Florida isn’t so much a place where one goes to reinvent oneself, as a place where one goes if one no longer wished to be found.Douglas Copeland
For those who like to hike, Florida does not seem like the most popular place for trekkers. Sure, we have the FT – the Florida Trail that stretches from the northwest corner to the keys. We have the world-famous Everglades, and we have Lake Okeechobee, or as I like to call it, Florida’s biggest lake that nobody I know has been to or seen. I have serious doubts that Lake Okeechobee exists. But to those who wonder if Florida is worth the hype to go trekking through. The answer is YES!
If you come to Florida expecting to get the types of hikes you get in other places, I hate to tell you that you will be disappointed! If you come to Florida with an open mind and a willingness to explore, you are going to find that some of the best hikes are down the old Florida Trail.
Less Equipment Needed
Florida only has one mountain, and maybe towards the top half some hills, but nothing that the rest of the country has. We are mostly at sea level, which means less equipment when you go out into the wilderness. You still need your basic survival items like water and food. And you might need trekking poles, but not for the reason you think. Here we use them to poke at the alligators when slogging through the swamp, instead of using them to distribute our weight. Heavy clothes- nope, snow gear- do not make me laugh. Bear spray – we have small bears, and they do not like humans.
One thing I noticed when I travel is that I must bring more with me. I guess living in Florida will get anyone spoiled.
Hiking is about the Journey
One thing I notice about hiking in other places is that you hike to get somewhere to see something. When I hike in other states, I notice it is almost a race to get there. Hiking up to the Royal Arch in Boulder, Colorado, I noticed that it was almost like an Olympic Sport. People were racing up the mountain to get that perfect Instagram shot that millions of other influencers have, missing the natural beauty of the forest and the trees around you.
In Florida, there is nothing to see at the end because the end is not there. You are out in nature, enjoying nature. I guess that is why a lot of us Florida hikers are also nature lovers. Through stomping through swamps and hiking in Cypress Forest, we have learned to stop and watch the bees making a nest or the trees dancing in the wind.
Hiking in Florida teaches you to enjoy nature, to participate in it, and not to rush through to the top.
Dangerous in a fun way
Hiking in Florida in Florida can be dangerous…In a fun way. Fun fact, did you know that there are 6 types of venomous snakes that are native to America, and guess what state they all live. Yep, Florida. Not only do we have to worry about our venomous snakes, but there are alligators, panthers, and bears—oh my. We have wild boars; we have wild cows (I am not kidding about that), we have wild people. And you will encounter all of them while hiking in Florida. Not to mention mosquitoes, flying cockroaches, fire ants, and those nasty no-see-ums.
Florida also offers challenges in its weather. Since Mother Nature has not come up with a weather pattern for Florida, it can go from buggy and muggy to hurricane weather, to lightning strikes, to sunny back to buggy and muggy all in an afternoon, making it difficult to predict the weather before a hike. As a Floridian, I always carry two types of rain gear with me.
We have sawgrass, poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and all the other fun fauna that makes us itch, scratch, throw up and cuts us up; it is a jolly good time.
Not to mention the ground can open up at any point and swallow us whole. It is always an adventure when you hit the trails.
Alligators, Bears, Deer, Boars, Bees, and Squirrels Oh My!
Florida’s different habitats and year-round sunshine make it a perfect habitat for almost 4,000 species of animals that call it home – and those are the ones that are supposed to be here.
Hiking in Florida, even in urban parks, and you will come across animals. I have never been on a hike where I did not at least spot an alligator, deer, boar, wild cow, or the occasional kangaroo. Yes, we have them too.
My out-of-state friends are always amazed when they spot a lazy gator or a raccoon. I have hiked in other states, and other than the occasional bird, not much of the wildlife there.
For some reason, Florida’s wildlife has lost their natural fear of humans. Maybe because the tourists feed them (see my post about alligators) or that they realize we are harmless. I was on one hike and watched a deer walk right past me.
Diversity in the Ecosystem
What makes us the Doctor Doo Little of the states? The answer is quite clear – we have 80 different ecosystems (according to the DOI). And most of these ecosystems are not far apart. Animals travel easily as humans in and out of swamps, Cypress Domes, Cypress Forest, Fire Prairies, back into the swamps and back again.
This diversity in ecosystems also makes Florida beautiful. We do not have the knockout beauty of other places, but a quiet beauty that you start to enjoy once you learn how to hike the Florida way.
So why travel to Florida to hike one might ask. To see Florida and hiking in a new way.