The Gulf Coast of Florida has seen a lot of rain this summer and with the rain comes humidity and mosquitoes. Hiking is not the most appealing thing to do under these conditions, however, there are times when a person just can’t spend one more day closed up in a box looking at the same four walls. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do and just make the best of it.
I’ve been having a serious case of cabin fever lately but the other day the weather cleared up long enough for me to get out and explore a little bit. I had no doubt that the trails would be wet but I figured I could at least get around in some areas. The key to hiking in any situation is to be prepared. Here are a few tips I’ve compiled for your wet weather adventures.
A flooded Conner Preserve in Land O’Lakes, FL
1. Unless you like being drenched from head to toe I suggest bringing a raincoat and a dry bag in case of afternoon showers. In the summer months scattered storms can pop up out of nowhere and it’s nice to have some sort of protection.
2. Wear pants. When it rains a lot, things grow more quickly. You’re likely to encounter tall grasses and shrubs and wearing shorts leaves your legs vulnerable to cuts and scrapes. Pants will also protect your legs from those annoying bug bites.
3. Rain boots or water shoes are ideal. With as many days of rain as we’ve had, there’s no escaping small puddles or completely flooded trails. I wouldn’t recommend sloshing through deep bodies of water but it’s a lot easier to go around them with footwear made for the occasion.
Flooded Cypress Swamp at Starkey Wilderness Preserve/ Serenova Tract
4. Bug spray is an invaluable resource for about 2/3 of the year here in Florida, especially in the summer. Hiking is always more pleasant when you don’t have to swat and squash bugs along the year.
5. Always be on the lookout for snakes! They love to hide in tall grasses and in or near standing pools of water. For me, the most terrifying part of being outside when it’s wet is those slithering, venomous, water-loving reptiles.
Possible Cottonmouth snake hanging out on this sunken bridge
6. Under any hiking conditions it’s always a good idea to carry a weapon. Whether it be a machete, some kind of firearm, or a large stick, you should have something on you that can deter or kill snakes or any other dangerous critters out there.
7. Another useful tip that also applies to any hiking situation is to always go with a buddy. Although it may seem a little over-cautious, you wouldn’t want to be stuck out in the woods with no one around to help you in a critical situation. If going out alone is what you really want to do, at least let someone know where you’re going. Taking your cell phone is a good idea, too.
Hiking has been a limited activity for many folks this season due to rain. In fact, much of the west coast is under a tropical storm watch as I’m writing this. Hopefully this information will encourage hikers to get out whenever and wherever they can, have fun, and be safe. I’m looking forward to drier and cooler conditions in the near future–fall and winter can be prime hiking season here in the south!