Just Southeast: 4 Differences in Hiking Down South

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.

1. Weather

Lightning Storm Over Singer Island Florida
Epic lightning storm over the condos on Singer Island Beach in Palm Beach Gardens Florida.

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.

2. Elevation

florida-highest-elevation

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.

 

3. Wildlife

alligator

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.

4. Ecosystem

everglades600

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.

About the Author: David DuPont is a hiker, climber and outdoor enthusiast who writes for Adayak, a designer and seller of hiking shirts. Get more from David and Adayak on twitter.

5 Adventure Day Trips in Florida

You know… Florida isn’t all beaches and hurricanes. For the outdoor adventurer living in or traveling to Florida (about as far away from the mountains as you can get), Florida can offer some great activities that will keep that adventure spirit alive. In today’s post we’ll look at the Top 5 Adventure Day Trips in Florida.

Ranked in no particular order:

1. Canoe The Suwannee River
suwannee river
You are probably already familiar with the famous Stephen Foster song, Old Folks at Home, that was written about the Suwannee River… well, the river is as majestic as the song makes it out to be. The Suwannee is 266 miles long and stands out from it’s unique black water – you can’t see an inch below the water surface. The Suwannee offers river canoeing, kayaking and float trips. It’s a beautiful river lined with oak trees and the occasional sandy beach, perfect for an afternoon picnic.

2. Diving in Key West
scuba diving key west
Key West is highly underrated as an adventure destination. If you have only time for a day trip and you’re in the area, hit up Key West for some scuba diving. The water is crystal clear and there are plenty of reefs loaded with marine life to swim with. Plus – the water is warm! If you don’t have a scuba license, you can always snorkel.

3. Air Boat in the Everglades
air boat everglades
The Everglades is located in south Florida, just west of Miami. Part of the area is designated as a National Park – where you can enjoy scenic biking and hiking trails. But to get the best view of the Everglades you need to be on a boat in the swamp areas. Here you can see the Florida panther, the American crocodile, and the West Indian manatee … all by air boat. The boats are loud and fast; they skim right over the swamps because they don’t have a submerge propeller.

4. Hike the Ocala National Forest
ocala national forest
The Ocala National Forest is located smack dab in the middle of Florida. It’s 607 square miles of prime forest, fresh water springs and wildlife (black bears, deer, alligators, wild boar). There are over 100 miles of hiking trails in the forest – perfect for an adventure day trip in Florida. Just watch out for snakes!

5. Deep Sea Fishing in Tampa Bay
deep sea fishing
Tampa Bay is located in west Florida, right on the Gulf of Mexico. This is prime real estate for deep sea fishing. You can hook up with a captain and charter an offshore boat for 4-6 hours. You are guaranteed to catch fish – grouper, snapper, sea bass. The thrill of reeling in a big fish is an adventure you’ll never forget.

Is there an adventure day trip in Florida that you think we missed? Post a comment and let us know.