FLORIDA TRAIL JOURNAL FOREVER FLORIDA; Swamp Buggy Tour, Impromptu Hog Hunt Highlight Latest Leg for Florida Scenic Trail Hiker

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Byline: Lynn McNutt

Jacksonville native Lynn McNutt is hiking the Florida National Scenic Trail and sharing her adventures through weekly journal entries and photos. An avid adventurest who loves exploring the outdoors by land or sea, McNutt is a graduate of Terry Parker High School, Florida State University and George Washington University and has been on the faculties of Auburn, Miami, Flagler College and Jacksonville University.

Florida never ceases to surprise me. After hiking along the Three Lakes area northeast of the Kissimmee River, I came upon private property known as Forever Florida. The family that own the property allow hikers to cross through their thousands of acres. I was a bit scared as it was a family "compound" in the middle of nowhere. I figured a few miles in they would have me drinking the Kool-Aid. But this family, the Broussard family, has turned this property into a working ranch and nature preserve in honor of son Allen, a wildlife ecologist who died at a very early age of cancer.a

I arrived early enough to take the last swamp buggy eco-tour. As the Florida Trail runs all through the property, information about the trail is part of the tour. The tour guide mentioned that there was a thru-hiker on board and pretty soon I was helping guide the tour. Anyone that knows me knows that I thoroughly enjoy telling stories to groups of people (and these people were captive!), so I was in heaven. I just wish I could have driven the buggy as well.

After I had set up camp at a site on the Forever Florida property, I was sitting quietly writing in my journal, reflecting on how peaceful the past week through the Three Lakes area had been, when up walk two hikers, Duke and Florida Cracker, on a spring break jaunt.

I said they could share my campsite since the Forever Florida office was closed for the night. We were about 15 years apart in age, but they were old souls, so we chatted along as if we had been hiking together for months. I was teasing them on all the weight they had packed: large glass tobacco sauce bottle, grapefruit, stove, etc. And then, the rum bottle came out. …