Jacksonville native Lynn McNutt will be hiking the Florida National Scenic Trail from Big Cypress National Preserve west of Miami to Pensacola and sharing her adventures through weekly journal entries and photos in the Times-Union’s Outside section.


An avid adventurest who loves exploring the outdoors by land or sea, McNutt is a graduate of Terry Parker High School, Florida State University and George Washington University and has been on the faculties of Auburn, Miami, Flagler College and Jacksonville University.

I made it around Lake Okeechobee and up most of the Kissimmee River! This is proving to be harder than I ever imagined. Wind, rain, fog and record low temps have slowed my already slow pace. My ankle is getting better, but favoring it has caused some knee issues. Oh well, at least those pains keep my mind off the blisters, chaffing and bug bites.

I learned that Lake Okeechobee and the area surrounding it was the site of some of the oldest trade routes among Native Americans and that the area around Fisheating Creek, which flows into the west side of the lake, is the site of possibly the earliest evidence of agriculture in North America. I thought that was pretty darn cool. There is definitely something ancient feeling about the place.

One day outside of Moore Haven, I awoke at the bottom of the levee to the most eerie, dense fog I have ever experienced. Trees would appear, then disappear in the fog swirls. I half expected a Calusa Indian tribe to appear out of the mist and give me a necklace of alligator teeth. I was walking in a real-life Florida Brigadoon. A Floradoon.

I packed up my wet tent, put on every article of clothing I had, trudged back up to the top of the Herbert Hoover Dike and kept walking. The winds proved to be vicious and at one point picked up my large rear end and sent me down the levee about 10 feet. Soon after, a truck came driving along, and I flagged it down to see if I could get a lift to the canal structure ahead to get out of the wind. He gruffly said “NO” then drove away. The truck said “Goodwill Industries.” I had to laugh.

Other than the goodwill ambassador, I have met remarkable people along the trail. Locals and tourists all seem fascinated by my adventure. I have been offered rides, money, food, drink and Band-Aids. Some kind soul left a Gatorade and a bag of homemade chocolate chip cookies next to my stuff! Most people are worried that I am hiking alone.

I will admit I get lonely, especially at night, and things are twice as scary when you are alone. A few nights ago, randomly camped in the woods somewhere, I heard footsteps slowly stalking towards me. They stopped right outside my tent and just stood there breathing. I was frozen.

I grabbed my headlamp and quickly aimed it through the tent mesh, and it was a deer peering into the tent! I screamed, and he bolted. I lay back down thinking I was having a heart attack — death by Bambi.

But there are many times that I’m very glad that there is no one there to see me. For example, although my ankle has healed somewhat, it does not have the flexibility to do certain things like, oh, I don’t know …squat. Potty breaks have been an exercise in some form of trail yoga. And if there are no trees or bushes around, alone can be a very good thing.