Footprint Fall 2021

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Fall 2021 Volume 37 Issue 4



Florida Trail Association Footprint

Gateway Communities: Building Connections Along the Trail Fall 2021


TA M P A — W I N T E R P A R K — B O C A R AT O N — G A I N E S V I L L E — J A C K S O N V I L L E — R E I . C O M

Love it like you built it. Because you did. In support of Florida’s vibrant outdoor community, since 2014 the co-op has been able to contribute over $85,000 to stewarding the Florida Trail and other natural spaces around the state. Come by and see us at your local REI before heading out to enjoy the fresh air, or visit online at 2 AD23194215

Florida Trail Association

Contents 5 Letters to the Editor 5 Executive Director's Corner


by Royce W. Gibson

7 The Florida Trail Hikers Alliance Creating A Long Distance Hiking Community In Florida

by Kelly Van Patten

10 Volunteer Spotlight: Rich and Barbare Quinn by Jenna Taylor 16 St. Marks: A Welcoming Community Along the Florida Trail


by Adam Fryska


24 Good Nature: The Trail Angel Community on the Florida Trail by Jane Pollack

Cover Image

by Michael Strivelli Ocala National Forest

Our Mission

The Florida Trail Association builds, maintains, protects, and promotes the Florida National Scenic Trail (Florida Trail), and a network of hiking trails throughout the state of Florida. The Footprint Magazine welcomes your comments. The editors are committed to providing balanced and objective perspectives. Not all letters received may be published. Letters may be edited for clarity or length.

28 Finding Home, Community, and Purpose on the Trail by Alexandra Garcia


31 Gateway Communities: Building Connections Along the Trail by Jane Pollack

33 Farewell to Howard Pardue

Footprint Editor Florida Trail Association 1022 NW 2nd St Gainesville, FL 32601

36 Welcome to the Next Generation of Florida Trail Leaders


by Leslie Wheeler

28 Fall 2021


About Us

The Magazine of the Florida Trail Association

FLORIDA TRAIL ASSOCIATION 1022 NW 2nd Street Gainesville, FL 32601 Toll-Free: 877-HIKE-FLA Tel: 352-378-8823 Email: Website: Digital Magazine:

BOARD OF DIRECTORS President: David Waldrop VP Governance/Administration: Deborah Schroth VP Membership: Bill Turman VP Trails: Tom Daniel VP Outreach/Development: Leslie Wheeler Treasurer: Pam Hale Secretary: Darryl Updegrove Directors: Alan Bradshaw • Dr. Patrick Brennan Bill Bush • Karl Byars • James Catalano Rick Robbins • Amanda Kincaid • Jan Wells

FLORIDA TRAIL STAFF Executive Director: Royce W. Gibson Administrative Director: Janet Akerson Trail Program Director: Kelly Van Patten Membership and Store Coordinator: Diane Strong Community Outreach Manager: Chelsea Collison Panhandle Trail Program Manager: Adam Fryska North Trail Program Manager: Jeff Glenn Central/South Trail Program Manager: Jenna Taylor Technical Advisor: Abe Christian Gateway Communities Coordinator: Jane Pollack

FLORIDA TRAIL FOOTPRINT Editorial Team: Chelsea Collison Kelly Van Patten Layout: Sean Lucas ©2021 Florida Trail Association All rights reserved. Contributors retain copyright to their work but give the Florida Trail Association permission to use to promote FTA and the Florida Trail. Articles are subject to editing for clarity and space. Materials will be returned if accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope. Opinions, observations, and endorsements made within the Florida Trail Footprint do not necessarily reflect those of the board or staff of the Florida Trail Association. The Footprint (ISSN 1064-0681) is published quarterly by the Florida Trail Association 1022 NW 2nd Street Gainesville, FL 32601 4

Florida Trail Association

National Scenic Trail System


The Footprint is published by the Florida Trail Association, a volunteer-based nonprofit organization focused on Florida hiking and trail building. Since 1966, the primary mission of our organization has been the care and protection of the Florida Trail, a 1,500-mile footpath across the Sunshine State - Florida’s own National Scenic Trail.


To provide outreach to our readers through informative articles that express appreciation for and conservation of the natural beauty of Florida; to inform our readers of Florida Trail Association efforts; and to provide information on Florida hiking and outdoor recreation opportunities.


Please contact the editor at communications@ to discuss ideas for feature stories prior to submission. Bulk rate postage paid at Pontiac, IL. Postmaster: Send change-of-address form 3597 to: Footprint, 1022 NW 2nd Street Gainesville, FL 32601


As a Florida Trail member, you receive a subscription to The Footprint magazine, membership in a local chapter, a local newsletter with local activities, opportunities for outdoor skills training, participation in regional and annual conferences and more. To become a member, you can visit our website, mail in the form on the last page of this magazine, or call 352-378-8823.


Reach a highly targeted demographic of Florida outdoor enthusiasts by advertising with us or becoming a regular sponsor. Your advertising dollars directly support production and publication of this magazine and assist the Florida Trail Association in fulfilling its mission. Call 877-HIKE-FLA or email for more details.

The Footprint is printed with soy-based inks on paper with post-consumer content

Letters To The Editor

Executive Director's Corner



@Carriesekerak - “You are unsung hidden heroes of our state’s best trail system! I think of you every weekend when I hike the places you maintain. Thank you from the bottom of my soles!” @Spatiumnaturadraws - “I can't wait to hike another section on my next visit home to see family!! I learned to backpack after moving to California and really loved getting to see my childhood state in this new way!! Thank you for all the work you do! The trail was so well maintained!!!” @Charleskory - “Bless the trail volunteers! I'm so grateful for you all clearing the way. Hope to meet some of you in my upcoming thru-hike! ” @Jordan P. - “Excited to get to be a part of FTA this season!” @John B. - “Thankful for your hard work!” @Ben F. - “Thank you all for all the work all y’all do!”

by Royce W. Gibson, Executive Director

ime has raced by this year. It is already Fall and I have just passed my one-year anniversary with the Florida Trail Association (FTA). We have accomplished quite a bit in the last year and especially, in the last few months. Our new website launched, and our new volunteer system went live a week ago. Both accomplishments were months and even years in the making. I hope our members and volunteers find the new systems helpful and easier to use. This issue is focused on communities. Communities we find along the trail, communities we make or build and the communities into which we were born. There is another anniversary happening this month. One hundred years ago, the concept of a footpath connecting the communities along the ridgeline of the Appalachian Mountains was published. Benton MacKaye’s article was titled “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning”. MacKaye made the proposal as a way of connecting communities, providing an escape for the increasing number of urban dwellers, and protecting the natural and cultural resources of the Eastern United States. His idea was for people to be able to walk from community to community and learn from each other – “to walk, to see, and to see what you see”. The FTA’s Gateway Community program is an excellent opportunity for all the Florida Trail users to walk, to see and to see what you see. We are excited to grow this program and welcome more communities along the trail to join. Finally, this month is the traditional start of the end of year giving season. Program growth is made possible by your contributions and membership renewals. Soon you will receive our year-end update in the mail. Your generous support will be greatly appreciated, and together we can accomplish the goals we have set for 2022 and beyond. Happy trails,

@MJ H. - “Bless you for looking after our wild resources.”

