Friday, August 29, 2008

Joan Hobson on the Florida Trail

Some people mark milestones on certain birthdays. Joan Hobson marks miles. She marked her 75th birthday hiking the Florida Trail for the third time. The 1,200 mile trail from South Florida to the Panhandle is as wild in many areas as Florida was historically.

Hobson didn't fall in love with hiking until she was 62. She now totes a 25-pound backpack through the wilds of Florida and is inspired by its beauty. She is a great-grandmother of three, a retired psychiatric nurse and a wife of 53 years. Hobson averages 10 miles a day through prairies, pine forests and oak hammocks. She became an active trail volunteer after attending her first meeting of the Florida Trail Association, a volunteer organization that built and maintains the trail.

Besides logging over 5,000 miles on the trail which wends from Big Cypress National Preserve west of Miami to near Pensacola in the Panhandle, she has helped to clear brush and build foot-bridges.When not hiking on the trail, she leads day hikes and teaches others the finer points of backpacking.

The hurricanes have not been kind to the trail. Thousands of trees have been bent, broken and twisted in forest statewide.The winter season in Florida can be cold and wet. Walking faster, stoking the bodies furnace is sometimes the only relief to bone chilling wind.

Though Joan enjoys company, she's fine without it. "I don't mind being alone," she says. "I've gotten used to myself over the years." Besides, she occasionally runs into a "big daddy rattler."