I have tossed around the term “hiker extraordinaire” to compliment some of my long-distance hiking friends, but now I have to inform them that I have uncovered a “best in class.” Or perhaps I should just create a different class. He is one of a kind.
Ed Talone lives in Silver Spring, MD, but has been coming to Florida for the winter the past three years to volunteer his time in Florida Trail’s Gainesville office. If you get close to this office, you should try to catch up with him. I don’t think you’ll mind if he does all the talking.
Ed has walked the Florida Trail three times, but he didn’t just start at the Oasis Visitor Center. “It’s such a nice walk from Key West; I wouldn’t think of leaving it out.” He has hiked the Appalachian Trail twice as well as the Pacific Crest Trail. His e-mail address is: [email protected]. He has other exceptional habits. He calls himself a numbers guy, so he can tell you that by his count, there are over 1,200 boardwalks, bridges, and puncheons on the Florida Trail. After he climbed my fire tower, he returned to tell me the view was fantastic and that there were 81 steps. Ed says he’s walked about 65,000 miles so far.
He loves research, and he has gotten interested in the early days of the Florida Trail, so he came for a visit this past weekend with Paula Guerrein, and we had a grand old time discussing Florida Trail history. Paula, on the other hand, is keen about HikaNation history, so I had a large scrapbook for her to cozy up with.
Ed brought a DeLorme map of Florida and wanted to pin down with me my original 1966 hike from 40-Mile Bend on the Tamiami Trail north to Clewiston, around the west side of Lake Okeechobee on the dike to Moorehaven, then to the south side of Fisheating Creek, west along the north side of Fisheating Creek and then, where the creek turns north, north all the way to Highlands Hammock State Park. I think we nailed it.
He wants everyone to know that the first blaze on the Florida Trail was really not on the trail. After my first hike, I scheduled the second one up Jane’s Scenic Highway north of Everglades City through the Fakahatchee Strand and up to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, looking for a stretch of trail in South Florida. The first “FT” blaze was made with a stencil and orange spray paint on an Australian pine at the beginning of Jane’s Scenic Highway.
Don’t be upset by this fact. The first blaze placed where the Florida Trail stands today was put on a tree just north of the parking lot at Clearwater Campground in Ocala National Forest, just as we have been saying all these years.