2016 Florida Trail Kickoff
We put a significant amount of effort into growing the Florida Trail Kickoff in 2016, enjoying the sponsorship and attendance of ZPacks, a homegrown lightweight backpacking gear company from Melbourne, Florida, and having the founder of the Florida Trail, Jim Kern, come to address the thru-hikers and public with a special presentation at the Oasis Visitor Center showcasing his first exploratory hikes to site the Florida Trail, the very first which was through Big Cypress before it was even a National Preserve. While rain and high temperatures haunted the week, we still saw nearly 50 thru-hikers and section hikers take to the trail at the Southern Terminus. The Florida Trail Association joined us in having a table with public information at Oasis.
Many thanks to both ZPacks and Jim Kern for their support of the 2016 FT Kickoff!
2016 Billy Goat Day
As we were pushing the limits of the picnic pavilion at Bear Pond the year before, we changed venues for Billy Goat Day to Lake Mills Park in Chuluota. We reserved the rather large group campsite, planning to have everything happen “in the woods,” but as the weather got sour, we also rented the park’s largest picnic pavilion at the last minute. It turned out to be a very good move, as it rained most of the day and we needed that space for the hikers who arrived. In all, we had 52 in attendance, a record to date; only a handful camped out because of the rains. Two thru-hikers, D2 and Reverend, walked in off the trail.
Remainder of 2016
After putting on the above events, 2016 was a tough year for the core volunteer team of the Florida Trail Hikers Alliance. All of us suffered loss and illness in our families, with ongoing caregiving of aging parents also coming into our lives and taking over. So our ability to focus on hiker support past our January events just wasn’t there.
We reassessed our strengths and abilities, voted to close down our online forums and focus on communicating with hikers through our Facebook group and our Facebook page, and shut down our website to save money, scaling down to a web page hosted by FloridaHikes.com. We moved to efforts to grow the hiking community on Facebook instead, as the platform is free.