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[ft-l] Hiking and other stuff
The last two weeks have been busy for me. When I'm not out hiking, my other
favorite activity is getting together with hikers. There is no better place
to do that than the Gathering, the annual meeting of the Appalachian Long
Distance Hikers Association. It took two days driving up to the campus of
Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, but it was well worth the time and effort
and I spent the wonderful weekend of Oct. 5-7 there.
During the many seminars and slide shows, it became apparent that the Eastern
Continental Trail is the hottest new destination for long distance hikers.
This is important for us here in Florida to know because the starting point
for the ECT is Key West. There is no doubt in my mind that the FT will be
seeing an explosion of growth in the next few years. We better get prepared!
Our friends to the north in Canada have poured fuel to the fire by minting a
series of medals which were presented at the Gathering to successful hikers
of the International Appalachian Trail. The IAT is the final segment of a
northbound ECT thruhike. A hiker who starts his/her IAT hike at Katahdin is
awarded a bronze medal. Start at Springer Mountain and you get a silver
medal. And if you hiked the whole ECT from Key West you get a gold medal.
The ceremony was very classy with the wife of the French Canadian dignitary
awarding the medals and kissing each recipient on the cheeks European style.
So, in this unexpected way, our Canadian friends have created a big incentive
for hikers to come and hike our trails. I just wanted y'all to see that a
wave a thruhikers is coming! All of the seminars dealing with the IAT or the
ECT were filled to standing room capacity. It is a huge shame that our
Florida Trail went unrepresented. There would have been great interest and
we could have educated the throngs who will arrive in 6 weeks.
The leaves in New England were at their peak that weekend. As I headed south
to visit my Mom in PA the colors faded to green. Their peak would come after
I left. I did get in a short hike while in PA. Ricketts Glen State Park has
trails that follow along a stream containing many beautiful waterfalls. It
was a wonderful hike with Mom.
On Saturday, Sandy and I headed up to the Long Distance Hikers Committee
(LDHC) meeting at the Suwannee River Campground. On the way up, we stopped
at Flat Island in Leesburg to hike a trail we had never hiked before. It was
a beautiful trail, perfect for the backpacking seminars Joan Hobson teaches
here. Even the mosquitoes were friendly. On other trails, the mosquito
community would send out a welcoming committee, but here at Flat Island, the
whole community came out in force to offer a raucous welcome. We were even
invited to dinner -- no, to BE dinner -- but we had to decline the invitation
and escape to the Suwannee.
The LDHC meeting was very impressive. It appears we are finally ready to
serve the needs of thruhikers. A thruhikers info packet has been developed
and crews will be dispatched to blaze and maintain the most neglected parts
of the Trail.
On Sunday we headed to Merritt Island to hike the three trails there. If you
like shorebirds, this is a wonderful place. We saw ospreys fishing, immature
bald eagles soaring, a beautiful pink roseate spoonbill, many varieties of
heron, mullet jumping. And we saw a snake nearly capture a rat for dinner.
The three trails range from .5 to 5 mile loops with something for everyone.
The smallest hike goes through a dense hammock of oaks and magnolia. We saw
what we think are Gumbo Limbo trees there, a big surprise. They usually are
found further south.