February is Florida Hiking Trails Month!

February is a busy month. It’s Black History Month; we have Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, Groundhog Day, and it is also Florida Hiking Trails Month.

View

Otter Lake Play Date

It is not often that I get to spend time with just my wife on the water, so I take advantage of every chance I get. On an unseasonably warm December day, a Thursday to be exact, one of these moments arose.

View

Way up on the Sopchoppy

It is easy to see where I get my sense of adventure. My dad is always getting me to go explore these hard to reach, partially unnavigable waterways. This trip was no different. We set our sights on the Sopchoppy River, not the stretch that many paddlers know, but north of where the paddling trail starts at Oak Park Cemetery Bridge. Look for FR13, which is accessed via Arran Road in Wakulla County; that is where we began our excursion.

View

Keep Tallahassee Beautiful

“Keep Tallahassee Beautiful”, what does it mean? Depending on the type of person, the meaning can be interpreted in many different ways. But, I think we can all agree that trash and human waste can make even the most serene, joyous and beautiful areas unsettling, depressing and unattractive.

View

Sink Into Leon County

I thoroughly enjoy the task of entertaining out-of-town family and friends when they visit Tallahassee. One of the more common questions I am asked is, “Where is the best place to experience North Florida?” My suggestion typically depends on the time of year, but I stick to the trails regardless.

View

Take a Hike!

Fall is by far my favorite time of year here in Tallahassee. We finally get a break from the hot and humid summer, the colors change, the insects fade and the fishing explodes. The reason I enjoy Fall the most is because it is the perfect time to get out and enjoy all the hiking trails that the Capital City offers.

View

Love Letters: Tallahassee

My thrill-seeking love for motorcycle races sometimes took my family as far away as California, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee, but my best memories from those trips were the drive back in our family motorhome, heading back to Florida.

View

Paddle The Lafayette Passage

Today, Prairie Lake is called Lake Lafayette and it bears little resemblance to a prairie environment. The lake was divided by earthen dams in the 1940s to enhance fishing and hunting opportunities. This changed the lake’s hydrology, preventing the periodic sinkhole drainage, and it encouraged the growth of cypress trees.

View

Paddling Tallahassee Waterways

Explore five rivers, 20 lakes, miles of pristine coastline and many acclaimed state-designated canoe/kayaking trails throughout the Tallahassee region. Outfitters offer full day, half day, adventure trips, overnight paddles and camping trips.

View

The Unique River Sinks

A friend first took me to River Sinks south of Tallahassee in 1979. In waning afternoon light, we viewed the slanting sun rays as they struck azure pools of water, and we admired large pine and hardwood trees towering over the sinks. She swore me to secrecy that I wouldn’t tell anyone about them. “They’re special,” she said.

View

The Resurrection of Cherokee Sink

On a recent fall day, my wife and I hiked the Cherokee Sink Trail. A short hike was in order since I was recovering from hernia surgery, so two miles round trip was perfect.

View

Perfect Outings

Increasingly, however, my perfect outings are in Florida. It is usually when humidity has fallen, bugs are sparse, and I’ve joined friends or family on a hiking or paddling trip.

View

100,000 Paddle Strokes on the Apalachicola River

Thick fog. Whiteness. A blank slate. I paddled this same Apalachicola River two years before, 106 miles from Jim Woodruff Dam to Apalachicola in five days as part of the annual Apalachicola RiverTrek.

View

On the Run at Apalachee Regional Park

More than 250 teams and 4,400 participants, including most of the state’s most elite high school runners, compete at Tallahassee’s Apalachee Regional Park this weekend (Oct. 11-12) at the Florida State University Invitational Cross Country Meet.

View

My Favorite River

Since I coordinate most of the state’s designated paddling trails for the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails, many people want to know my favorite river. I try to be coy in answering. After all, Florida might have the largest number of scenic and diverse paddling trails of any state in the nation.