This year marks the 55th Anniversary of the first orange blaze and the start of the Florida Trail. In thanks for your donation of $55* or more we will send you a complimentary copy of our first “Official Calendar of the Florida Trail Association”. The 12’’ x 12” wall calendar photos were selected from over 500 submissions by FTA members and enthusiasts. Experience the beauty and wonder of the Florida Trail every day for 16 months beginning September 2021. *Does not count towards membership dues. Your contribution will support our mission to protect the Florida Trail System. Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery. Calendars can also be purchased online at the FTA Store Footprint

Fall 2021



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The Florida Trail Hikers Alliance

Photo courtesy of FTHA

by Kelly Van Patten, Trail Program Director

Creating a Long Distance Hiking Community in Florida


magine a world where thru-hiking the Florida Trail is made as simple and fun as possible by a well established community of experienced hikers, educational resources, online forums, workshops and gatherings. We’re a lot closer to that vision than we’ve ever been before, thanks to the hard work of the Florida Trail Hikers Alliance, an educational non-profit organization formed in 2014. When I first started at the Florida Trail Association (FTA), a long-time volunteer explained the organizations that support the Florida Trail to me as three legs of a stool. Those legs include the FTA, focused on the building and maintenance of the trail, the US Forest Service, focused on the management and completion of the trail, and the Florida Trail Hikers Alliance (FTHA), which serves as a user resource and support group. Each organization does much more than that, and we have plenty of overlapping goals, but each of these unique roles is vital to the success and sustainability of the Florida Trail. Without one leg of the stool, it falls apart. The FTHA had grassroots beginnings from four hikers who had transformative experiences hiking the Florida Trail, and

wanted to draw more hikers to share that same experience. Those original founders included Randy and LuAnne Anderson, local trail angels who had the idea for a Florida Trail Kickoff event and Billy Goat Day (an annual hiker reunion). They joined forces with Sandra Friend and John Keatley, who had just attempted an Appalachian Trail thru-hike, and realized that the Florida Trail needed a guidebook similar to the AT Guide. Armed with an understanding of what long distance hikers needed—along with help from David Miller, the author of the AT Guide and a neighbor of John's—they researched and created The Florida Trail Guide. The first edition of the Florida Trail Guide generated an incredible amount of interest, and sparked Sandra, John, Randy and LuAnne to come together and brainstorm how they

could create a support organization for hikers on the Florida Trail. They decided to model an organization after the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association, which provides hiker recognition, a guidebook, training, and an annual gathering which combines a reunion with workshops on trail-related subjects. Today, the FTHA consists of a vast network of supporters, volunteers, trail angels and social media followers. The work of these individuals has undoubtedly contributed to the rising reputation and usership of the Florida Trail. Today, according to a study conducted by the University of Florida, the Florida Trail sees over 360,000 users annually. This includes approximately 50-100 thru-hikers. While usership of the Florida Trail is steadily increasing, there is still plenty of work to be done in getting the word out about the trail. Randy Anderson explains his “sales pitch” to prospective hikers: “For years I encouraged hikers to come and enjoy the beautiful winter hike that only Florida can afford, with moderate success in enticing hikers from other National Scenic Trails to come and join us. In recent years I have been using

Above: Sandy, John, Randy, LuAnne and others at the 2016 Florida Trail Kickoff, an annual gathering at the beginning of thru-hiker season. The event encourages long distance hiker camaraderie, and provides low-cost camping and shuttle support to the southern terminus. It also gives hikers the opportunity to meet some of the trail angels of the Florida Trail. Footprint

Fall 2021


REI Co-Op is now selling Florida Trail Association merchandise, maps, stickers, data books, and more! Stop into the Boca Raton, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tampa, or Winter park REI stores to check out their new displays and find map sets curated specifically for your region!

The newly released 4th edition of the Florida Trail Guide will soon be available for purchase in the online FTA store! (Continued from page 7.) a different approach which has increased interest exponentially. I usually start off by saying ‘I don't think you're tough enough to handle our trail.’ This statement raises their interest in what truly is a challenging 1,100-mile adventure. Now that I have their attention, I explain that we have water to wade through, snakes and gators to deal with, and, at times, freezing temperatures. I also remind them that many triple-crown hikers (those who have completed the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail) have commented about the difficult nature of repetitive walking on flat surfaces and have stated that this is no ‘walk in the park.’ In addition to its astounding beauty and interesting communities, The Florida National Scenic Trail has its own unique challenges. That, I've found, is what long distance hikers are looking for: a true adventure in the winter months.” As thru-hiking has continued to rise in popularity across the country, many prospective hikers have turned to social media outlets to learn about potential trails to hike. This prompted the FTHA to start a “Florida Trail Hikers” Facebook group to replace the forum that used to exist on their website. The group has nearly 11,000 members, and served as an important tool of answering questions, sharing experiences, and generally building the hiking community here in Florida. FTHA also creates smaller, private Facebook groups each year 8

Florida Trail Association

Billy Goat Day is a Florida Trail hiker reunion, and celebration of the birthday of legendary long distance hiker “Billy Goat”. Photo of 2018 celebration courtesy of Sandra Friend. for those planning to thru-hike. The smaller group makes coordinating on-the-ground support for hikers safer and easier. The FTHA aims to create trail ambassadors out of every thru-hiker they work with, encouraging them to spread the word about the trail all over the country and the world after their hike. Many of these “ambassadors” have shared their thru-hikes through word of mouth, podcasts and their own social media accounts. Chris Bell, President of the FTHA, explains, “Hikers with notoriety and a large social media presence among the hiking community like Jupiter, Dixie, Larry Boy, Odyssa, and many others have definitely helped bring notoriety to the Florida Trail. Florida Trail centered podcasts like the Orange Blaze podcast have also helped promote the trail to a larger audience, as well as those who have shared their Florida Trail experience on well known backpacking podcasts.” That said, you don’t have to be a social media influencer to help the FTHA. There are plenty of other ways to get involved if you are interested in helping long distance hikers. The long distance hiking community here in Florida, developed by the FTHA and others, is a unique one in the National Trails system. The Florida Trail has far fewer thru-hikers than the more widely known trails like the Appalachian or Pacific Crest, and as a result, has a smaller number of trail angels. But many hikers see this as a positive. The Florida Trail offers a more solitary hike and a more close-knit community of hikers supporting hikers. “It has become challenging for me to get to the trail as often as I would like. Supporting hikers keeps me connected to the trail, forces me to visit the trail much more often, and also lets me meet new people from all walks of life. I also think I am making the world a little better. What more could one ask for.” -Ari Hirschman, FTHA Volunteer


Live near the Florida Trail? Share local knowledge and conditions on the Florida Trail Hikers group on Facebook.

Assist section hikers and weekend backpackers by helping them stage vehicles for section hikes. In addition, during the spring and fall hiking season, both thru-hikers and section hikers may be in need of assistance getting to either terminus of the trail, or need help for resupply along long stretches where there are no services.

If you’ve hiked the Florida Trail, share your story with the FTHA, either in writing or images. If you have a knack for public speaking, you can help their efforts in presenting workshops.

At FTHA gatherings and events, you can help by shuttling hikers to and/or from the trail to the event, coordinating donations of food, food preparation, public outreach or other logistical coordination.

