The First 400 Miles of the Florida Trail in 400 Words
Sunsets, springs, marshes, prairie, jungle, rivers, and roads. The first 400 miles of the Florida Trail have been incredibly rewarding and incredibly challenging. Just because there isn’t a 4,000 foot mountain doesn’t mean the mental and physical challenge of the FT is lacking. I haven’t even hit the swamps (proper) yet and I am already obsessed with the trail. Those are the Whites or Sierra of the Florida Trail. Very scenic, rewarding, and so hard.
What I have done is a section of crystal clear springs that you can swim in, stunning rivers with all sorts of amazing bird life, endless prairie with sky that goes on forever (awesome camping and stargazing situations), and Costa Rica levels of jungle. The thread is great for an area where the trail can be destroyed within hours, the blazes are plentiful, and the community is more supportive than any I have met (and trail communities are supportive in general).
You might end up hiking alone – or maybe you’ll be with a bubble, which is only four to five other hikers for a time. Either way, as a woman, everyone has treated me with kindness, respect, and concern. I have heard some problems that men have on the trails, though, so just be ready. That is an issue with non-established trail communities; a lot of people don’t know what is going on. The more hikers, the more ability locals have to learn and begin to love their trail and hikers.
I don’t think you need the summits to have an intense, challenging, and gorgeous hike. Just check out my pictures. In all of Maine I never saw a sunset like I have in Florida. Further, it is a hard but probably a good starter long-distance hike. Town is not close like the AT, but manageable. Depending on the season, you will hit lots of water or no water, cold (unless you do it in summer, which I don’t recommend) or extremely hot, bugs of many types, all sorts of animals (including cows). You will walk all types of terrain (except something like a rock scramble) and hit all types of weather (except maybe snow… though the panhandle has been known to get it).
I’m about to head out to finish up my first half of the Florida National Scenic Trail and I love it. If you come down to hike, please leave no trace and leave it better.
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