View

Sitting with Longleaf

The Saw Palm literary journal posed a neat challenge to me a few months ago-write your observations and feelings while sitting, standing, or floating in one place in nature as part of their “Places to Stand” section. I wrote about a place close to home.

View

Devon Creek Magic

Perhaps the most breathtaking of the Apalachicola River tributaries is Devon Creek, especially when the water is high enough to venture in with a kayak or canoe. Just off Owl Creek-the entrance nearly obscured by branches-the waterway is completely canopied by cypress and tupelo gum branches.

View

Rainy Walk among Tree Elders at Wakulla Springs State Park

I love walking a trail when it’s lightly raining. Colors are vibrant. Tree branches sag with the weight of rain drops, temperatures are cooler and few other people venture out. And so a recent rainy Saturday was the perfect time to hike the Wakulla Springs Trail.

View

Breathing the Forest

The Tallahassee area is blessed with numerous public forests. These areas can be found in parks, greenways, state and national forests or wildlife refuges. Some are within easy reach of office buildings and I feel fortunate that one such forest plot is near the northwest side of town, where I often work.

View

Onward, To the Pinhook

Bald eagles were our guides as we made our way down the lower Aucilla River and began skirting through a maze of tidal creeks and coves to the Pinhook River. I was with a loose-knit group of experienced paddlers who, appropriately, call themselves the Loose Cannons. It’s not a club; just friends wanting to paddle together.

View

Explore Torreya’s Eden

The Florida Panhandle’s remote Torreya State Park near Bristol offers more than adventure and wilderness exploration. The bluffs and ravines within and around this north Florida gem are so unique that some local residents had gone so far as to claim it was the original Garden of Eden.

View

New Paddling Trails for the Apalachee Bay

Paddlers, get your sea kayaks ready! Wakulla County is putting together the Apalachee Bay Maritime Heritage Paddling Trail System, a set of ten saltwater paddling trails for both beginning and experienced paddlers.

View

Explore Tallahassee’s Natural Beltway

Tallahassee has a big backyard. That’s because more than half a million acres of the Apalachicola National Forest begins around the airport and extends west to the Apalachicola River and south to Tate’s Hell Swamp near the coast. Unspoiled rivers course through vast stands of cypress and pine, many of which offer prime paddling opportunities.

View

Take the Wakulla Springs Pledge

I recently paddled the Wekiva River/Rock Springs Run, one of Florida’s two federally designated wild and scenic rivers. Only a few miles north of Orlando, it was difficult to realize that more than two million people live within thirty miles of the river system.

View

Trees Talk at Bear Creek

Trees that talk aren’t reserved entirely for movies and fantasy books. They are also found at the Bear Creek Educational Forest along Highway 267 in Gadsden County. The Florida Forest Service has put together an impressive push button story program about trees in the forest along a paved self-discovery trail.

View

Dry Creek Sunday

Our caravan of vehicles, topped with festive-colored canoes and kayaks, drove past several busy country churches on a recent Sunday morning. Cool temperatures and clear skies made it a near perfect day for an outing, and southern Jackson County near Marianna was a much anticipated destination.

View

Myers Park: An Old Friend

Riding my bicycle to Myers Park as a boy was always fun. I’d explore the wild creek that emerges from seepage and small springs and wonder how a place like this could be so wild only a half mile from Florida’s capitol building. The leafy canopy would become increasingly dense as I worked my way downstream.

View

Explore the St. Marks Refuge Trail Network

The alligator was no surprise. After all, this was a dike trail in the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is known for alligators as well as a profusion of bird life, bobcats and other animals. I just didn’t know where I would see the first one.

View

Explore the Renovated Munson Hills Trail

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I hadn’t ridden the Munson Hills Off-Road Bike Trail in a couple of years, and was I ever surprised. Instead of finding stretches of difficult to traverse sugar sand, the U.S. Forest Service and its volunteer partners have put down layers of clay that have been angled for sharper turns and raised in places for fun jumps.

