The Florida Trail
The Apalachicola is Florida's largest national forest. It encompasses a wide swath of the panhandle, from Tallahassee in the east to the Apalachicola River in the west. Within these confines, visitors will find sand hills, sinkholes, lakes, pinelands, blackwater streams, spring-fed ponds, rich swamps, and rivers. The vast amounts of water that flow through this land feed the rich estuaries of the Gulf. The flora along these waterwayscypress, black gum, titi, sweetbay magnolia, and moreact as a filter to cleanse the water that produces vast amounts of shellfish off the Florida coast. Tall longleaf woods mixed with oaks and occasional hardwood hammocks provide food and cover for deer and scrub jays alike.
Hikers will enjoy this 65-mile section of the FT that bisects the national forest. The path passes through nearly every environment the Apalachicola has to offerlongleaf-pine flatwoods, hills cloaked in oaks, the beautiful watershed of the Sopchoppy River, and the deep swamps of Bradwell Baymost of it in solitude. A sense of solitude continues in the western half of the forest where creeks abound, such as Coxes Branch. Visit the deserted community of Vilas, then enter a place of hills, lakes, and savannas before leaving the forest.
There are several unique areas the FT passes through, including savannasgrassy plains that are both flood and fire tolerantand the Bradwell Bay Wilderness, with nearly 25,000 acres of open pinelands and some of the deepest swamps in the entire forest. Hikers may also get a chance to see some of the forests more unusual residents, including the carnivorous pitcher plant, which captures insects and absorbs them as food.
Hikers should always keep in mind that resupply points are nonexistent, but making the 65-mile trek is possible without resupply. Backcountry campsites are numerous along the rivers and streams of the forest. There are also a few designated backcountry campsites developed by the Florida Trail Association. The FT also passes two primitive forest-service campgrounds.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication