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Hiking has been my latest obsession. I’ve been researching all kinds of trails across the country. As much as I’d LOVEEEE to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail or even the Pacific Coast Trail, it is not practical… at least not right now. While I’d really like to hike outside of Florida, I should take advantage of the beautiful state I live in. Turns out, there is a Florida Trail, also known as the Florida National Scenic Trail. I am still unable to set aside enough time to thru-hike the FT, but I can (hopefully) manage to knock out multiple sections this year. Instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day in a typical way, my boyfriend took me hiking in the Little Manatee River State Park in Wimauma. We enjoyed beautiful weather; it was sunny and in the mid-50s. We started with the short, one mile Oxbow Nature Trail.
Then we started on the FT. There are two loops: a 3 mile and a 6.5 mile. We fully intended on doing the longer hike. However, it was was closed as several bridges were damaged by flooding. (We did run into some flooded paths, some quite tricky to traverse.) I was pretty disappointed at the closure, but after we started following the orange-blazed FT I got over it and enjoyed the incredible scenery around me. My favorite part of the hike was the diversity of the landscape. It changed multiple times and really reminded me of how quickly habitats can change in Florida. Tall pines, floodplains, shady oaks, palmetto scrubs, hardwood forest, flat woods… each different and beautiful in their own way. Since most of the trail is shady, this hike would be a great one to complete during the summer months. There’s a branch off trail which takes you to a primitive campsite, so an overnight or weekend stay is totally doable.
Not only was spending several hours in the Little Manatee River State Park a wonderful way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend, the trail made me appreciate my home state more and more as we hiked along. No wonder people vacation here! The beaches (and Disney World) are by far the main tourist attractions, but hopefully more out-of-staters choose to visit Florida’s hiking/nature trails! And hopefully, more Floridians take advantage of our beautiful state!