Friday, September 12, 2014

Jim Kern

Jim Kern
The Florida Trail is just one organization started by Jim Kern, a Florida resident, a photographer & filmmaker and real estate developer.  Jim came up with the idea of the Florida Trail after hiking on the Appalachian Trail.  "Why doesn't Florida have a trail like this?" was his question.  Aside from the high elevations which the mountainous states all have, Florida has a lot of scenic wonder, sometimes whole ecosystems pop up in only one inch or two of elevation.
So Jim went around, and asked his question and didn't take no for an answer.  He created the Florida Trail Association and served as its president the first dozen years.  Those orange blazes were first painted on trees marking the Florida Trail at Clearwater Lake campground in the Ocala National Forest in 1966.  Part of these trails you hike today were first surveyed and cut through the woods by Jim's friends and partners in the Florida Trail.  His organization has grown over the years to include many members, volunteers and supporters (yes, even trail angels) all over the state.  Nearly 150 people attempt a through-hike annually, hiking during the winter months, moving north with spring.
Jim's first Florida backpack trip was a 12-day slog through unmarked wilderness from the Tamiami Trail to Highlands Hammock near Sebring.  His publicized trip heightened the real need for a Florida Trail, hiking through waist-deep water, swatting flies and mosquitos just like the rest of us.
Jim Kern also created the American Hiking Society giving a national voice to hikers and backpackers in 1976, and Big City Mountaineers to mentor urban youth in the outdoors, and his newest development, the Hiker's Grand Slam.
What I like about Jim Kern is that he followed through with an idea he had until it actually happened. An Eagle Scout, Jim showed the courage to create what he felt was important.  He lived his dream and in doing so created so many other dreams for the rest of us.  That's a character trait I truly admire.

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