Out There – Florida’s Backcountry

By Crew Leaders, Abbey Toomer & Shane Murphy, who along with Andrew Oliver (pictured above) and their crew participants from Community Training Works (CTW) & Young American Conservation Corps (YACC) have worked along the Florida National Scenic Trail, Apalachicola National Forests, Osceola National Forest and trained crew at CCFC’s first project in City of Apalachicola, to name a few locations.

Being crew leaders working Florida’s backcountry can be both exhilarating and miserable. We’ve been on the job from the swamps of Okeechobee, the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve to the tall pines and ravines of the panhandle.  Florida’s climate provides an awesome year round growing season but leaves us with only 5 to 6 months of cooler weather for a safe working environment in the thicket of lush vegetation one finds in the southernmost state.

Since the sheer volume of work potential is staggering on a peninsula over 500 miles long and 160 miles wide, we just focus day to day maintaining trails, creating new trails, building and repairing footbridges, adding blazing and signage, or installing farm fence. These are just a few of the projects we’ve done in our couple years as a Forestry crew. While front country projects can be approached as any normal work day, most of the sites have been in the remote backcountry where commuting is unfeasible requiring hiking in fully equipped to camp overnight on “hitches” from 2 days up to 2 weeks. Out there we’ve encountered hot and freezing temperatures, dangerous thunderstorms as well as rambunctious wildlife and swarming insects. The upside is the food tastes better over a hot campfire and the stars really do grab your attention on a clear night. So with a positive attitude plus training and resources we were able to be successful with each project helping to preserve these less travelled forgotten environments of Florida.

As the season winds down and the typical hotter months return there are opportunities for further certifications in Wilderness First Aid & CPR, Wild land Fire training, Trout Headwaters “Wader’s in the Water Basic & Level 2 and advanced chain saw training.  It’s a great time to meet with other corps to share ideas and learn new methods of back country work and lifestyle.  It has been a privilege to train new corps members in their local communities and we welcome members from other corps to check out our projects in the sunshine state!  Roughin’ it and lovin’ itl!