision my wife was very pleased with.
My three month long trip ended up being four days. Did I fail? Heck no. I completed one of the most difficult sections of the trail and the section that I have been wanting to do for several years now. I got my head wrapped around some of the things I wanted to think about. I had a great time. I’d call it a success. Sure, I only covered 40 miles, barely 3% of the entire trail, but I loved every minute of it and I know I’ll be back someday. Hopefully that day will be sooner rather than later but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Have you ever wanted to do a trip like the Florida Trail? Maybe the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail? I’d love to hear about your dream or maybe even your experience!