I finished the PCT in late September 2010 and won’t start my next “big” hike (the AZT to GDT Route) until mid-March of 2011, giving me about six months of free time. That was more than enough time to plan for the AZT to GDT Route so I knew I’d have to find something to kill some time. A thru-hike seemed like the obvious way to do that.

The list of trails that can hiked in the September to March window is pretty short. The Florida Trail was the most appealing for a number of reasons:

1. Several of the other “winter” trails are already a part of the AZT to GDT Route. I’d rather hike two trails I’ve never done before than the same one twice.

2. Due to the weather and hunting seasons, the best time to start a thru-hike of the Florida Trail is early January.  Given that a thru-hike of the FT typically takes between 1.5 and 2 months, I should finish the FT just weeks before starting the AZT to GDT Route; close enough that I’ll still be in “trail” shape while giving me enough time to finish any last minute planning.

3. Anyone who’s spent the winter in Portland knows just how miserable it can be. The number of daylight hours bottoms out at about 8 hours and 40 minutes; November, December and January all see over 5 inches of precipitation but either the temperature stays just high enough for it to remain in liquid form or a temperature inversion occurs and everything becomes coated in freezing rain. It’s part of the price that Portlanders pay for choosing to reside in what is otherwise one of the best places to live. The point being: hiking the Florida Trail is an opportunity for me to trade Portland’s winter climate for Florida’s, which is (for the most part) dry, warm, and sunny.