Blazing the Trail for Equitable Outdoor Education
Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) and the Loxahatchee Chapter of the Florida Trail Association (FTA) have teamed up to offer the Hike2O Challenge, a one-of-a-kind outdoor adventure on Florida backcountry trails. Designed to accommodate any level of hiking experience from new hiker to thru-hiker, any outdoor enthusiast and supporter of outdoor education can participate in the Challenge. The best part? Proceeds from the challenge support connecting children to their local waterways.
Over the March 4-6, 2022 weekend, participants will be challenged to hike 32-miles or less on any local trail to support aquatic education outreach to underserved communities and promote environmental stewardship of aquatic resources. Organized group Hike2O Challenge events can be found at marinelife.org/hike, including our flagship Challenge event on the Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail that traverses through seven iconic South Florida ecosystems. It is on this trail that hikers can plan to see Florida’s diverse native wildlife (including river otters and bald eagles), learn essential (and downright awesome) backcountry camping skills from event leaders, laugh too hard and build community with each other under a shared purpose.
Why We Hike
Water is the lifeblood of our planet and it can be found in every one of us. From alpine lakes to the ocean, we are all connected and dependent on healthy waters for our own health, well-being and future. Hands on experiences in water such as swimming, snorkeling, paddling and fishing are some of the most powerful ways through which children learn about their connection to water and its importance in their lives.
Research also shows that time spent in nature provides us with physical and psychological benefits as well as dramatically increases the likelihood of future conservation action. If you ask an outdoor enthusiast what inspired them to fall in love with nature, chances are you’ll hear something about an experience in the outdoors and not about an excerpt from a textbook.
However, there are many children and families to which nature – particularly getting in and on the water – is not easily accessible due to geographic location, socioeconomic impacts and dispositional barriers.
So, we set out on a mission to challenge individuals to help hike it forward.
The Hike2O Challenge supports our Oceans of Opportunity initiative, a multifaceted program that brings aquatic education and experiences with water to underserved communities and underrepresented groups in the outdoors. From scholarships to critical support services such as transportation and equipment, Oceans of Opportunity offers equitable opportunities for children and their families to learn and explore alongside marine scientists, naturalists and environmental educators in, on and around the water.
Since its inception in 2019, the Hike2O Challenge has connected 6,000 students to their local waterways and aquatic education. Organizations and groups supported by Oceans of Opportunity include Title I schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, centers for Autism, LGBTQ+ community centers, and the Deaf & Hard of Hearing community.
How it Works
There are four ways to participate in the Annual Hike2O Challenge:
3-Day Hike2O Challenger: Spend 3 days/2 nights on the Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail with LMC & FTA guides. The group begins on either the east trailhead and over three days, the two groups hike towards the middle of the trail and connect back together on Sunday afternoon.
Hikers are responsible for their own hiking gear and provisions. Any registrant can share a personal fundraiser on social media.
- 1-Day Hike2O Challenger: Registrants are encouraged to hike any mileage across the Hike2O event weekend on any trail. Satellite virtual events are held across the state, hosted by Florida Trail Association chapters. Any registrant can share a personal fundraiser on social media.
- Individual Supporter/Trail Angel: Anyone can donate to a hiker’s individual fundraiser or to the Hike2O fundraiser itself through the Hike2O event page.
- Challenge Sponsor: Businesses or individuals can sponsor the event at various levels. Sponsors are recognized on the registration page and through other media outlets as outlined in the sponsorship packet.
For more information on the Hike2O Challenge, virtual and in-person information sessions are available in January 2022. Register for an information session here: https://forms.gle/Y6DqYYDjFWejmhbC8