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Discovering the Florida Trail Book Review

By Diane Bedard Posted on March 4, 2021

Discovering the Florida Trail, A Photographic Journey along the Florida National Scenic Trail by Sandra Friend and John Keatley was published in October 2020. It was described as a coffee table book, so when I received this 7″ x 5″ beauty, I was surprised. Coffee tables must have shrunk over the past 20 years!

The cover is a beautiful photo of a native Florida trail scene, with saw palmetto leaves interspersed with Oak and Palm trunks, a wide path of oak leaves and sticks providing a way through the natural forest. “Only in Florida,” is my first thought as I virtually visit my first glimpse of the Florida Trail.

Have you been on the Florida National Scenic Trail? It is a diverse walking path that travels from the Everglades in Big Cypress National Preserve to the white sand beaches of Pensacola Beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore.

How do I know?

First of all, Sandra Friend and John Keatley have been hiking and biking together since they met at a hiking event around Lake Okeechobee in 2011. Sandra got involved with the Florida National Scenic Trail at its inception in 2000 and I met them both at Florida Outdoor Writers Association’s annual convention in 2018.

To say either of these journalists is qualified to write a book about hiking through the Sunshine State is a statement of fact. But a coffee table book that is comfortable in my hands?

It was easy to open this green gem. I read through the forward by Jim Kern, the Founder of the Florida Trail Association and I was hooked. This is one beautiful picture book!

Discovering the Florida Trail Book Review

But I really feel like Discovering the Florida Trail was a lot more than pictures. The first section of the book starts at the southern point of the Trail, Big Cypress. “A drop. A ripple. A vast plain of crystal clear water beneath dwarf cypress stretching to the horizon,” the authors begin.

Each section of the Florida National Scenic Trail is introduced with a short, soulful description and the words are wrapped with beautiful images of a national treasure.

I am there in the wilderness of one of Florida’s famous ecosystems. And the 100 or so words that describe this part of the Trail are surrounded by rich photos of the birds, trees and sky seen at Big Cypress.

Several pages of photos from that section of the Trail follow with scenes from the authors’ travels – a comerant, a bromeliad, a limestone crack, an open plain with a water trail through the seagrass – and then we are moved to the Seminole section.

Each step of the Florida Trail is recorded, unhindered by long verbiage. The images telling the story. It is beautiful and immersive.

I highly recommend this book as an introduction to the great resource that is the Florida National Scenic Trail. You can find it online at https://floridahikes.com. You will also find a wealth of information on hiking in Florida and several of Sandra Friend and John Keatley’s previous books – of which there are over 40.

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