Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Good Grub, Good Times along the Trail

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Good Grub, Good Times along the Trail

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Julavits, Times-Union outdoors editor

They hike, they kayak, they bike, they camp. Members of the North Florida Trail Blazers are pretty versatile when it comes to freeze-dried dining, too.

"We've been known as the eating club with the hiking disorder," cracked Green Cove Springs' Paula Snellgrove. "There's no telling what people will pull out of their backpacks."

Founded in 1981, the 293-member Trail Blazers club is one of 17 chapters that make up the Florida Trail Association. The FTA, which numbers more than 5,000 members statewide, develops and maintains through its volunteers almost 1,000 miles of trails, stretching from South Florida to the Panhandle. Collectively, the trails comprise the Florida Trail.

The local chapter, which includes members from Nassau, Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Union, Baker and Bradford counties, serves as steward for the portion of the trail running from Etoniah Creek State Forest near Palatka to Osceola National Forest.

Snellgrove, whose club duties include historian, Webmaster and newsletter editor, said the Trail Blazers are diversified in both membership and interests.

"You'll find young people who are very interested in ecology, older people who are retired and looking for something to do and some people who just like to work on trails -- strictly trail builders, not trail walkers," she said.

"A lot of people join because hiking is a real good way to exercise, and when you do it with a lot of people, it doesn't seem like exercise. We get them from all walks of life -- farmers and professional people -- and the thing they have in common is they all like to be outside."

Hiking is at the heart of the club's activity roster. In addition to regular meetings, the club schedules at least one or two hikes a month from October to May, the hiking season in Florida when the heat and bugs aren't so bothersome. Some treks are as short as a mile and a half; others, such as the club's annual trip to Cumberland Island in Southeast Georgia, may cover 10-15 miles in a day.

Besides the day hikes, there are also overnight backpacking trips. …

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