How many of you spend your days outdoors in the Pacific Northwest? That part of the country is arguably the best place to live if you love hiking, climbing, kayaking and other outdoor sports. I, on the other hand, live in a part of the country many people call ‘Heavens Waiting Room’ … Florida.
Yes we have miles and miles of pristine beaches, but I would trade sand and waves for rocks and snow any day of the week. I do enjoy living in Florida most of the time, but when you get that “call of the wild” there is only so much you can do. We can still go hiking, kayaking and skiing … it’s just our versions have no stunning views, no whitewater, and skiing is done behind a boat.
I thought it would be fun to write a guest post on Just Northwest about what some of the major differences are between hiking in the Northwest and hiking in the Southeast. For the sake of this post I will mostly be referring to hiking in Florida – the exact opposite corner of Washington, where I believe most of the Just Northwest readers live.
The weather differences are the first thing that come to mind when thinking about hiking in Florida vs. hiking in the Northwest. It may get to 90 degrees on a hot summer day in Seattle … but your 90 degrees is like our 70. It’s hot here. Really hot. And we have 100% humidity every day during the summer. It makes hiking outdoors brutal. With staggering heat comes afternoon storms – the type of storms that bring lightning and heavy rains. You can set your watch the these storms — 3:00 pm every day. You do not want to be caught in the outdoors when an afternoon storm rolls in. They don’t usually last long, but they are fierce.
Or lack there of… hiking in Florida means you’re walking on a level path the entire way. It’s easier on your legs, but makes for a boring trip when all you can see to the front, back, right and left of you are trees. Hikers in the Pacific Northwest have easy access to mountains at 14,000+ ft – Florida’s highest elevation above sea level is 345 ft.
For the most part, the wildlife from the Pacific Northwest is somewhat similar to the wildlife in Florida. Florida has black bears, deer, panthers (our version of the mountain lion), lots of birds, squirrels, rabbits, etc. One of the major differences in wildlife is the Pacific Northwest is home to Bigfoot! Just kidding … I’m talking about alligators! And they are everywhere down here. No joke – we have alligators here that walk across the street. They live in the swampy outdoor areas, which happened to be the same areas Florida hikers venture in to.
Not all of Florida is in the “tropics” but our ecosystem and vegetation down here varies greatly from what hikers in the Northwest are used to. In Florida, we have a lot of sawgrass marshes and palm trees – I’ll admit that hikes along the beaches and marsh areas are actually pretty nice. Florida also has a lot of pine trees, cypress trees and mangroves. We have vegetation that thrives in wetlands. We have swamps and creeks, but our creeks are not the same as yours. We don’t have snow melt in Florida so our creeks aren’t the swift running, crystal clear type – they are the slow moving, muddy, snake infested type.
I may have painted Florida as an awful place to go hiking and spend time in the outdoors, but that’s not really the case. I guess when you’re pointing out the differences it sometimes can seem like a negative thing. We do have a lot of amazing hikes here, like The Florida Trail… which starts near the Everglades National Park and works its way up through the panhandle.
If you don’t live in the Northwest, where do you live? What are some of the major differences in hiking from your area? Post a comment and let us know.