I met the consummately-cheerful El Prez via social media outreach during my travels for this public lands project. He and Jess ‘Swamp Ape’ Karcher of the now-disbanded Florida Hiking Syndicate spent 2.5 days showing me some of the best southeast Florida has to offer, including an introduction to swamps, local museums, the smallest post office in the country, and my first time eating alligator! I was overwhelmed by their generosity and support for the Project. It was fantastic to spend time in Big Cypress National Preserve, hike the first few miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail (which El Prez spends considerable time and effort maintaining), and chase sunsets in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park with them!

Name / Trail Name: Ralph ‘El Prez’ Duharte

What’s your primary activity on public lands? Backpacking and trail maintenance. I’m the Trail Coordinator for the Big Cypress chapter of the Florida Trail Association. Our chapter maintains the first 20 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail.

What do you do when you’re not out working or playing on the Florida Trail? I’m full-time hiker trash. LOL 

Why is Big Cypress special to you? I love the remoteness of Big Cypress. When you’re in the middle of Big Cypress National Preserve, there are no distractions. It’s about as far as you can get from cities, roads, and people. I live in Miami, next to a major highway and close to the airport. Big Cypress is the complete opposite.

How did you first learn of Big Cypress? I grew up in Miami, so we always drove through Big Cypress when traveling to the west coast. But I didn’t start exploring in Big Cypress until I heard about the Florida National Scenic Trail.

Any other favorite spots you recommend? I started hiking and exploring in Everglades National Park, so that will always be a special place for me. Ocala National Forest is another favorite. It has great hiking trails, paddling, and campgrounds. And I’ve never been disappointed by any of Florida’s natural springs.