They warn you that hiking is a different ball game depending on terrain, weather, and atmosphere. Recently I moved to the sunny state of Florida, taking my Missouri hiking boots and knowledge with me. With the first step into a state park, I was a beginner all over again. I was so used to looking up a state park, typing it into GPS and just following the trail, it never occurred to me to look up what to expect from the parks here in Florida.
Top Three Things to Know when Hiking in Florida
Pack more water than you normally would, and then add some more. On a typical 6-mile hike in St. Louis, MO, I would pack two 32oz. bottles of water for both myself and my dog. That lasted 30 minutes into a hike in this state.
There are a few contributing factors. The temperatures in Florida consistently reach 90 degrees, not only that, but humidity is inevitable. The terrain is one of the biggest reasons, however. I have discovered two types of parks so far: the ones in the dead sun, or the ones that overthrow like a forest. Either one develops its own intense heat that drains the hydration out of you in no time.
Thick, high socks will become your best friend. One of those random details I heard when moving to this state is the warning for fire ants. I didn’t take it seriously, until I hiked 3 miles in nothing but deep white sand.
Just outside Tampa there’s a beautiful area called Little Manatee River state park. Gorgeous with its combination of density and open air, shrubs and palm trees galore, the trails itself were ankle deep sand. For those that do not know, fire ants burry themselves in sand, therefore, hiking directly on their nests will result in them taking a ride on your boots. I was foolishly wearing low-socks, so my feet and bare ankles were a direct target for those little guys. After that experience, remembering thick and tall socks became a necessity.
Become utterly comfortable with bugs. Because of the natural, constant heat, no matter what type of park you wind up at you will encounter bugs. From mosquitos and ants, to snakes and crocodiles, here in Florida you’ll witness it all. Be protected, be smart. Don’t follow my path and go to a park without familiarizing yourself with the area. Keep bug spray in full reach, and keep pets away from water.
Regardless of these details, hiking is still the exhilarating, freeing activity that it has always been; and my, how much more beautiful our world is when we explore it.