An adventuresome spirit, Sandra Friend is best known for being Florida’s hiking expert, tackling everything from swamps to sand dunes along more than 5,000 miles of Florida trails. Over the past 15 years, she’s authored 27 books and more than 300 articles.
Sandra often slips out of the Sunshine State to enjoy other outdoor adventures, like chasing rhinos on elephant-back in Nepal and tossing around in a small boat to face one of the world’s largest glaciers in Patagonia.
Currently serving as the Freelance Council chair for the Society of American Travel Writers, she lives near Orlando and is the owner / manager of FloridaHikes.com. Joining Karen Berger as an editor for Buckettripper.com, Sandra has several decades of experience as an editor for magazines and books.
Questions for Sandra
What prompted you to become a travel writer?
Call it more than a touch of wanderlust in my blood. When I was growing up, my family roamed up and down the East Coast in our station wagon packed with kids search of adventure, and we did it on the cheap – which meant a lot of outdoor activities. Years later, I learned through the genealogists of the family that one of my great-grandfathers was a mariner who sailed around both Capes, one great-grandmother descended from Sami reindeer herders, and Henry Hudson is a part of my bloodline. No wonder I can’t stay still! Add to that a love of writing since I was old enough to pick up a pen – I wrote and illustrated my first book at age 8 – and the two are a magical combination.
What’s your favorite adventure?
Heading into India and Nepal for six weeks with no plan except to get there and experience it. I did the trip in 1999 with my younger sister Sally after our sister Susan died of cancer, and we did it entirely without any plan other than to show up and go places we thought Susan would have liked to see. Both exhilarating and terrifying at times, it was a trip of a lifetime.
What don’t-miss destination do you recommend to your readers?
The world is full of truly fascinating places, so it’s hard to pick just one. It depends on your interests. For anyone who loves America’s national parks, Bryce Canyon should not be missed. It’s otherwordly in the strangest way. If you enjoy immersing in history, a trip to Mackinac Island should be on your bucket list. Go in the shoulder season, savor a stay at the Grand Hotel, and walk through the woods – more than 80% of the island is a state park. As a Florida gal, I love St. Augustine and Apalachicola for their history, too.
What’s still on your bucket list?
Plenty! I dusted it off before we started this website and was pleased to see how much I’d checked off in the past decade, but the list keeps growing! One of the biggest items on the list was a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, something I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid growing up within sight of the trail. After 3 months out there, my partner and I decided we’d enjoy it more in long sections, so we’ll be headed back over the next few years to finish it up as long distance section hikers.