Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
A Guide to 30 Great Walks and Hiking Adventures
In Hiking North Florida and the Panhandle (copyright 2009), author Timothy O’Keefe offers readers and hikers a really useful and portable hiking guide book that is full of information. Published by The Globe Pequot Press under their FalconGuides® trademark, the subtitle calls it A Guide to 30 Great Walking and Hiking Adventures, but that’s just the start.
In the book, O’Keefe focuses on the northern part of the state, including the Northwest Florida gulf coast region that includes over 1.5 million acres of state and federal protected lands. The hiking trails he features are true walking trails not shared with cyclists or all-terrain vehicles, and range from easy family walks to long haul hiking on the cross-state Florida Trail.
The introduction of Hiking North Florida and the Panhandle covers some of what the hiker will see on the trail, including wildlife and various ecosystems and biological communities. Swamps, flatwoods, freshwater marshes, creeks and dry prairies can all be found in this diverse region of Florida, along with rare and endangered species such as the red-cockaded woodpecker.
O’Keefe offers tips on hiking with children, camping, and how to deal with heat, humidity, mosquitoes, lightening, animals and insects. He divides the book into sections of short family walks, day hikes, overnight hikes, and long haul hikes of several days. He also includes maps, directions, distances, local lodging, events and attractions and a rich array of photographs.
O’Keefe’s “Short Family Walks” includes a stroll through “Middle Earth” at Grayton Beach State Park. Although less than a mile in length, the trail leads through a portion of an ancient maritime forest and along a rare coastal dune lake with views of the Gulf of Mexico. Some interpretive signs tell of the turpentine industry that once was the area’s main livelihood. Grayton Beach State Park is located in Walton County.
Other short walks in the Northwest Florida region include Falling Waters State Park (about one mile in length) in Washington County, Leon Sinks Geological Area (a 3-mile loop) in Wakulla County, and Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park (2.6 miles out and back) also in Wakulla County. Here too, the remains of Ice Age mammals have been found in the crystal clear springs.
Although day hikers can utilize the trails for short jaunts, the Apalachicola National Forest is a long hauler’s dream. O’Keefe divides the 564,000-acre forest into two areas of east and west. The western hike is 35 miles one way, and the eastern hike is 32 miles one way, so plan accordingly. Along the way, hikers may encounter a variety of wildlife including deer, wild turkeys, and black bears. This is true wilderness hiking.
Timothy O’Keefe is a resident of Florida and wildlife photographer and writer with thirteen books to his credit as well as numerous magazine articles. Hiking North Florida and the Panhandle is a must-have for anyone wanting to explore the region’s natural areas on foot.
By M. Timothy O'Keefe
Falcon Guide, 2009, $14.95
This book is available in bookstores and through online book sellers. Click on the link above to order from Amazon.com.