Monday, March 29, 2010

Florida Trail: Conclusion

When I had planned this hike, everybody (hikers and non-hikers) had warned me about Florida and the Florida Trail. I was told that
  • I would be strangled be an escaped Burmese python in the Everglades.
  • I would be shot by a redneck.
  • I would be hit by a car because they cannot drive in Florida.
Well, none of the above happened. All the Burmese pythons have probably died in the record cold this year, the rednecks were pretty nice to me and they do not drive better or worse in Florida than they do anywhere else in the US.

FT trail marker
But did I like the Florida Trail? Well, let's put it this way: For me, there are two categories of holidays, trips or hikes. There are trips you enjoy while you are doing them and there are trips you enjoy afterwards - in hindsight so to speak. Hiking the Florida Trail in an El nino year falls mostly into category 2. Looking back I can say that I had a great adventure fighting with alligators, flooded rivers and frozen shoes. While I was actually doing it, I was not so happy a lot of times...

So my recommendation is: Do NOT hike the Florida Trail, if
  • you hate to hike in wet shoes.
  • you are mortally afraid of alligators.
  • you are scared of poisonous snakes
  • you do not want to be called "Honey" and "Sweetie" in restaurants.
  • you hate road walks.
But seriously now: I personally had a great time on the Florida Trail - despite all the bad weather. I enjoyed the hike, but I cannot unconditionally recommend it. There is only one big drawback on the Florida Trail - it is only one, but it is grave: There are still too many road walks. I did not count them, but according the official FTA website there are 300 miles of road walk on the 1,100 mile long FT - and that spoils a lot of fun. The road walks not only pound your feet, they also pose a logistical problem: Where do you camp along a 30 mile road walk? You are more or less forced to trespass - close to a noisy road. Therefore I would recommend hiking the Florida Trail in 5 to 10 years, when it will eventually be finished and the road walks eliminated.

This is enough of negative comments now - here are the positive sides of the FT:
  • You hike through an unique eco-system. I found the swamps incredibly fascinating and have never hiked in an even remotely similar surrounding. And yes: You can get used to hiking in wet shoes...
  • I have never seen that much wild life on a trail. I saw black bears, alligators, snakes, armadillos, otters, beavers, deer, turtles and tons of birds.
  • The FT is an adventure: There are hardly any other hikers out there, you have to deal with a lot of unpredictable conditions like weather and prescribed burns and the logistics can be challenging. This is not the AT...
  • The FT has some incredible trail angels. I had wonderful rest days and met the most interesting trail volunteers - thanks so much to all of them. And even the section leaders I had just contacted by phone or mail were incredibly friendly and forthcoming.
  • The blazing and trail maps great - I had brought a GPS but did not really need it. The trail maintainers are doing a great job here.
Bottom line: The FT is flat - but it is definitely not boring. If you are seeking an adventure, go for it (but wait a couple of years if you hate road walks...). And a big thank you to all the trail volunteers who maintain this great trail.

And for all the hikers: I will post another comment with more specific recommendations on gear and logistics.

1 comment:

misti said...

I highly doubt the FT will be road free in 5-10 years. I wish, but I doubt it.

I hiked in 2011 after doing the AT in 2010. I lived in Florida prior to the AT so I have a higher respect for the FT than most people. In fact, I'm pretty much thing it is much more awesome than people give it credit for.

I'll have to read more of your stuff soon.