I'm not sure exactly when I started getting into hiking, but I imagine it was around the time that I figured out that toiling away in an office building wasn't my thing, and that I needed to re-examine my direction in life. I've always been an outdoors guy – growing up in a rural part of Florida helped with this, of course – but somewhere in my early 20s I spent too much time away from the woods.
As a kid, time spent outdoors mostly meant stomping around on the banks of rivers trying to figure out what trees were what, and generally passing the time while my dad and brother fished. They were obsessed with fishing. Me? Not so much; I was more concerned with the trees. Things haven't changed too much – they are still crazy about fishing, and I'm still kind of bonkers for all things tree-related. I'll tell you a little secret – there are certain trees and certain places near home that I still visit today. I guess they remind me of those good 'ol days.
OK, back to hiking. When I started driving, some of the first places that I went were places that I was already familiar with. While driving on forest roads, I do remember seeing those dollar-sized orange blazes painted on trees near the Iron Bridge Recreation Area and wondering what exactly they were, but didn't put much thought into it.
Years later, while still toiling away in office buildings, I discovered that those orange blazes marked a footpath that made its way from the Everglades all the way up to Pensacola. The notion that such a path existed awakened a part of life that I had sort of put on the shelf for a while, and I spent enormous amounts of time learning about the Florida National Scenic Trail and other long-distance hiking trails around the country. I was hooked.
I've followed those orange blazes of the Florida Trail all over the state. A few years back, I created a hiking blog. After that, I began writing here on VISITFLORIDA.com as the Outdoors and Nature Insider and started working on other writing and video projects. Before you know it, I was able to quit my regular job and do this thing full time. That's pretty sweet.
So there you have it – hiking without a doubt changed my world. I hope all of you take some time to get out there and explore new places. It is Florida Hiking Trails Month, after all – and who knows? You may discover that a simple trail through the woods can lead you down a whole new path in life.
Well, there's my story – I'd love to hear yours! Let me know when and how you got into hiking over at the VISIT FLORIDA Outdoors and Nature Facebook page.