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Hiking / Camping Florida’s Trails [The Miami Herald]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
Florida Outdoors Guide
The Miami Herald

No trip to Florida would be complete without a hike through the some of the state’s 1,000 miles of trails—many of which have been cleared by 5,000-plus members of the Florida Trail Association.

Founder Ken Kern is a 54-year-old nature enthusiast who blazed those trails about three decades ago, soon after the U.S. Navy transferred him to Florida to make an underwater film. On his off-days, he wanted to head inland and explore the terrain. He was disappointed to find, however, that Florida had no hiking trails.

“I’ve been an avid hiker since he was a boy tramping through a 10-acre patch of birch and sassafras trees near my home in New Jersey,” he recalls. “I realized I’d traveled thousands of miles to this beautiful place—and there was nowhere to hike.”

So Kerns came up with a scheme. He’d start a hiking club, and to attract members he’d hike 160 miles through Florida—and ask anyone interested to join him.

The publicity stunt was featured in a 1966 magazine article published by the American Hiking Association, which attracted the attention of thousands of lovers of the great outdoors. Kern also inspired hikers around the country to start clubs of their own.

The veteran hikers offer the following guidelines for those new to the trek:

• Take care of your body: Know your limits and don’t go too fast or too far. And if you are tired, stop and take a rest. “Enjoy the view,” Kerns offers. “Hiking is not a race.”

• Plan your trip carefully: Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

• Check weather conditions before leaving: Have the courage and common sense to postpone the trip if bad weather threatens.

• Hike in groups: It’s best to hike with partners; groups of 10 or less work best. Pick a leader, a sweep person and a plan of action if you reach a fork in the road or suddenly need to change direction. Don’t leave the trail without asking a buddy to wait until you return.

• First aid: If only one person in the group has a good knowledge of first aid, let them walk at the end of the group. Always carry a first aid kit.

• Wear proper shoes: Hiking boots or sturdy-walking shoes are a must. Opt for ones with a beveled heel because it meets the ground at a sharper angle. Break them in before the trip. Two pairs of socks (lightweight inner pair, and a thicker outer pair) are recommended. Never wear sandals, and avoid tennis shoes.

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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.

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