Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New book: Backcountry trails of Florida

BWL Column
The News-Press, 9/14/2017
by Ken Gooderham

Mention hiking to the average person, and slogging through a Florida trail is probably not the first (or second or third) image that comes to mind. Most people harken to cool mountain air and serious elevation changes – two things that are very hard to find in flat and fetid Florida.

That’s doesn’t mean we don’t have some good place to get back to nature… it just means you may need to travel a little to find them.

There’s a new book being published this month that can help – and that can give you some history on the state’s water management efforts while it guides you to some off-the-beaten-track trails.

It’s titled “Backcountry Trails of Florida: A Guide to Hiking Florida’s Water Management Districts” by Terri Mashour, who put her time with one of the districts as an inspiration for this book.

The districts form the backbone of this tome, both as the locales for all the trails described therein and as the basis for the conservation that made these trails possible. You get a little history of the districts, descriptions of the plan communities you’ll find, the hikes being reviewed, what you can expect in general (think lots of nature and not a lot of people) and some tips before you head off-road.

Then it’s on to the heart of the effort, descriptions of the various trails broken down by the five water management districts. For those not conversant with them, they are:

  • Northwest Florida: The Panhandle to around Tallahassee.
  • Suwannee River: From west of Tallahassee to Gainesville, and from the state line to the Big Bend.
  • St. Johns River:  The east coast from the state line to Vero Beach, and inland to Gainesville, Ocala and Leesburg.
  • Southwest Florida: From the Big Bend down to Charlotte County, the Withlacoochee River to the Peace River.
  • South Florida: The entire Lake O/Everglades watershed, from Orlando to Fort Myers and Palm Beach

For each district Mashour gives you some background and describes numerous recreation areas therein, complete with directions (written and GPS coordinates), size, distance, hiking times and difficulty, trail surface and shade, what critters and habitats you’ll see, what you can and cannot do, highlights and what’s nearby. This is followed by a brief description of the hike, then it’s on to the next adventure.

While the focus is hiking, other forms of transportation are included (if allowed). Some areas include opportunities for biking, horseback riding or canoe/kayak trails, and large tracts may offer guides to see area by vehicle as well.

All told, Mashour offers up 100 hikes across the five districts all across the state – although prospective hikers in Southwest Florida will need to hit the road to enjoy most of them. There are trails in Arcadia, the Myakka River and Immokalee, and other near enough to be done as a day trip or overnight.

“Backcountry Trails of Florida” is published by the University Press of Florida, part of its Wild Florida series.

For those interested in more local hikes, check out “Day Hiking Southwest Florida: A Guide to the Best Trail Adventures in Greater Naples and Fort Myers,” also offered by University Press of Florida. In fact, navigate your way online to upf.com and wander through an amazing array of titles covering all things Florida – past, present and future.

  • “Backcountry Trails of Florida: A Guide to Hiking Florida’s Water Management Districts”
  • Author: Terri Mashour
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida
  • ISBN: 978-0-8130-5454-4
  • Trade paperback: $19.95
  • Publication date: Sept. 19, 2017
  • Online at http://upress.ufl.edu

Ready to ride or run?

Run? Still not much on the calendar (just wait until October)… but you can find a MADD 5K walk/run at JetBlue Park Sept. 30 (check before you go, with Irma cleanup still ongoing).

Ride? Look for the regular Critical Mass rides: Sept. 29 is the Cape Coral ride at 7:30 p.m.; followed by the Slow Roll in downtown Fort Myers Saturday morning, Sept. 30. For night rides lights are required, helmets recommended, and details and sign-up info is online at www.meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events (check before you go).

Both? At the end of the month, you can head north (Siesta Key Sprint Sept. 30) or south (Marco Island Spring Oct. 1. Check before you go.


Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at info@bikewalklee.org, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at www.BikeWalkLee.org. 


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