March 30 – April 1, 2012
A winter in Florida is nearly at an end. And if you think about it, we’re all basically snowbirds. Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota…these are frigid northern destinations that we all fled in order to come to Florida, and now that it is about to get hot we’re all kicking dust to get away. Yep, we may be a few years too young but in our hearts we, the Florida Trail Crew, are basically a bunch of retirees. What I’m getting at here is that we went to Palm Beach last weekend.
The reason: The Ocean to Lake Hiking Festival/FTA Annual Meeting. This time every year, FTA members from all corners of the state gather in one place for hiking, association business, food and camaraderie. We were lucky to be able to be a part of it this year, and so on Friday we made the seven-hour drive down to Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Jupiter, FL to take part. When we got there we set up camp and spotted some of our favorite volunteers: Bill and Linda Taylor. We knew it was going to be a good weekend. We spent the rest of the day exploring the state park. We met a Gopher Tortoise and ascended Hobe Mountain – 86 vertical feet! Emily almost got Acute Mountain Sickness, but luckily Marchetti is WFR certified. He said, “Emily, we’re only at 86 feet of elevation” and just like that she was cured!
The festivities began on Saturday morning with breakfast and from there, the 130 or so participants split up into groups to take part in some of the different activities from bird watching tours to a 10-mile hike and more. As we were in attendance to help out, we stuck around the Recreation Center to assist with the Virtual Media presentation, went out to nearby Riverside Park to take part in the Trail Construction discussion, and then headed back to the Recreation Center for a fundraising lesson with the FTA Executive Director Dennis Miranda. That evening after dinner we were lucky to get the chance to see storied Florida photographer Clyde Butcher make a presentation and almost as lucky to see FTA staffer Kent Wimmer in his true calling as an auctioneer. Sadly, we didn’t win anything. To round off the day’s activities we gathered back at Jonathan Dickinson for a bonfire and had a great time, complete with music and laughter.
On Sunday we went for a hike. Psych! We didn’t actually go on a hike, but Sunday was April Fool’s day and you just got fooled. Sorry about that.
Let’s try again. On Sunday we met back at the Rec Center for breakfast and the FTA’s annual meeting, which included lots of discussion and the election of a new Board of Directors. After that, the conference was over so we hit the beach for a little bit of R&R. The beach is a good place to be on April 1st, because crabs have no sense of humor and seagulls aren’t very smart, so you can see their tricks from a mile away. We all made it out through the day unscathed.
All said and done, we had a good time at the trail conference and were pleased to see another side of the organization than the trail work that we have been a part of for the last six months. The FTA has a lot of dedicated and skilled volunteers and it was very rewarding for us to rub elbows with them for a couple of days. We also got to re-connect with some of the volunteers that we had worked with previously, which was a real treat.
One final thing I should mention about the conference: Look, we like food, alright? I’m comfortable admitting that I probably ate a small bakery’s worth of bagels, pastries and muffins this weekend (and I’m just talking about breakfast here). So yeah, the food was killer.
Fun Fact: this entire blog is a palindrome.
– Michael Swanberg