Thank you to Sandra Friend, Ari Hirschman, Chris Bell and Randy Anderson for their contributions to this article. Footprint

Fall 2021


Volunteer Spotlight: Rich and Barbara Quinn by Jenna Taylor, South/Central Regional Program Manager

“I never expected to own four chainsaws before I got involved with the FTA,” said Rich Quinn with a laugh while we discussed his time serving the Florida Trail alongside his wife Barbara. We’d meant to talk about memories and allow them to brag on their extensive contributions to the trail, but as expected, the conversation kept drifting back to the upcoming maintenance season and their passion for it is so evident. The next improvement for the volunteer and hiker experience is always on their minds. I first met the Quinns a few weeks into my role with the FTA. After my introduction email and calls to the chapters, I was greeted with a warm welcome and an invitation to join them in the Kissimmee River region to show me what they were up to and what projects they had coming up. I jumped in Rich’s new car (more to come on that later), and off we went. Passing from section to section, I found myself listening to the work that needed to be done but between the lines I sensed something else. I saw a deep appreciation for the land. Not just the public land but a deep respect for the ranches we were passing through to reach that public land. As we passed through seven locked gates, I watched with great appreciation as Rich produced keys and codes to all of them. “It wasn’t always this way,” Rich said, “We really had to work hard to build rapport with the ranchers to assure them that trail maintainers and hikers wouldn’t be trespassing on their land. Not all of our experiences were good ones at first. We had to earn that trust.” As Rich and the chapter have begun to learn about the ranching families, including the Luna, Chandler and Prescott families, they learned that these ranches and farms had been here for seven or eight generations and 10

Florida Trail Association

Barbara accepts the John Weary Trail Worker Award 2019 earned by both she and Rich, in 2020. will continue long into the future. As trust has developed and relationships have been built, access for maintenance has been granted to the chapter. Rather than hauling miles up the trail, the chapter can access critical locations on the trail which has allowed for benches to be built, campsites to be improved and the trail to be relocated as needed. One rancher even allowed the chapter to move his fence a few feet back after the trail had eroded too far to be saved and was too narrow to get a mower down. “We try to help them out when we can as well. We have gone out of our way to help them find lost cattle. We report fence damage if we see it,” said Rich, “Once we did some mowing so a rancher’s grandson could access the river for fishing. That path actually turned out to be a great source of water for hikers and a beautiful view of the river.” At the core of it though, it comes down to good old fashioned manners and mutual earned respect. Rich and Barbara Quinn belong to the Tropical Trekkers chapter in the southern section of the trail. Covering from Lake Okeechobee to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, the chapter is responsible for a historically wet region that has grown increasingly wet as the Kissimmee River has been restored to its original route. Never allowing themselves or the trail to be defeated, the Trekkers have rolled with the changes proactively instead of reactively by installing new puncheon, mowing continuously throughout the year until the water is just

Rich and Barbara hiking a section of the Florida Trail (Photo taken in 2016)

Rich welcomes a group of volunteers during their annual work week in 2020.

too deep and tirelessly removing invasive caesar weed. It is because of the Quinns that I can no longer ignore even one tiny caesar weed plant without pulling it and why I have baggies of seeds in my truck. At the beginning of each work party Barbara can be found handing out baggies to everyone: one to keep your phone dry and one to stash seeds so you aren’t tempted to pick them off and drop them along the trail. The Quinns said they discovered the Florida Trail after Barbara hiked the Appalachian Trail. She got to know two people from Florida who kept talking about this trail in Florida. “I kept thinking, you have got to be kidding me, a trail in Florida?” said Barbara. So she tackled it (and later completed it for a second time) and in her words, she fell in love with it. “After I hiked it, I felt an obligation to maintain it. I am not sure how we got involved, we were living in Orlando. Someone invited us down to work on a Chandler North section reroute and we were hooked. I still have orange paint on my watch from that day,” Barbara shared. From there, the Quinns went on to support the Trekkers as members, eventually moving to the region. Over the last ten years, they have served in many positions including Chapter Chair. Most recently Rich assumed the section leader role. “I had a great role model in Tom Clements, the previous section leader,” said Rich, “This is the role I have loved the most.” Immediately, they got to work building relationships in and around the community. After hiking the AT and other trails, Barbara saw first hand how valuable long distance hikers and trails were to the communities and businesses they partnered with. When I first attended a Trekker event led by the Quinns, I was surprised to find Footprint

Rich Quinn presents Mr. Monrad Chandler with a Friend of the Florida Trail award in 2020. Fall 2021


THE QUINN'S FAVORITE: FLORIDA TRAIL SECTION Barb- Of course it is in our region, the Cathedral of Palms in Starvation Slough Rich- Ocala National Forest….and the 88 Store.

FAVORITE TRAIL OTHER THAN THE FLORIDA TRAIL Barb- Franconia Ridge on the AT in New Hampshire. Rich- The Camino De Santiago. It was just a great experience. Both- We’ve also hiked and loved the Foothills Trail and Superior Trail. The John Muir Trail is to die for as well.

FAVORITE TRAIL MAINTENANCE MEMORY Barb- It is always a good day if I don’t fall in mud. I really liked the women’s work party (2020). We got some serious stuff done. Rich- I really enjoyed the Southern New Hampshire University Student work party (2020). They did a fantastic job and it was so great to see so many young folks getting out there. 12

Florida Trail Association

Abe Christian, Florida Trail Technical Advisor, and Rich Quinn wait to be rescued. (Photo taken in 2017) that we started the day at the Cracker Trail Country Store on US-98 instead of the Trekker work shed a mile down the road. Rich explained that he liked to bring business to the store. By starting here, most folks ran inside for a coffee and those same volunteers found themselves returning there after for a cold beverage and a snack. The Cracker Trail Country Store has recently come on board as a Gateway Community passport stamp location and is very accustomed to seeing hikers and volunteers alike. “When I first started hiking, I saw the huge economic impact of trails. The communities got a lot of self-worth from what they did for hikers and the hikers needed them. It was a really symbiotic relationship,” shared Barbara. “In seeing that, it became important to me that the Florida Trail survive. To survive, it needs thru-hikers and we have a sense of responsibility to maintain it for those hikers.” Rich and Barbara are always ready to serve the thru-hiking community themselves. Every work party, even single day events, the Quinns can be found with a cooler of extra snacks, water and electrolytes. They communicate with thru-hikers and give them rides and advice about the region. They arrange meetings at work sites so hikers can rest

and charge their phones. While working on a temporary reroute with the Quinns one day, I met a NOBO thru-hiker who Rich had planned to meet. As soon as he arrived, we stopped what we were doing and they spread out an assortment of resupply items for him. After swapping stories with him, he shared his gratitude for the refuel as well as the well maintained region before heading on his way. In their region, the Quinns have also worked to build relationships with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the host of most of the lands they maintain. Their introduction to the District was not a pleasant one at first, although they both look back on it with laughter now. “I first met SFWMD when Abe and I sunk my old truck up to the frame. We were trying to retrieve a mower and it was only 50 yards off the road. Unfortunately, it was just mud and clay,” remembers Rich. “When SFWMD arrived to help pull us out he said ‘You knowif you see cattails, you probably shouldn’t be driving there’. No one got upset, we got the truck out and laughed our butts off.” Over the years, that relationship has grown and strengthened. Rich is grateful to the District for their support of projects, increased access to the lands for maintenance and notifications regarding prescribed burns.

