Jacksonville native Lynn McNutt is hiking the Florida National Scenic Trail and sharing her adventures through weekly journal entries and photos. 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.


Florida never ceases to surprise me. After hiking along the Three Lakes area northeast of the Kissimmee River, I came upon private property known as Forever Florida. The family that own the property allow hikers to cross through their thousands of acres. I was a bit scared as it was a family “compound” in the middle of nowhere. I figured a few miles in they would have me drinking the Kool-Aid. But this family, the Broussard family, has turned this property into a working ranch and nature preserve in honor of son Allen, a wildlife ecologist who died at a very early age of cancer. 

I arrived early enough to take the last swamp buggy eco-tour. As the Florida Trail runs all through the property, information about the trail is part of the tour. The tour guide mentioned that there was a thru-hiker on board and pretty soon I was helping guide the tour. Anyone that knows me knows that I thoroughly enjoy telling stories to groups of people (and these people were captive!), so I was in heaven. I just wish I could have driven the buggy as well.

After I had set up camp at a site on the Forever Florida property, I was sitting quietly writing in my journal, reflecting on how peaceful the past week through the Three Lakes area had been, when up walk two hikers, Duke and Florida Cracker, on a spring break jaunt.

I said they could share my campsite since the Forever Florida office was closed for the night. We were about 15 years apart in age, but they were old souls, so we chatted along as if we had been hiking together for months. I was teasing them on all the weight they had packed: large glass tobacco sauce bottle, grapefruit, stove, etc. And then, the rum bottle came out. What happens in Forever Florida, stays in Forever Florida.

The next morning was awfully bright, and bleary-eyed we said our goodbyes as they headed south and I continued north. Almost to the border of the property, I came across a baby swamp. Just as I was about to take my boots off and wade through, these barking hunting dogs and a 4x4 camouflage-designed ATV pulling a trailer with more dogs and cages appeared.

The driver offered to drive me across the 75 feet or so of water. So I squeezed in next to Red and Jim, these old, callused, sunburned hunters. They gave me an ice cold water and we were driving across when the dogs rushed ahead baying. Red said they had found a hog, and he turned and took off in the direction of the baying. Red is paid by area landowners to hunt wild hogs, as they are very destructive to the land.

We were off trail and now in the middle of pine and palmetto scrub. The dogs came back, then took off again. Red asked if I wouldn’t mind tagging along for a bit as he hit the gas at the same time! I was loving it! We bounced along, all three of us crammed in the front seat like sardines.

After about an hour of hog hunting (we never caught one), they dropped me back off near where they said they picked me up, but by this point I was so turned around I had no idea where I was. Red and Jim had also become concerned about me and my adventure, so they interrogated me about my supplies and equipment, double checked my maps and walked me down the trail a bit to make sure I was going the right way.

After hugs and a plethora of advice and promises to be careful, they let me go off on my own. They stood there watching me until I was out of sight.