Jim Kern, the founder of the Florida Trail, began research on the trail route before the first official blazes were painted, leading exploratory hikes in 1966 and 1967 to determine potential routing. It wasn’t until October 30, 1966 that an “official” route through the Ocala National Forest was blazed; prior to that, Jim’s crews stenciled unofficial FT symbols in places like the Fakahatchee Strand and Fisheating Creek.
In 1974, Ned, Cecil, and Dorothy did the first thru-hike of the first 125-mile continuous section of the Florida Trail. Both Cecil and Dorothy went on to pick up more pieces of the trail as section hikes as new portions of the trail opened. Cecil was the first person to backpack all 10 completed sections of the Florida Trail in 1975.
Hikers completing the Florida Trail between 1966 and 1976
Jim Kern, Miami FL (1966-1975)
Ned Kraft, Gainesville FL (1974)
Cecil “Walking Man” Kirkham, Lake City FL (1974, 1975)
Dorothy Laker, Clearwater FL (1974)