Rich (wearing orange) leads a team in Duck Slough repairing fire damage, in 2020.


Fall 2021


Barbara at the 2020 women’s work party, a collaborative event with Girls Who Hike Florida, in 2020. At Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, which serves as home base for the chapter during their annual work week, the relationship building is just as important and evident. Recently, I accompanied the chapter on a rebuild of a bridge along Duck Slough. A prescribed burn had accidentally taken out a section of the structure. KPPSP had supplied the materials and helped get them to the site. The chapter then learned that a bridge along a trail not connected to the Florida Trail had been damaged. Even though it wasn’t their responsibility, they knew they could knock it out quickly for the park so that their rangers could focus on other issues. The Quinns feel confident about the future of the Florida Trail and feel that as more thru-hikers discover the Florida Trail and spread the word, it will grow in notoriety. Over their time with the FTA, they said the support from the FTA team and USFS has allowed them to grow and improve the trail in new ways. Of course, they acknowledge that the only way to make sure there is a trail for the rancher’s grandsons and great grandsons to explore, is a continued emphasis of recruiting the next generation of volunteers. “In the early days, we were separate groups with the same name but no real relationships,” said Barbara “Now it feels like across the system we have the same goals and we are all committed to them.” Rich added, “It is so important that we continue to build community and learn from each other in other chapters.” 14

Florida Trail Association

Rich supervising students from SNHU, in March 2020—pre-Covid. Footprint

Fall 2021


St. Marks



lorida’s coastlines are the most defining feature of our landscape. We’re a state ringed by water, and our beaches draw visitors from all over the world. It’s fitting that the Florida Trail’s northern terminus lies among the white sugar-sand and clear emerald waters of Santa Rosa Island. But there’s another coastal Florida, often overlooked, that is also visited by the Florida Trail. South of Tallahassee, the trail winds through the vast salt marshes and estuaries of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. The greater St. Marks area embodies everything that a National Scenic Trail stands for: stunning natural scenery along the coast, insights into the human history of the area, a window into life in a small old-Florida community, and all the amenities a hiker could desire. Salt marshes are the dominant habit along the Big Bend coastline from Apalachicola to Tampa Bay. These shorelines are characterized by daily tidal flooding and specially salt-adapted rushes, grasses, and sedges. The 16

Florida Trail Association

marshy coasts are some of the least developed places in Florida, and their remoteness serves as a big draw for those seeking outdoor adventures. For northbound hikers, the first glimpse of this unique environment arrives soon after they reach the eastern boundary of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. One of 568 wildlife refuges around the country that are administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, St. Marks is also one of the oldest. It was founded in 1931 to protect important wintering habitat for migratory birds; the coastline lies at a unique point that contains the extreme ranges of species normally found both far to the north and far to the south. Today the refuge spans over 80,000 acres in Wakulla, Jefferson, and Taylor counties, providing a protected habitat for innumerable species of wildlife while also hosting almost 40 miles of the Florida Trail. Many sections of the trail are located along levees that cross the marshes, offering sweeping views of the wetlands, mud flats, and Gulf of Mexico on the horizon. Fiddler crabs

The Florida Trail follows a system of levies through salt marshes in the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. scurry underfoot, alligators lounge in the sun, and wading birds stalk the shallows. There’s no better place for wildlife viewing along the entire trail, and every year hundreds of visitors descend on the refuge to try and catch sight of uncommon birds like the Scarlet Tanager, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, or Mangrove Cuckoo. One highlight of the Florida Trail within St. Marks is the passage through the Port Leon Wilderness, one of only a handful of such areas within Florida. In this context “wilderness” is more than just a description of a remote or wild place; this is actually a legal definition of a federally designated area “where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Created by the Wilderness Act of 1964, these wilderness areas are roadless and

Photo courtesy of Dawn Griffin

by Adam Fryska, Panhandle Trail Program Manager

At the north end of the Port Leon Wilderness, FT thru-hikers encounter one of the more unique navigational challenges of our trail system. After traveling several miles along the old Port Leon rail bed, the trail comes to a sudden end at the shores of the St. Marks river. Almost 100 yards away are the docks and marinas of the community of St. Marks. This is, of course, not a river you can ford or swim; it’s far too deep, there’s a swift current, and lots of boat traffic (not to mention plenty of alligators). So how do you get across? Stick out your thumb! The accepted method to cross the river is to hitch a ride from a passing boat—or alternatively, call up the near-by Shell Island Fish Camp to schedule a shuttle. Thru-hikers get plenty of practice hitching rides into town to resupply, but catching a hitch on a boat is a memorable exception to the usual routine. The town of St. Marks (population: 319) sits near the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers. Established in 1830, this community is literally at the end of the road, located 20 miles due south of Tallahassee at the point where the Woodville Highway reaches a stop sign near the river bank. Once a busy petroleum port, today St. Marks is best



The St. Marks Lighthouse is a striking historical landmark located a short distance from the FT.


One of St. Marks’ resident alligators. Gator sightings are guaranteed at the refuge!

18 20

Views from the FT in the Port Leon Wilderness.

Watching the sunset from the docks in the community of St. Marks. Photo courtesy of Adam Fryska


Looking across the St. Marks River from the boundary of the Port Leon Wilderness. Photo courtesy of Adam Fryska

Photo courtesy of Adam Fryska

prohibit the use of motorized equipment and mechanical transport. This means no cars, no bikes, no drones, no chainsaws, and no mowers or brush-cutters. All trail maintenance is done with hand tools only, a major challenge given Florida’s year-round growing season. Even when well-maintained, a wilderness trail is always just a little rougher around the edges than other footpaths, always reminding a hiker that this is a place where we are only visitors, treading lightly. In this particular area the wildness is even more striking due to the history of the landscape. Far from being wild, in the early 1800s Port Leon was a thriving commercial port with a major rail line linking it to Tallahassee. The town, located on the eastern shore of the St. Marks river, was home to hundreds of residents, with a post office, warehouses, hotels and taverns. A major hurricane in 1843 completely leveled the community, and nature has been left to reclaim the landscape. Still, traces remain, and the Florida Trail actually follows the route of the old raised railroad bed that cuts across the wetlands.


Fall 2021


Photo courtesy of Adam Fryska

Photo courtesy of Adam Fryska


Florida Trail Association

known for its access to boating and fishing along the nearby rivers and Apalachee Bay. The town has been designated as a Florida Trail Gateway Community, and it offers everything a hiker needs to rest, replenish supplies, and rest-up for further travels. The Riverside Cafe is often a hiker’s first stop, where you can enjoy a beer and blackened fish sandwich out on the docks along the river—but watch out for the thieving birds! Bo Lynn’s Grocery, a small general store that was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is right down the street. Operating continuously since 1936, the store is an essential stop for passing thru-hikers. There is also the aforementioned Fish Camp for lodging, and a few small bed & breakfasts and camping facilities. Canoes and kayaks are available to rent at Shields Marina and nearby TNT Outfitters. The town vibe is generally quiet and laid-back, but things can get a little wild on the weekend when Riverside hosts live music and crowds from Tallahassee caravan down for the night. St. Marks is believed to be one of the oldest European settlements in North America, tracing its roots back to a small Spanish colonial fort that was built in the late 17th century. Those original structures are all long lost to hurricanes and decay, but the remains of a stone fort from 1753 are still visible today. These ruins can be found just west of the current town center at the San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park. Five flags have flown over this fort—Spanish, British, Muskogee, Confederate, and American—and the park has a small museum and thoughtful interpretive displays that help visitors understand this complex history. Of course, the European colonial presence was preceded by the Native American civilizations that lived in these marshes and forests for thousands of years. The St. Marks Refuge contains numerous important archaeological sites, including the remains of several prehistoric villages. One of these villages, the Byrd Hammock site, is close to the Florida Trail and is currently being restored and prepared with interpretive materials for visitors. Once complete, a side trail will guide hikers through the area. Once FT hikers catch a lift across the St. Marks River, they leave town by continuing north along the same railroad remnants that they followed through the Port Leon wilderness. This section of the old railroad has been converted into a "Rail to Trails" corridor, the Tallahassee—St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail. The path is paved and pleasantly shaded, and any given weekend will see scores of walkers and bicyclists enjoying the scenery, some covering the entire distance from Tallahassee