View

Explore Ochlockonee River State Park

Ochlockonee River State Park, just south of Sopchoppy along Highway 319, is the perfect setting to walk along high river banks under arching live oaks and to walk (or ride) a scenic drive through some of the best maintained pine flatwoods in the state.

View

Paddling the Swift Ochlockonee River from the Dam to the Bay

Tornado warnings, fierce winds and sheets of rain greeted more than thirty kayakers and canoeists at Ed and Bernice’s Fish Camp along Highway 20 twenty miles west of Tallahassee. The camp was the gathering point for Paddle Florida’s second annual Dam to the Bay Paddle on the Ochlockonee River.

View

Twilight Magic along the Twilight Trail

I’m convinced that the Twilight Trail near Woodville was named because people liked to ride the trail after work and often finished during the twilight. That was certainly the case for me on a recent Friday. I began my 9-mile loop ride at the Lewis Park in Woodville with the sun already dipping behind tall pines.

View

Hike the Florida Trail!

Since winter is an ideal season for hiking, it’s time to introduce the premier hiking trail in our region-the Florida National Scenic Trail. The trail runs 1,400 miles from the Big Cypress National Preserve to the Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola. In our area, the trail enters from the east along the wild Aucilla River.

View

Winter on the St. Marks River

The St. Marks River below Natural Bridge has been a frequent companion on Saturdays. I’ve been helping with paddling trips for the Wilderness Way and we usually launch our colorful flotilla of kayaks on private land along “the basin,” a wide marshy area where the St. Marks River rises from underground.

View

The Lake Overstreet Trails: Something for Everyone

Bicyclists, joggers, hikers, strollers, birdwatchers and horseback riders can all find enjoyable off-road experiences at the Lake Overstreet Trails in Maclay Gardens State Park. Located near I-10 on the north side of Tallahassee, the trails are easily accessible to thousands of people, highly convenient during these short days of winter.

View

A Cadillac of a Trail!

After reading Internet reviews that the Cadillac Trail is “awesome” and “a must ride trail,” I had to venture over to Lafayette Heritage Trail Park just east of Tallahassee. I was not disappointed. Who would have dreamed that an off-road biking trail in Florida could be so well-developed and challenging!

View

Check Out the Improved St. Marks Trail

The recently improved and reopened Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail inspired me to break out my bike and give it a go. First, I thought it best to wipe the mildew off the seat, squirt a little oil on the moving parts and put some air in the tires.

View

Fall Hiking is in the Air

Fall and cooler weather is here, and you know what that means? No, not football-hiking! Of course, there is football, too, but in between your favorite games, hiking opportunities abound in the Tallahassee/Big Bend region. And this time of year is perfect for long strolls since pesky bugs are taking a long siesta.

View

Explore the New Apalachicola Blueway

Last October, I had the good fortune to join a five day paddle on the Apalachicola River from the Jim Woodruff Dam to Apalachicola Bay to raise money for the Apalachicola Riverkeeper. That set off a plan to create the Apalachicola Blueway, a detailed guide for paddlers wanting to explore the river for a day or the entire length.

View

Sea Kayaking Trail Featured on WFSU Dimensions

I had the wonderful opportunity to accompany a WFSU film crew to St. George Island State Park on Wednesday. For their Dimensions television show, they are featuring the Forgotten Coast segment of the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, a 1,515-mile sea kayaking trail around the entire Florida coastline.

View

Paddle the Scenic Sopchoppy River

Opposite in nature than the spring-fed Wakulla River is the swamp-fed Sopchoppy River, about 35 miles southwest of Tallahassee. Think of the river’s headwater swamps as giant tea pots brewing a concoction of fallen leaves, cypress needles, bark and wood and you get the picture.

View

The Wakulla Beckons

The Wakulla River has been a refreshing destination this summer. It can be a busy place on weekends, so I try to launch my kayak early, say, by about 9 AM to beat the crowds. Sometimes a cool mist hovers above the water, and when the day starts to warm, it’s wonderful to dip arms into the clear, springfed water, and splash my face.

View