Only two completions of the Florida Trail are claimed in its second decade. Wearing size 14 hiking boots, Paul “Bigfoot” Tourigny came to Florida in 1979 at age 46 to tackle the southernmost long trail. Retired as an Army major in 1974, he was following his bliss along America’s long trails. He’d completed the Appalachian Trail, and would do so again upon heading back north. “And now my attention is centered on the Florida Trail (to be hiked in February and March of this year),” he wrote in a letter to ATC.
When the 1981 map set included “suggestions for road hiking between sections, Bigfoot came back to Florida for his second time on the trail. His first hike was done with a friend. The second was to be solo. The Footprint reveals that he didn’t finish the second hike, but headed home due to injuries.
“He hiked the Kissimmee with us once,” said Pam Hale, long-time FTA volunteer. “He and Ashby (Box) were good friends. We don’t know if he was the first thru-hiker, but believe he did hike what existed of the FT at that time. Joe recalls that his boots were custom-made for him.”
Speaking at the 53rd annual Maine Appalachian Trail Club meeting in 1988, Paul related his backpacking accomplishments – two thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail, Vermont’s Long Trail, the Bruce Trail in Ontario, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, and the Florida Trail. What was his take? “Dogs are the biggest danger,” he said. Paul retired to North Port, Florida in 1992. He has passed away since.
Hikers completing the Florida Trail between 1977 and 1986
Douglas Garden, O’Brien FL (1979)
Paul “Bigfoot” Tourigny, Lewiston ME (1979)