and back. The Florida Trail follows this route for about 5 miles north before bearing west and continuing on further into the St. Marks Refuge and then onward into the Apalachicola National Forest. The western stretch of the refuge ventures deeper inland from the coastal marshes; highlights include the Cathedral of Palms, Shepherd Spring, and the Spring Creek area, where FTA will soon be working with our partners to build a major bridge after older boardwalks were damaged by storm surge. Interested in exploring the Florida Trail in St. Marks? This coming spring the Apalachee Chapter, based out of Tallahassee, is hosting the 2022 IDIDAHIKE at the St. Marks Refuge. IDIDAHIKE is an annual outdoor event

and fundraiser for the Florida Trail Association designed to showcase the wonderful and abundant trails in the North Florida Big Bend area; many past events took place along the Suwannee River. Scheduled for February 26 & 27, the event features five hikes, a silent auction, education and environment booths, and the chance to connect with hikers and volunteers from all over Florida. FTA volunteers are also needed to help setup and coordinate the event! For more information, see: If you’d like to get involved with other recreational hikes or trail maintenance in this region, you can connect with the Apalachee Chapter at: Apalachee-Florida-Trail-Hiking/.



CITY OF ST. MARKS, FL The historic city of St. Marks is one of the Florida National Scenic Trail's Gateway Communities. The area offers a variety of hikes along the Florida Trail. For more info about the area including accommodations, restaurants, and things to do - check out and



Fall 2021



Florida Trail Association


Fall 2021



Florida Trail Association


Fall 2021


Good Nature: The Trail Angel Community on the Florida Trail by Jane Pollack, Gateway Communities Coordinator

RECIPROCAL GENEROSITY ON THE FLORIDA TRAIL “The trail provides” is a common refrain within the hiking community. This sentiment expresses a sense of gratitude and open-mindedness to accept whatever may come your way, and reflects an attitude that things have a natural way of working out. After a string of setbacks, something good may come to hikers in the form of what is known as trail magic: a wondrous moment you might experience in the natural world while on the trail, or an act of goodwill by another person. Perhaps you find the perfect campsite in the knick of time to provide shelter from an incoming storm. Maybe you lose your spoon and find another on a picnic table (true story, this happened to me!). It could even be a beautiful sunrise on Lake Okeechobee that lifts your spirits—that’s trail magic. These instances of profound beauty and connectedness are what make a thru-hike remarkable. Oftentimes trail magic comes not from a nebulous mystical force, but the generosity of kind-hearted folks who want to help hikers complete their journey. These acts of kindness are offered by individuals known as trail angels in the form of rides into town, feeding hungry hikers, even opening their doors for an overnight stay in their home. Contributions vary amongst trail angels. Some have been helping hikers along their journey for many 24

Florida Trail Association

years and participate in trail activities every season. Other trail angels offer assistance spur of the moment by posting on the Florida Trail Hikers Facebook group: “Trail angel available Saturday between Interachen and Palatka - Rides, water, food, etc. - Message me.” Sometimes an unlikely commuter becomes a trail angel by offering to help a hiker at random. On the backroads of Florida during my thru-hike in early 2020, I met many local residents who were unaware that the Florida Trail ran through their backyard. They were inquisitive about what we hikers were up to, and this often served as an educational moment to share knowledge about the trail and the hiking community. Thru-hiker by the name of “Larry Boy” shared a story about a similar interaction on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation during his interview on the Orange Blaze podcast. While Larry Boy was hiking a stretch of road within the reservation, a woman pulled over to greet him, curious about the number of hikers she’d seen. When Larry Boy told her about thru-hiking on the Florida Trail, she was enchanted with the notion that he had trekked through Big Cypress National Preserve. As a memento, she gave him a handmade quilted pouch with traditional herbal remedies tucked inside, as well as a copy of the tribal newspaper. She expressed that she

wanted to give him a sense of tribal culture and a word of encouragement. Larry Boy suggested that making that connection with the trail “changed her understanding of the place she lived, and changed my understanding of the place I was hiking.” He added that ours is “not a big community, but a tight-knit community. Those who are in on the secret of the Florida Trail do a great job in supporting it.” Around the panhandle, hikers start chattering about Hillcrest Baptist Church. As the Florida Trail gains recognition amongst the long-distance hiking community, so do our trail angels. After the wilderness of Apalachicola National Forest, the trail follows a 20-mile long roadwalk, and hikers look forward to some much needed rest at Hillcrest’s Hiker Shack. “Hikers who aren’t connected on social media learn about the Hiker Shack by word of mouth on the trail,” shares trail angel Wilton Quattlebaum, pastor at Hillcrest Baptist Church, and true Florida Trail legend, according to hikers. In 2021, Hillcrest added a second building to their hiker ministry: “the building has a washer and dryer, sink, hot water, shower, and a working bathroom. We had an additional septic tank installed so we could accommodate this.” During the hiking season, Wilton hosted approximately 65 to 70 thru-hikers and many

aum Wilton Quattleb Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of Wilt on


Hikers Hotdogg and Manimal look excited to be at the Hiker Shack at Hillcrest Baptist Church, in 2020.

Wilton poses with hiker Porkchop and a trail dog named Hamburger, in 2020.

section hikers. He usually prepares dinner and breakfast for hikers, and offers shuttling if needed. When I made a pitstop there during my hike in 2020, Wilton was grilling up pork chops. After hearing we didn’t eat meat, a member of the congregation brought over a hearty homemade veggie soup, so thoughtful! Hikers who benefited from the love and care at Hillcrest return to pay it forward: “Two kind hikers blew me away with their generosity this year,” Wilton recalls. “Lil Buddha, who was hiking the Eastern Continental Trail, showed up with a load of frozen pizza, snacks, and drinks. Cheryl Borek, trail name 4:13, shipped the ministry a package containing loaner clothes and a couple of robes so the hikers can do laundry during their stay.” It’s so

uplifting to see the way that generosity gets mirrored from trail angels to hikers, and back into the hiking community. Another essential role played by trail angels is maintaining water caches. In dry stretches or where agricultural runoff makes water unsafe to drink, supplying clean drinking water along the trail is absolutely crucial and requires a statewide effort of many trail angels and volunteers. In the southern region, these efforts are spearheaded by Mike Gormley and Ari Hirschman. A working spreadsheet that anyone can edit online shows the locations and mile markers of water caches and helps hikers plan ahead. This is not the sole source of drinking water along the FT of course, but hikers would be hard pressed to

Hiker getting some rest at Lil Cub’s Place, another hostel-style outpost operated by trail angel Al just a few blocks off trail in Crestview. He offers shuttling, tenting, Wifi, and more. manage the water situation in certain areas without the aid of water cache trail angels. When asked how trail angels got involved with helping hikers, they often share their own experience of needing a hand during a sticky situation on the trail. “Having realized how challenging some basic things were on this trail like transportation, good water, clear information, etc., I started to help other hikers,” shared Ari. Some hikers who rec-


Keep trail magic low impact and Leave No Trace. If you pack it in, pack it out. Maintain and monitor any items you offer on the trail, make sure you use an animalproof container, and always remove trash. Practice safe food handling and consider fresh, healthy, and nutritious food.

