Hiking is a Low-Impact, But Not No-Impact Activity
I am torn. I don’t really like invasive human impact in our scenic areas, but I am also in love with hiking. While hiking is a low-impact activity, it is not a no-impact activity.
Leave It Better
The Florida National Scenic Trail is a trail like no other. Aside from officially being a winter trail (hiking season here is about November to February), it is still struggling to be completed. The unknown awesomeness is so low key that locals living a few miles from the trail don’t know about it. The other major thing with Florida is the location. As far as LNT goes, Florida is surrounded by water, has major swamps and rivers, and floods. This means that trash placed incorrectly will eventually end up in the ocean or seeping into our water sources. Aside from all of that, there is a lack of awareness that is killer for the crazy amount of wildlife we have in our state. That is why I am SO excited to be a 2018 Grounds Keeper.
The Grounds Keepers
Inspired by the group Packing it Out, the Grounds Keepers program, sponsored by Granite Gear and supporting sponsor Altra Running, takes the idea of “leaving it better” and sponsors 25 hikers to support Leave No Trace ethics while packing out all the trash they find on trails this year. With this incredible program supporting me, I am so excited to leave my beautiful home state’s national scenic trail better, and even more excited to inform people of its existence as well as ignite the kindling for stewardship in everyone I encounter.
A Florida Trail Flip-Flop
Something that popular trails try to do is encourage alternative thru-hike itineraries. The Florida Trail isn’t exactly a popular trail, but it is the only national scenic trail whose hiking season is winter. Most hikers start in January and finish by the beginning of March. I had an exam to take so I won’t be starting until this week and hopefully finishing in May. Because of the controlled burn practices in Florida, I have also decided to hike a Florida Trail flip-flop.
The most common way to hike is northbound (NOBO) in a continuous hike from the southern terminus of a trail to the northern. Another popular way is southbound (SOBO), which is just the opposite. The third most common is called a flip-flop. It is where, generally, a hiker will break the trail into segments and flip between them. My flip choice is to start hiking south from Gainesville to the southern terminus in Big Cypress. I will then flip back up to Gainesville and finish the hike north. This allows me to miss the controlled burn happening in Big Cypress during March without having to skip the section. It also takes strain off the trail. While this isn’t a huge issue in Florida quite yet, in the future maybe flip-flopping from Gainesville will be a good alternative route when this winter trail gains popularity. I guess I’ll see how realistic it is in the next few months.
It is up to us, as the hiking community, to set the standard stewardship.
Let’s all do better!
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