A few miles northwest of Downtown St. Augustine is a pond shaped like a tear. Its edges are fringed with cattails overlooked by reaching pine trees and southern red maples bursting with fall color. Small birds flit through scrub brush; ducks glide through the windswept water.
More than 33 years ago, the North Florida Trailblazers made it their mission to protect and maintain an 18-inch-wide strip of hiking trail known as the Florida National Scenic Trail. The trail, popular with backpackers and day hikers alike, runs more than 1,000 miles from the cypress sloughs of the Everglades to the sand dunes of Gulf Islands National Seashore in the Panhandle.
An overgrown burial ground 40 miles from civilization was not the most auspicious spot to meet a soon-to-be record-holder. That is, however, exactly where I found Environmental Science professor Jodi Eller, tucked into a ruddy green wall of mangroves ten miles beyond the southernmost point in the continental United States.
It is sometime past sunset. The world is dark and the noise of traffic has settled down for the night. I am standing in a dumpster with a smile stretched across my face, visualizing homemade apple cider, massive green salads bursting with fireworks of peppers and tomatoes, and a special treat to add to a smoothie: blueberries.