Space Coast Hiking group builds camaraderie, treks scenic trails


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Tim Krinke, right, and Ray Lakota are local hiking enthusiasts. They recently were part of a group hike on the Shiloh Marsh Trail at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Jennifer H. Monaghan

If it’s Wednesday, it’s time for a hike.

Members of The Space Coast Hiking — Florida Trail — Indian River Chapter hike along trails throughout the state on Wednesdays from November through May.

On April 3, 20 enthusiastic men and women hiked the 4.6 mile Shiloh Marsh Trail off State Road 3, north of the Kennedy Space Center. A clear sky, a gentle breeze and moderate temperatures complemented the morning activity.

Along the walk mostly on levees around water impoundments, the hikers stopped intermittently to appreciate the view of the water, butterflies, birds, wildflowers, carcasses of horseshoe crabs and an alligator basking in the sun.

Tim Krinke, a winter resident from Minnesota, said he was very pleased with his first hike with the group.

“For my whole life, I’ve had a real connection with nature,” he said. “This is a big part of why I come here (to Florida in the winter). I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard about this hike; and I was pleasantly surprised at the friendliness of the group. I spent more time talking than I did looking at the surroundings.”

Others, experienced at participating with the group, remained enthusiastic.

“I come every week,” Judi Craig said. “I carpool with friends. I love this. I know everybody says that, but I do love it. It’s good practice for my upcoming 500-mile pilgrimage.”

Ray Lakota reflected on his hike with satisfaction.

“There’s always a lot of camaraderie, meeting new people and very educational all the time,” he said.

Jim Escoffier was the assigned leader of the April 3 hike.

“I do this because I like to; been doing this since the 1980s,” he said. “I used to build and clear trails.”

The Space Coast Hiking meetup group, based in Palm Bay, has more than 3,000 members with an average of 15 to 20 at each hike, many of whom are retirees. The group’s website describes its mission as a public outreach of the Florida Trail Association — Indian River Chapter (FTS), a nonprofit corporation. The FTS develops, maintains, protects and promotes a network of hiking trails throughout the state, including the unique Florida National Scenic Trail.

Escoffier also explained that FTS’ goal is “to provide opportunities for the public to hike, engage in outdoor recreation, participate in environmental education and to contribute to meaningful volunteer work.”

It has long been known that exercise is associated with reduced health risks such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. A recent study (as reported by The Lancet) also linked the benefits of physical exercise to mental health.

For more information about this meet-up group, go to meetup.com/SpaceCoastHiking/

For more information about FTA, go to floridatrail.org/