On the Monday after Thanksgiving, in the early evening, I gave a program at the REI store in Jacksonville about the very first four hikes in 1966 announcing the creation of the Florida Trail. The first hike stretched from the Tamiami Trail up Canal L-28, eventually into Clewiston. Then around the dike on the southwest side of Lake Okeechobee and north to the floodplain of Fisheating Creek. The trail finally came to an end at Highlands Hammock State Park. That was in March 1966. I brought pictures with me of three more hikes the following fall. One was an exploratory hike up Jane’s Scenic Highway in the Fakahatchee Strand. I didn’t talk about or illustrate the next two hikes from Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to Fort Denaud and from Fort Denaud to Palmdale. The last hike is well-known because the route we chose is now a permanent part of the Florida Trail: from Clearwater Campground to Juniper Springs in Ocala National Forest. Finally, within the first year of our history, three of us hiked from the east end of Apalachicola National Forest to the west end, arriving at Sumatra. I think everyone enjoyed looking at these old pictures as much as I did.
You might say there was a commercial at the end of this program. We announced completely revised websites: www.friendsofthefloridatrail.org and www.hikingtrailsforamerica.org and explained our effort to close the gaps in our Florida Trail and our National Scenic Trails. There are 34.5 million people in America who the Outdoor Industry has identified as hikers – they take at least 18 hiking outings per year. This is a huge number, and we intend to get these hikers communicating their desire to Congress: We want the gaps in our National Scenic Trails acquired and set aside for posterity. Help us get this message out and be active with us! Register yourself on one of the websites and “like us” on FaceBook.