Water caches. Before setting up a new water cache, get in touch with trail angels who are leading up those efforts and ask where you can fill in.


Be mindful of wilderness areas. Keep in mind that hikers are often seeking solitude and pristine nature.

Consider your budget closely. The costs associated with being a trail angel can add up quickly. Trail maintainers are trail angels too! Get involved with your local chapter to get plugged in with volunteer opportunities. Fall 2021



Photo courtesy of Ben Dorney

Dozens of water jugs in the back of Ari’s vehicle ready to be distributed along the trail.

Tamara Lynn meets hikers near Ocala in 2020.

Trail Angel Trucker Bob and Ben Dorney 26

Florida Trail Association

ognize the good will of trail angels end up helping others to repay their karmic debt. The cycle of kindness continues. At the end of hiking season, many hikers post their terminus pictures on the FT Thru Hiker’s Facebook page to announce their completion. Most of them attribute their success to the generosity of the hiking community. There is a true appreciation for the efforts that go into the trail experience. The captions are imbued with heartfelt thanks to the network of people who care deeply about the trail, from trail maintainers, to trail angels, and all the towns along the way. The Florida Trail is unique to its own

amongst trail communities. The trail angel community breathes a feeling of warmth, hope, and support to a thru-hiker. At the end of the trail, you have the feeling of accomplishment as well as the feeling you have made friends to remember. - Heather Houskeeper aka Bot and Scott Weis aka Wiseman, 2019 thru-hikers I have had the marvelous privilege of being on both ends of the giving and receiving of trail magic, and I have been blessed to have met many amazing people in the trail community. I am fortunate to live near the Florida Trail in Crestview, a Gateway

Community. There is a long road walk that goes directly through my hometown here and I am happy to help hikers that make their way through this area. I just love helping hikers and listening to them as they share their amazing trail experiences. I feel that trail magic can form a lasting bond in the trail community. - Sean Spence aka FlatTop, 2020 thru-hiker. Alongside the good-hearted nature, graciousness, and appreciation, there seems to be a symbiotic relationship at work. Hikers provide a boost of inspiration, an exciting story, or an alternative perspective on life, and trail angels restore our faith in humanity. These gifts of time and attention build a sense of community and connection within the hiking world. A thru-hike is not just a tromp through the woods—it’s an experience that connects people to nature, trail communities, and each other.



Be on the lookout for hikers from November - March. Thru-hikers usually start their journey within the first week of January, and most folks travel NOBO.

Frequent social media pages: Florida Trail Hikers is the Florida Trail Hikers Alliance’s public Facebook group where hikers seeking information about trail conditions, camping, hike planning, and more can ask the experts. Within this group is a private group specifically for current year thru-hikers and section hikers to interact with current trail angels and trail maintainers.

Connect with folks already doing trail magic and see how you can help. If you don’t know where to start, connect with a seasoned trail angel.

If you live in a Gateway Community, go to places that hikers go: supermarkets, post offices, and restaurants. Say hello and offer help when appropriate.

Practice caution and common sense. Hikers and trail angels alike should use their best judgement when interacting with new people.

Link up with Florida Trail Hikers Alliance


Fall 2021


Finding Home, Community, and Purpose on the Trail

by Alexandra Garcia, Latinx Partnerships Coordinator for Florida Trail Association and Appalachian Trail Conservancy

THE BACKSTORY I moved to the mainland United States from the beautiful Isla del Encanto in 2015, a calculated move that hundreds of young Puerto Ricans make every year in the pursuit of professional growth opportunities and first-hand creation of generational wealth. For many, brincar el charco, as we call it, was and still is a necessity; between a fiscal crisis, continuing violence, and back-to-back natural disasters, it seems like there’s no other way through it all than out of the island for good. For many of us who decide to jump ship, leaving most or all we’ve known behind becomes a defining part of our lives, a sort of before and after point in the story of us as individuals and a collective, la diáspora. The first few months I spent in my new home state, Virginia, I lived in a constant interpersonal and social quandary. The realities of adulthood– a long commute to and from work, tax deductions deflating each paycheck, bills to pay– were compounded by the sheer terror I felt regarding having to do this all away from those I loved. The struggle came from both a place of inadequacy in time and place, a conflict of coming of age as well as immigration, in which there was no path out except the one I forged on my own. Later that year, a group of friends and I hiked to McAfee’s Knob, arguably the most popular day hike in Virginia as well as the most photographed spot of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a walk that thousands make every year, and it became my introduction to the state’s outdoor recreational opportunities. I’d hiked a handful of times before, but my personal story was different then. In that present day over six years ago, I found a sprinkle of solace, a sort of escape from the loneliness and sadness I dealt with in private. During the struggle and confusion of moving, the trails automatically became a refuge. Surprisingly, some of the state’s natural 28

Florida Trail Association

During Latinx Conservation Week 2021, Latinxhikers and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy co-sponsored a “Reflection Hike and Potluck” event in the Blood Mountain Wilderness in Georgia. features– the lush green forests, crystal blue water holes, the rooted paths - all found ways to mirror the Puerto Rico I loved and missed. At times, I could go back and forth between reveling in childhood memories of running around barefoot in my parents’ farm in Moca and planning out future hikes where I could run around barefoot elsewhere. When I was outside hiking on my own, I could once again think, pray, and speak in Spanish to the forest; I didn’t need to fit myself into someone else’s box just to communicate or fit in. Over the years, I’ve found home on all sorts of paths around the world– from sandy beachscapes to rugged granite mountaintops to jungle forests. I’m grateful for the trails which provided a space for the very real, confusing, incredibly lonely times I’ve gone through and helped me heal in ways I’m still awestruck by. I shed the grief and shame I struggled with for years at the trailheads that slowly but surely made me feel whole in unique ways. Hiking helped me reconnect with the parts of me I thought I’d lost access to (like sharing my love of nature with and next to my mom), as well as tap into other parts I didn’t know even existed within me. I’ve met people who share similar uprooting stories to my own; the trails have provided a family. For a long time, I resisted rebranding what “home” was, but now, I find home on the trails wherever I go.

in ntal

The trails have been a big part of my personal upbringing since moving to the states, and I know they can become a source of growth and reconnection for so many other people like me. And yet, I recognize many people within the Latinx community face challenges that make outdoor recreation difficult or plainly inaccessible, especially in National Scenic Trails or National Parks (many of which require long distance travel). By noticing these challenges and advocating for solutions to “bridge the gaps,” I can create opportunities that provide a space for my people to know and care for the outdoor spaces like I do. Because of that, it’s not by mistake or happenstance that today I find myself as the Latinx Partnerships Coordinator for both the Florida Trail Association and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. This joint ATC/FTA role was created a few years ago with the goal of expanding diversity in outdoor and volunteer spaces, but my personal mission within this role is to support the involvement, education, and leadership advancement of Latinx/Hispanic trail users along the Florida Trail and Appalachian trail corridor in a manner that is strategic, sustainable, and adaptable. This mission can be accomplished in the following ways:

Alex on her first hike after moving to the U.S., a section hike of the AT to McAfee’s Knob in the Virginia Blue Ridge.

