Swamp Splash

Tips For Florida Trail Hikers
By Daniel R. Smith
  |  Gorp.com
  • Time your visit carefully. My hike through the Big Cypress National Preserve is not at all a typical Florida Trail experience. This is, in fact, one of the most challenging sections, and my December hike was not during the optimum window of opportunity. By January and February the Big Cypress Preserve dries out considerably. When you're wading through thigh-deep water, it's difficult to imagine, but during the dry season, there are actually stretches where finding water can become a challenge. Avoid the hurricane season of OctoberNovember and the dead heat of summer. Also be aware that some sections of the trails are closed by landowners during hunting seasons. If in doubt, check with the FTA.
  • Don't be fooled by the lack of elevation. While most hikers find miles of level walking to be easy and fast, hours of flat walking on level terrain, such as a levee, can be difficult. You tend to exert exactly the same amount of pressure on the same muscles stride after stride. Take frequent breaks, switch from boots to running shoes, and frequently adjust your pack straps.
  • Keep track of your location. Some of the more isolated sections of the trail have erratic blazing, especially at junctions. In addition, many roads in rural Florida are not marked or numbered where the trail crosses them. Keep track of your precise location on a map and always carry a compass. Because of relocation and flooding, it is helpful to have road maps for the areas you are hiking that can give you"the big picture" if you find yourself off the route. A GPS is also useful.
  • Plan your campsites carefully. Because the trail crosses so much private land and because sources of potable water are limited and can be far apart, plan conservatively to ensure you are camped in a safe, legal location with a water source.
  • Carry a water filter. While water is all around you, only trust the water that comes from an unquestionably safe source. Much of the Florida Trail travels through areas heavily used for farming and cattle raising, and in many sections human habitation is close by. Unless you are certain that your water source is potable, treat all water!
  • Be prepared for a range of temperatures. During a Florida winter, temperatures can sometimes drop below freezing, especially in the north.
  • Enjoy, but watch the sun. This is a tropical trail, so be sure to use sun block, and wear light, loose-fitting, long-sleeve clothes. Drink water frequently.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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