Sometimes, I let myself get discouraged when everyone I see on whiteblaze.net and other various AT websites seem to be mostly living in the states the Appalachian Trail threads through. I feel a little bit left out sometimes because I live way down here in Florida! Luckily, I’ve come up with a list of 4 things I deal with on an almost daily basis living in Florida, that may make my transition on the AT a little bit easier. Here you go:
Thing #1: bugs
On a pretty much daily basis, I find these assholes in my home. They range in size anywhere from a fingernail, to a full-size SUV. I’ve been woken up by them crawling on me in bed before (Every Floridian has experienced this, not matter your level of interior cleanliness and housekeeping skills). I also deal with constant mosquitoes, flies, and spiders (I just killed one in my home the other day that was the size of my hand. I’m not kidding) and sometimes scorpions. I practically live in a swamp, and therefore, I live in bugs. I’ve learned to live with them and get over my fear of them. I think if I could get used to finding bugs in my home, I can get used to finding them in my tent (at least I can shake my tent out!)
Thing #2: Heat and Humidity
I see TONS of hiker blogs talking about how hot the weather is getting. I can only imagine these people are walking anywhere from 10 to 20 miles a day, and the constant uphill/downhill can definitely turn up the heat. I’m only glad I live in a climate where I’m already acclimated to my pores releasing a waterfall’s worth of sweat as soon as I walk out my door. People in our state die every year from just from being exposed to the heat and humidity. At least when I encounter this kind of heat on the trail, it’s something I’m ready for. On the other hand, I’ve still never seen snow, so if I run into it, I might die (I’m flip-flop hiking starting in May, so I may be lucky enough not to).
Thing #3: Gators
Bears aren’t scary. Animals related to prehistoric dinosaurs…are scary. I pass one of these every other time I hit the trails around here with my bike, and I’m always happy that I’m… on my bike. We’ve actually had to call animal services to retrieve one out of my pool a couple of years ago (I might as well be running a zoo, I know). I think he was in there waiting for me.
Thing #4: Lightning
I’ve never understood why they call Florida the “Sunshine State.” They should call it the “Sunshine half the time, Lightning the other half” state. During the summer (when most tourists visit), you’ll be lucky to hit the beach and not get stuck in a storm. I’m not saying I wouldn’t feel somewhat afraid on top of a mountain with lightning crashing all around me, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to walk to class or walk into work, or been stuck on the beach and lightning has struck so close to me there was no time between the lightning and the thunder. Plus, I’m a lady, and men get struck by lightning 6x more often than women do, so I’m not worried about it!
I hope this makes other Floridians feel a little bit better about attempting to thru-hike the AT! Don’t get too cocky though, you still have to deal with hiking uphill and downhill, learn how to deal with ticks, and experience what the word “cold” truly means. Have fun!