The Florida Trail Data Book 2021-2022

of he


The Florida Trail Data Book

Increasing access to educational content

Providing a platform for Latinx/Hispanic voices

Offering opportunities for meaningful interactions on the trail

Leveraging focus groups to enhance recreational events

Championing unique experiences for select individuals (engaged community members) to participate in leadership growth opportunities

The 14th Edition of The Florida Trail Data Book EDITED BY DON MOCK IS NOW AVAILABLE! This pocket-sized, detailed chart of mileage points along the Florida National Scenic Trail includes features such as campsites, water sources, road crossings, trailheads and re-supply spots.


A MUST for thru and section hikers, valuable for day hikers and weekenders. All for only $7.95.



Fall 2021


The Latinx community in the United States is by default a conglomeration of histories, cultural differences, Spanish dialects and accents, and much more - to call it “Latinx community” is making a generalization that could be dissected in a multitude of ways. However, there is a convergence point within the Latinx community regarding certain aspects each individual culture uses to grow and expand upon: community, storytelling, language, and family. I believe that focusing efforts to “bridge the gaps” based on these tenets, we will find opportunities to make meaningful programs that change lives and invite others outside. In practical terms, this will look like increasing the amount of educational material available in Spanish both online and within trail boundaries, partnering with organizations like Wild East Women and Latino Outdoors, promoting and participating in nationwide efforts like Hispanic Access Foundation’s Latino Conservation Week, promoting up and coming Latinx/Hispanic outdoor leaders, and incorporating cultural, community-based references in our outreach moving forward. We’ve already done some good work, but there’s a lot more to be done. Some of it is groundwork that will take time and resources, but the people, as well as our beloved outdoor spaces, deserve it.


Florida Trail Association

THE FUTURE IS PROMISING There’s much to feel conflicted about lately, but there’s one thing I feel a sense of promise: the Latinx community in the states is a growing force of good. Statistically, we are the largest ethnic group in the U.S., and constantly changing the societal, economic, and environmental aspects that make this country what it is today. To invite us into the great outdoors is an opportunity for all to learn from each other, and learn how to best take care of our natural resources together. We come from peoples with deep ties to ancestral lands far away from where we live and work today, but we have within us a desire to connect and protect these lands too. There are over a million Puerto Ricans and many more Hispanic/Latinx identifying people in Florida alone, and I hope they find fulfilment on the trails like I did. Home, as I’ve come to understand, can be a continuum of dirt paths and rocky trails that guide us to our best selves. With the mission in mind, I’ll continue to work alongside many other devoted individuals to bring soul enriching opportunities in nature closer to our people, and in turn, develop advocates for the protection of the most beautiful outdoor spaces in the world.

Love for the trails, born out of recreation, breeds environmental stewardship and advocacy. One of my goals with the FTA/ATC is to get more people like me to participate in trail cleanups and/or trail maintenance crews.

Gateway Communities by Jane Pollack, Gateway Communities Coordinator



t’s no secret that Florida Trail Gateway Communities offer hikers much needed respite from the trail. The typical agenda of a hiker rolling into town includes a hot shower, laundry, sleeping in a warm bed, and eating something decent and calorically dense. Over the stretch of 1,500 miles along the Florida Trail, hikers can usually find what they need in our Gateway Communities. While the amenities serve a crucial role in supporting hikers, there are some uniquely Floridian gems in these towns that help gain a greater appreciation for the localities along the Florida Trail as well as a deeper understanding of our unique culture, natural landscape, and history. Beyond providing the essentials, Gateway Communities add character to the hiking experience, offering local color and friendly conversation after a stretch of solitude in the woods. As you stroll into town with trekking poles and a big pack, folks get curious about what you’re up to. They might ask what kind of critters you’ve seen in the woods, or what motivated you to hike the trail—and it is fun to connect with them. While these interactions might seem insignificant, conversations like this help create a bond between trail users

A newly installed kiosk in Okeechobee. The kiosk features information about the Florida Trail in the area and a place for the town to display their community’s history.

and community members, and might even encourage someone new to get out on the trail. Several Gateway Communities feature historic or cultural museums and interpretive sites that enhance the trail experience. In the town of Inverness on the Western Corridor, the historic site of the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum nearly faced demolition before community members collaborated to have it placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum partnered with the Florida Museum of Natural History to create the Chassahowitzka Springs archaeological exhibit, which showcases artifacts ranging from early Paleoindians to modern-day ecological plight through the lens of the significant nearby waterways. Education about Florida’s original inhabitants as well as the fragility of our environment helps trail users and community members become good stewards of the land and our rich history. The Clewiston Museum has an impressive fossil collection, including a skull and tusks from mastodon remains that were discovered in Hendry County, among other extinct animals. Isn’t it wild to imagine those creatures tromping through the same land as

the Florida Trail? Taking some time to engage with impactful events from history provides insight and context to the areas the trail winds through and strengthens our bond to the places we visit. Florida Trail hikers have the opportunity to take a break from the trail and view Florida’s unique ecosystems from a different perspective by taking an airboat ride or a world-class fishing tour in Okeechobee. County Chamber director Paulette Wise says she sees several hikers stopping for resupply before the trek from Basinger to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. She encourages hikers to “get off the trail for the afternoon and take advantage of what Okeechobee has to offer,” mentioning great local restaurants and interesting shops in the downtown area. Gateway Communities receive a lot of appreciation from local businesses who enjoy


Fall 2021


Where Black People & Nature Meet

Photo courtesy of Heather Fauley

Hikers enjoying a meal at a restaurant in Clewiston, early 2020. seeing hikers each season. Back Home Bakery Cafe on Main Street in Crestview offers encouragement to thru-hikers in the form of free brewed coffee. Owners Kimberly and Dorene express their excitement about the hiking season: “We think it’s pretty cool to be directly on the Florida Trail and have the opportunity to be a part of this community!” It’s clear that these communities are proud to have the trail in their backyard, and the presence of hikers in town brightens their day. Another favorite pitstop for hikers is the TownHouse Restaurant in Oviedo, located right off the multi-use Cross Seminole Trail. The owners shared that, “while hikers aren’t really enough to really impact sales, we LOVE hiker season! During the spring, we get a


Florida Trail Association

couple of dozen hikers all kitted out for the long walk.” As the Florida Trail grows alongside these communities, hikers get a chance to meet folks with whom they have something in common with, whether that’s a passion for Florida’s nature or gaining a sense of community connection. Gateway Communities are kind enough to welcome hikers in each season—learning something new about their locale and supporting local businesses are great ways for hikers to show our appreciation for their hospitality. Interested in getting involved in the Gateway Communities program? Send an email to

