UCF Ambassadors Lead a Hiking Adventure Among Alligators in Florida’s Wilderness!
On January 21st, 2023, my co-ambassador Bianca and I ventured outside to take 15 University of Central Florida (UCF) students to the Blackbear Wilderness Area- a local outdoor space. Our primary goals entering this adventure were to give the students a great day outside, advise them on finding and planning their outings, and shed light on how many outdoor spaces are near UCF. Living in Orlando, people usually don’t consider hiking a top priority when planning their weekends because there are many other entertainment options, such as theme parks, sports venues, city life, and more. However, Orlando is often underestimated as a hub of outdoor experiences within and beyond the city boundaries.
We began the day with introductions and a safety discussion before heading to Blackbear, located just 30 minutes North of UCF in Sanford, Florida. Everyone was in great spirits for a day outside. The weather was perfect for hiking! The temperature was in the 60s and a little cloudy, not your typical day in the sunshine state. If you live in Florida, you know how rare this is! Bianca and I had to make a tough decision in November to reschedule the hike we had planned due to disruptions after the hurricane. We wanted the day to be as enjoyable as possible, which involved hiking in cooler weather, hosting at a more optimal time for students to come, and allowing the trails to recover from flooding.
Once we arrived, we discussed Leave No Trace principles and had another safety briefing. Everyone was excited to get started. While on the 7.1-mile hike, we saw birds, deer tracks, gators, and a few wild boar! Some students had never seen a gator in the wild, which added to the authentic Floridian experience. We stopped for lunch halfway through and ended our hike along St. Johns River – Florida’s longest river! The conversation never stopped: our group laughed and chatted the entire way through. That’s what Bianca and I wanted at the end of the day. We strived to give the students a sense of community through an affordable outdoor experience. We were able to educate our group on different outdoor spaces aside from Blackbear and answer any questions they had about future trips we’ll be offering!