Before you buy a guidebook and start planning out your thru-hike, why not read a few memoirs and
blogs from other hikers? Get a feel for the FT experience. Become familiar with some of the locations and landmarks along the Trail. Learn about the flora and fauna you will see. This kind of
reading will either inspire you and confirm your decision to thru-hike, or allow you to realize that the FT isn't for you.
Ten Million Steps
by Nimblewill Nomad, aka M.J. Eberhart
In 1998, 60-year-old retired doctor M.J. Eberhart set off to hike from Key West to northern Quebec, a journey of 4400 miles. He thru-hiked both the Florida Trail and the Appalachian Trail in the process on what is called the Eastern Continental Trail. His memoir is the only account of a ECT thru-hike.
Hiking the Florida Trail: 1,100 Miles, 78 Days, Two Pairs of Boots, and One Heck of an Adventure
by Johnny Molloy
Hiking guidebook author Johnny Molloy penned this memoir after his 2008 thru-hike. Technically, Nimblewill Nomad's book Ten Million Steps was the first book to chronicle a FT thru-hike, but Molloy is the first to focus exclusively on the FT. Reading his book is a great way to become introduced to the Florida Trail experience.
Long Distance Backpacking the Florida Trail:
edited by Nimblewill Nomad
The Florida Trail Association published two editions of this anthology of FT thru-hike memoirs, the last in 1999. It is currently out-of-print, the FTA does not list it on their website, and there is no Amazon page for it. But it's out there somewhere!
Florida Any Way You Can: The First Thru-Hike of the Florida Trail and a Cross-Florida Canoe Trip
by Steven M. Sheridan
A memoir by the first FT thru-hiker. It is out-of-print and not available on Amazon, but can be purchased from the Apalachee Chapter of the Florida Trail Association. Cost is $16.00 each, which includes shipping to anywhere in the US. Mail a check for $16
made out to "Apalachee Chapter, FTA" to:
Linda Patton, Publicity Coordinator
Apalachee Chapter FTA
1829 Folkstone Rd.
email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Florida Trail End to End: A Father and His Sons Two and a Half Year Adventure Hiking 1100 Miles Across Florida
by Mike Umbarger
Over two and a half years, the author hiked the entire trail in segments with his two sons. He writes about how they dealt with tornado warnings, flash floods, swarms of yellow jackets, and and a crop dusting airplane.
Along the Florida Trail
by Sandra Friend
Currently out-of-print but still available online, this large format book features lots of photographs taken along the trail, as well as short narratives by Friend describing her experiences on sections of the Trail. The pictures are the best part and can give you a feel for the landscape if you are unfamiliar with rural Florida.
Discovering America's Forgotten Footpath
by Tess Ippolito
During our thru-hike, my wife blogged about our experiences and the ecosystems the trail traverses. She also posted lots of pictures and provided insights based on her training as an environmental scientist. "Like" us on facebook to follow our progress as we continue to interview FTA volunteers and scientists for our forthcoming book about the Trail.
A great way to learn about the Florida Trail is to read the blogs of FT thru-hikers and sections hikers on trailjournals.com. This can be especially helpful in order to get different perspectives from many different hikers about the experience and help you decide whether you really want to commit to a FT thru-hike.
Florida Trails: Exploring Florida’s Outdoors…On Foot!
Disc 1: The Florida Trail: Florida’s Own National Scenic Trail
Disc 2: Florida Takes To the Trails
produced by the Florida Trail Association (2008)
The Florida Trail: Florida’s Footpath Forever
by the Florida Trail Association (2004)
Florida: The Natural Wonders
The Florida Trail takes hikers to the unknown wonders of Florida: America's largest underwater cave system, one-of-a-kind prairies, and ancient forests perched on prehistoric dunes. Learn about these landscapes and their wildlife from the photography and storytelling of Jeff Ripple.
The Everglades: River of Grass
Marjory Stoneman Douglas
"There is no other Everglades on Earth." These are the opening lines of the most powerful and effective work of nature writing ever created, a book that almost singlehandedly changed public opinion of the Everglades from worthless cesspool to priceless treasure. Reading it while hiking the first 100 miles of the Florida Trail is like no other reading experience.
The Florida Trail puts hikers atop dikes and levies that crisscross and divide the Everglades. This book explains what these structures are, how they came to be, how they are destroying the land, and what efforts have been made to restore the River of Grass. The Everglades remains a landscape on life support, despite billions spent to save it and Grunwald provides the most comprehensive history of past efforts to drain "the swamp" and the contemporary quest to save it.
Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
Florida Trail thru-hikers traverse some of the last intact forests of long leaf pine, an ecosystem that used to cover most of the American South. No one writes about these forests with more passion and beauty than Janisse Ray, the Rachel Carson of the long leaf pines. Her memoir about about growing up in a junkyard along US Highway 1, isolated from the world and steeped in religious fundamentalism, is a beautiful story of discovering one's connection to the land.
Killing Mister Watson
Before hikers begin the Florida Trail, many spend the night in Everglades City/ Chokoloskee, the place where notorious frontier outlaw Ed Watson was murdered by nearly every one of his neighbors when they all opened fire at once. Matthiessen, National Book Award winning writer of The Snow Leopard, puts himself into the minds of these people and tells the story of Ed Watson from dozens of different points of view.
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston
The climax of Hurston's brilliant novel is set during the 1928 Hurricane that caused water to pour out of the southern edge of the lake, sending a wall of water 20 feet tall across the towns of Belle Glade, Canal Point, Chosen, Pahokee, and South Bay. At least 2,500 people drowned, most of them poor black field workers. The Florida Trail traverses the top of the Hoover Dike, a massive earthen structure that surrounds Lake Okeechobee that was built to prevent another such disaster.
A Land Remembered
Patrick D. Smith
When FT hikers cross the ranch lands of Kissimmee they are walking in the footsteps of Smith's beloved cowboy characters. Every single cowboy, rancher, and self-described redneck in central Florida has read this multi-generational family saga of the post-Civil War frontier. Every. Single. One. The characters may be one- dimensional and the writing unexceptional, but no other novel before or since has captured the excitement and danger of Florida's frontier era like this one.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, this classic novel was inspired by real events that took place in what is today Ocala National Forest. While in the Juniper Wilderness, Florida Trail hikers pass very close to the primary setting of the novel, a historic homestead. A short side trail called The Yearling Trail takes them to the site of the homestead. There is no better way to experience the history of this area than to read The Yearling while hiking in Ocala NF.
South Moon Under
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Rawling's second work set in what is today Ocala National Forest was actually her first novel. It follows Lant, a man who must support himself and his mother by making and selling moonshine, and Rawlings researched his character by living with a moonshiner in Ocala.