Discover the natural beauty of the Florida Trail through this pictorial journey of the trail, end to end. With a Foreword by Jim Kern and photography by Sandra Friend and John Keatley, this keepsake book showcases the natural wonders and unique features of each section of the Florida Trail in moments captured by Sandra and John. Mini coffee table book Hardcover 5x7” format 192 pages Short overviews of each trail section Photograph locations identified at the end of the book

$24.95 Available October 2020 Order at

Howard Pardue Steps Down from Chapter Council Chair by Leslie Wheeler


can’t remember when I met Howard, and I can barely remember not knowing him. Howard has been a FTA fixture for many years, as an employee, volunteer and leader. Often seen at FTA events with his trusty banjo, his demeanor belies the wealth of knowledge and skill he has provided our organization over the years. I have watched Howard at Board meetings discuss land acquisition issues, lead strategic planning, and act as mentor to staff and officers. I learned the most about Howard while I was President. Howard was the Chair of the Chapter Council at that time. We managed to see our way past a few disagreements (which now, I can’t even think of what they were) because of our mutual trust and regard for one another. Howard always made sure I thought of the volunteers on the ground. He made the CC more independent and active. Along with a few others, Howard helped to write the new Chapter Operating Procedures (COP). Despite the fact that the project took many months, Howard continued to provide his leadership until the project was completed. Interesting, I have never been hiking with Howard. I’ve never been to his house, or seen him in dress clothes (ie, without hiking boots). But sometimes, you don’t need to know everything about a person to know their caliber. I wish to thank Howard for his years of working for and with FTA. We are all the better for knowing him, collectively and individually. I hope I get to hike with him soon! Footprint

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FTA BOARD OF DIRECTORS Nominations for the Florida Trail Association's 2022 Board of Directors are now being accepted The call for nominations is now open for FTA's 2022 Board of Directors, and we are seeking candidates for five board positions. FTA has a 15-member Board. The Nominating Committee will select the slate based on nominations received. A slate of officers and at-large Board members for 2022 will be voted upon via electronic voting beginning January 2022. The election results will be announced at the April 2022 Annual Meeting. The Florida Trail Association is committed to expanding the racial and ethnic diversity, generational and regional representation, and professional experience of our board members. Serving on FTA’s Board of Directors is a chance to help the organization face challenges, provide creative solutions, contribute to a fast-growing trail program, and affect long-term positive change. Board service also offers you the opportunity to grow personally and professionally, to develop valuable skills in non-profit governance, gain unique experience and make lasting connections with a team of other passionate and motivated professionals. Please consider serving on the Board and submitting a nomination for the 2022 Florida Trail Association Board of Directors. For more information on our current Board of Directors as well as the general and specific responsibilities of our board members, visit: Please send your nominations to Nominations should include the following information: 1. Name of Nominee, address and contact information (including email address); 2. Brief statement or cover letter outlining why the nominee would like to be a board member; 3. Resume or short background on the candidate in question (work history, non-profit experience, involvement with the FTA, interests etc.); and 4. Reference (optional).


Florida Trail Association

other ways to give this year Take stock in the Florida Trail Donating stocks or mutual funds to the Florida Trail Association is a smart and simple way to help protect the natural world. By making a gift of appreciated securities, you may be able to avoid capital gains tax.

Give directly from your retirement account If you are over age 70 ½ then you have to take a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your retirement account. No matter the amount of your RMD for the year, you can give up to $100,000 to charities from your IRA as qualified charitable deductions (QCDs). You do not have to pay income tax on the QCD’s.

Amazon Smile Select the Florida Trail Association as your charity of choice and 0.5% of every qualified order will be donated to the FTA by Amazon.

For information on any of these giving options contact Royce Gibson 352.554.6227 Footprint

Fall 2021




n September of 2021, the Florida Trail Association hosted its first meeting to welcome the new leaders of our first Next Generation Coalition. This coalition is made up of 18-30 year olds from all over the state, covering every region of the trail. Their

professional fields range from environmental science, to journalism, to urban planning, but one thing they all have in common is their commitment to building a more diverse Florida Trail community for the future generations of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

These leaders will be working together over the next year to bring fresh perspectives, faces, and partnerships to the Florida Trail. To read more about these enthusiastic individuals check out the Next Generation page on our website

Megan Barry

s Alexandra Valde

Jordan Paredes

Austin Burton

Aric Chokey

Andrew Quintana

Kaley Deal 36

Florida Trail Association

Sam Szatyari

Michael Spagnolo

Sheila Scolaro

Halle Goldstein

Ashley Kusel

Cody Peacock

Hattie Spring Eric Cruz Footprint

Melissa Hill Fall 2021


FTA Chapters List of Florida Trail Association Chapters

ALLIGATOR AMBLERS CHAPTER Charlotte, Collier, and Lee Debra Taylor 978-732-6336


Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, and Wakulla Elwood McElhaney 850-878-4389


Miami-Dade and Monroe Susan Bennett-Mans 305-213-1500

BLACK BEAR CHAPTER Flagler, Putnam, and Volusia Ed Riskosky 315-374-6500

CENTRAL FLORIDA CHAPTER Orange, Seminole, and Osceola Bill Turman 407-413-2950

When you join the state-wide Florida Trail Association you automatically become a member of your local chapter based upon your zip code. However, members may attend the activities of any chapter and may transfer to any chapter they wish simply by informing the FTA Office. Florida Trail activities are organized by our local chapters and are led by authorized volunteer activity leaders. Many of our activities are open to the general public so you can get to know us before you join. Activities can be found online at Click on “About Us” then click on the “Upcoming Events” button on the left. Local activities are usually also listed on the chapter websites, Facebook pages and Meetups. Click on “About Us” then “Our Chapters” for links to local chapter sites. Participants in activities must sign an Assumption of Risk form and agree to accept personal responsibility for their safety and the safety of accompanying minors. Always contact the activity leader in advance for more information, to let them know you are attending, to find out any special requirements or equipment for the activity, and to check for any last minute changes. For more information about chapters and links to websites/meetups/photos go online to then select the chapter

CHOCTAWHATCHEE CHAPTER Walton and Okaloosa Tim Crews 850-826-3605

FISHEATING CREEK CHAPTER Hendry and Glades Deanna Filkins 863-234-8181

HAPPY HOOFERS CHAPTER Broward Kay Ferrara 954-609-4727


DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, and Polk Jan Wells 863-608-2046

HIGHLANDERS CHAPTER Lake and Sumter Mike Tamburrino 303-809-3284

INDIAN RIVER CHAPTER Brevard and Indian River Bill Alexander 321-693-7369

LOXAHATCHEE CHAPTER Palm Beach Roy Moore 561-422-2189


Baker, Bradford, Clay, Duval, Nassau, St. Johns, and Union Ron Fish 904-504-4359


Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington Darryl Updegrove 850-819-0414 38

Florida Trail Association


Alachua, Levy, Gilcrist, and Marion 352-378-8823 Karen Garren 352-316-3453


Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota Sue Bunge 727-504-8574


Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee, and Taylor Norm McDonald 386-776-1920

TROPICAL TREKKERS CHAPTER Martin, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie Rick Deluga 772-781-7881

WESTERN GATE CHAPTER Escambia and Santa Rosa Helen Wigersma 850-484-0528



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