Friday, September 16, 2016

A Walk Across Florida - Bob Kranich

Excerpts from A Walk Across Florida by Bob Kranich

The Florida Trail

During my trip I came across the Florida Trail just twice. At that time it was very young. In fact this year they are celebrating their 50th anniversary!

I found the trail markers in Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park and again as you read during this episode in Ocala National Forest.

It was a long, but another very eventful day and I arrived at Juniper Springs late in the evening. The ranger shack was closed. I could see by the entrance sign that it was 50 cents to swim and $2 to camp. I hung my hammock on some fair sized palmetto trees in the area. In the morning….. I was rar’n to go so I got an early start and found the Florida Trail markers at the entrance to the Juniper Springs Recreation Area heading to the east.

The Florida Trail Association was formed in October of 1966, and the first orange blaze was marked in the Ocala National Forest at the Clearwater Lake Recreational Area. The original Ocala part was known as the “Ocala Trail” for many years. Today the Florida Trail is one of eleven National Scenic Trails in the United States and spans 1,400 miles from the Florida panhandle at Pensacola Beach south to the Big Cypress National Preserve.

This all started in 1966 with Jim Kern who decided that Florida needed hiking trails. He made a 160 mile hike in 12 days from the Tamiami Trail to Highlands Hammock State Park near Sebring. The publicity from this and his persistence with the Forest Service helped him to form the nucleus of the Florida Trail Association. Their original goal of 500 miles has now turned into a plan for 1,800 miles of hiking trails with various loops and spurs. I didn’t hike very much of the Florida Trail because I had never received the information I had requested from the Association before I started my cross state hike. I just didn’t know where the trail was!

I know today it is hard to imagine not to be able to get the information, but in 1969 there was no Internet. Occasionally I came into contact with the trail on this trip. They were just starting the trail as I was hiking it. In the years since, the Florida Trail Association has done a remarkable job. Today it has 18 statewide chapters. Each chapter has its maintenance activities website and meetings. It is a demanding job to keep up the trails because of the sub-tropical growth. The members are constantly doing whatever is necessary to keep the trails open.

As I was traveling through fields of new pines near two sink holes I came upon a grandfather of an old pine, at least three feet across at the base. Now that’s a good size! Suddenly I came upon what recently had been a logging operation. There was slash everywhere, and guess what, I lost the trail. It was no-where to be found, no orange blazes, no trail! I was sure that the markings were on the trees that had been cut down.

About the Author: After getting out of the Army Bob Kranich backpacked from the Georgia border to Key West in a 40 day adventure walk across Florida. His recently published book A Walk Across Florida is available from his website or

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