Riders to embark on six-day trek across Florida Cracker Trail

Nearly 200 will make the 120-mile trip

The 27th annual Florida Cracker Trail Cross State Ride will depart Saturday from Manatee County. The six-day, 120-mile trip is meant to honor and bring awareness to the original Florida crackers that herded cattle across the state.

For generations, cattle kept life moving for many Floridians.

The state remains one of the nation's top cattle producers. And for the riders that will follow their path, it's a small way of keeping tradition alive.

"That was the main source of food. In the pioneer days, they had to raise those cows to survive," said Jennifer Osterling, who will lead the ride.

About 200 years ago, ranchers gathered about 1,000 cattle before heading out on the grueling months-long trek.

"In the early 1800's, all the way up until 1931, the cows were pushed across the state from Ft. Pierce to Punta Rassa, which is south of Sarasota," Osterling said.

About 200 other riders will join Osterling on the ride.

Trying to herd and move cattle more than 120 miles is next to impossible in 2014. So the riders will be taking the route back to Ft. Pierce when they hit the trail. But honoring these original Florida crackers and keeping the Cracker Trail alive has historic significance too.

"Just the everyday struggles they went through -- the heat, the bugs, making camp, were they going to be safe all night -- things like that I'm glad we don't have to deal with, but they did," said Lynn Carlson, who will be in the saddle for the ride.

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