Hello and welcome to My Wild Florida Family blog! My name is Stephanie and I encourage you to follow our journey as we set off on adventures into the wild right here in the beautiful sunshine state! Our travels may occasionally sweep us to more distant destinations, but for the time being we will be focusing on Florida’s natural areas. Before we set off on the trail, I just want to introduce myself and my family. I want to tell you how our story began and hopefully you will follow along to see how it all turns out!
I want to start off by saying how truly excited I am to begin this journey! As a young girl, I was always fascinated by nature and spent the majority of my time playing in the forests, streams, and farmlands outside my back door in rural Pennsylvania. I was active in conservation schools and camps during the summer as a teenager, and in my early high school years had the opportunity to venture out into the Appalachians on my first backpacking trip! As life swept me by and I became engrossed in SATs, college applications, and working I began slowly drifting away from nature. I got caught up in the whirlwind that was the modern world, and spent less and less time on the trails and more time inside.
I graduated from college with a BS in Environmental Science, but the birth of my son and the escape from a controlling relationship immediately after graduation overshadowed my career dreams of being a park ranger. I took an office job. I sat in a cubicle all day. Time passed me by as I slowly pieced my life back together. As my son learned to walk, I reminisced about how spending time in nature had brought me so much joy as a child. The solitude and serenity that the great outdoors provided was something that my soul was longing for. I slowly started introducing my son, M, to hiking on a small nature trail near my home. It was a tiny little park tucked away on the edge of the bay. There was a nature center with living aquatic vertebrates and a touch table. There were canoe and kayak rentals available which we learned to love! We watched a prescribed burn take place and were awe-struck by the flames as the firemen controlled them. This little park helped us pave our way back into nature and helped me begin to remember what was important in life. Even though I had learned a lot of valuable information in school, experience really is the best teacher in the long run. I decided that experiencing is what I wanted to do from now on. I wanted to start experiencing nature again, feeling the sun on my face, and the earth under my feet.
Being outside again helped me begin to heal my soul, and in 2016 when I met my now-fiancée, I knew I was ready to start a new life and sweep him along with me. I met D on Tinder (classy, right?) and after a few dates we became inseparable. I went from single mother of one to step mother of three more. My little family of 2 grew into a big family of 6! It was me, D, K, M, Rh & Ry and none of us would have it any other way. K is eight and full of sassy attitude, but still sweet and caring on the inside. M is a four year-old wild-child who thrives on adrenaline. Rh and Ry are three year old twins, both of them with the most deceivingly adorable grins they could trick you into believing anything. When it comes down to it, we are just your everyday, average blended family trying to navigate our way through life without losing our sanity. D likes fast cars, computers, and scoping out the best deals on Amazon. I like kayaking, The Office, and sipping on a glass of wine after the kids are asleep.
We are in the preliminary stages of planning our first ever backpacking trip together on the Appalachian Trail! This may very well be the most daunting challenge we have faced so far as parents. Just think, we are going to venture into the wilderness with four unpredictable, joyous little monsters. The children outnumber us two-to-one! I firmly believe that we will come out (relatively) unscathed, but we have a lot to do to prepare for this trek!
The Journal aspect of this blog will focus on our preparation for our big trip and all of the baby steps we take to prepare each member of our family for a multi-day trek into the wilderness. The Parks section will give a few details about each of the parks we visit and what features they have. I will particularly focus on family-friendly features of the parks (such as: do the bathrooms have changing tables? Is there a water fountain? Are there interactive exhibits? Is there an air conditioned building to seek shelter in if it gets too hot?).
Additionally, you can follow us on Facebook and Instagram where I will start introducing product/gear recommendations/reviews, fun facts about Florida wildlife and habitats, and photographs from adventures around the state. If you have any suggestions or would like to get in touch with me, feel free to reach out! I am always open to suggestions and would love to hear from you! We do use amazon affiliate links throughout the site to direct you towards products that we have tried, tested, and fallen in love with. Our family is not endorsed by any brands (although I can be a brand snob at times, please don’t judge me!) and all of the opinions expressed in the blog are my own! Don’t feel pressured to use the links – but if we have recommended an item that you plan to purchase feel free to use our links and help support our cause. I promise, I won’t link you to somewhere shady! You can hover over the link before you click to see the landing page URL and make sure it’s legit!