Backcountry_Trails_of_Florida_RGB.jpg“A revelation for hikers. Mashour knows the backcountry of Florida like few others.”—Robert Silk, author of An Ecotourist’s Guide to the Everglades and the Florida Keys  

“Provides detailed trail directions, a descriptive sense of each ecosystem, and don’t-miss highlights.”—Michal Strutin, author of Florida State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide  

Experience wild Florida with this guide to 100 off-the-grid hikes from every corner of the state. Florida’s five water management districts encompass millions of acres of public property that include thousands of miles of public trails. Backcountry Trails of Florida explains where to find these little-known routes, which ecosystems they feature, and how to plan your perfect outdoor adventure.

Terri Mashour describes the hidden wonders hikers will discover in each district. Northwest Florida offers views of sandhills, clear and cold springs, and river bluffs. The Suwannee River area is crisscrossed with meandering creeks. In the St. Johns River watershed, conservation lands include large cattle ranches, lakeshores, and levee restoration projects. In Southwest Florida, manatees swim up rivers from the Gulf of Mexico. And the South Florida district is home to water treatment areas, pine flatwoods, and the mangrove islands of the Everglades.

Whether you are a hiker, trail runner, off-road bicyclist, or equestrian, this guidebook will help you locate and enjoy wide expanses of pristine nature not far from your own backyard.   

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Terri Mashour worked for nearly a decade as a land manager in Florida forests. She is cofounder of Fun4FirstCoastKids.com.

In this interview, Terri Mashour tells us about her new book and the beauty of the Florida wilderness.

What inspired you to write a book about Florida’s backcountry trails?

I thought it was difficult to breast pump in the woods and on the fireline and spend the night on wildfires, so I decided to stay home with my 6-month-old daughter. This book helped me get “back to the woods.”

What makes the water management district properties stand out from other Florida trails?

The water management district trails are complete wilderness with no gate keeper and many times no signs on the main road. This is true Florida wilderness—the Old Florida country!

You gave professionally guided hikes with Gainesville Ecotours and you are also a former land management specialist. Do you have any cherished moments from these experiences?

My most memorable experiences are those with our beloved Florida black bears. Once I hiked and one ran away from me. On easements I saw them frequently. At Lake George we saw them in early mornings. I hope to protect bear habitat by
inspiring conservation.

What was one of the aspects you enjoyed most about your work?

I was a woman in the woods working predominantly with men. I remember
working late nights on the Burnt Island Road Fire with Danny Mills and all the staff
on the fire. We worked all day and into the night, refilling our brush trucks with
water over and over until the fire was cool enough to leave for the evening. State
land management staff is some of the most dedicated, intelligent, field savvy, and
forest and fire educated workers in the entire United States and I was proud to work alongside them every day in the woods.

Which area is your favorite to explore?

My favorite water management district trail is Julington Durbin Preserve in
Jacksonville. It has Durbin Creek, restored sandhills that I helped burn many times,
including one of my check out burns to earn my Florida Prescribed Burner
certification.

Ecotours and hiking trails offer a great alternative to many of Florida’s more popular tourist attractions like the beach and amusement parks. What would you say is the main benefit offered by these backcountry trails?

Being in nature is entertaining, relaxing, and peaceful. Hiking, fishing, and similar
activities are fun and educational. Camping is inexpensive at $20 a night or even
free on district lands. Food is cheap and yummy over the campfire!

What advice do you have for novice hikers?

Novice hikers should hike with a friend or tell someone where they are going.
Bring a bell for bears and be prepared for long hikes that reward patience with breathtaking, wild views. Beware of snakes, fire, and insects, and be safe.

What do you hope that readers will take away from your book?

That women can work in the woods with fire and alongside cowboys, too. That
these islands and corridors are important to conserve habitat and water in rapidly
growing Florida. That there is still wilderness, panthers, bears, and wild wonder in Florida.

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