Jim and I spent a little over a year researching and planning for this paddle adventure. It was time well spent.
I made it a point to contact every paddler (at the time) who completed the trail and pick their brain for “lessons learned”. The result was a notebook full of information which was referred to often especially when considering gear.
Doug Alderson, Liz Sparks, and the entire staff of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Greenways and Trails along with the Florida Paddling Trails Association were helpful putting me in touch with past paddlers. These organizations maintain fantastic websites with even more useful information about the trail.
The deeper the research went, four information sources stood out. They were:
- Mike Ruso’s Guide to Thru Paddling Florida– This webpage is full of detailed information. It provided a great starting point to help get our minds wrapped around what paddling the CT involves.
The only exception we found in Mike’s guide was his recommendation of using maildrops for re-supply in certain sections. We never had any problems finding grocery stores along the way and never used maildrops for that purpose. We relied on our smartphones and Google Maps to find grocery stores near us wherever we were. It worked great.
However, maildrops could come in handy when swapping out warm and cold weather gear. We were lucky. Our gear guy, Barney, lives in Sarasota, FL and was able to meet us whenever we needed to change stuff out.
- Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail Guide (Text Only) Paperback- The guide offers overviews of the 26 trail segments, lists important telephone numbers regarding camp reservations in state and federal parks, and outlines the various permit requirements for the Big Bend and Everglades sections.
Yes, order a copy from Amazon. The print version is a must have. We used the guidebook everyday while on the trail.
- The Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail Data Book (PDF file)– The print version of this data file is included in the back of the guidebook above. However, we uploaded the PDF version to our smartphones so we could access the information on-the-fly. The Data Book breaks down services, camp spots, re-supply points and other information in the form of a mile-by-mile spreadsheet.
- GPS Waypoint Digital Format File– I requested a copy and uploaded it to my GPS units on a micro SD card. It made paddling the trail as easy as following the “line”. The only problem area we found was near mile 480 where the route directed us through the middle of a large wetland area. Yikes!
Corrections should be in the works.
Building the Blog
I learned the value of maintaining an online journal from my two previous trips- bicycling across the USA, and thru hiking the Appalachian Trail. Getting messages and words of encouragement from folks following along is a powerful motivating force after a tough day. Plus it’s just plain fun.
I wanted this blog to contain multi-media components with the ability to capture written, audio, and visual aspects of the trip. There also had to be a simple way to incorporate a social media feed like Twitter.
WordPress.com was the answer. It’s a robust blogging platform that’s free, relatively simple to learn, and has a killer smartphone app allowing updates from anywhere a cellphone signal is available. WordPress also makes integrating YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, AudioBoo, and Track Us features a snap.