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Tracking history

By Times Staff Writer
Published March 17, 2006

[Photos: Carlton Ward Jr.]
Monday, Feb. 20, near Ona: Morning fog lingers over the Bar Crescent S Ranch, owned by Duck Smith. The ranch is so big, riders enjoyed nearly an entire day without crossing a paved road.

  Related story:
Photo essay
A home for the range
With development consuming more and more Florida ranch land, the Adams Ranch stands as a model for how to preserve nature - and a way of life.

Each February, an intrepid group of horses and people make a weeklong ride across Florida. They follow the Cracker Trail, a route forged by cattle drivers who some say got their nickname from the cracking sounds their whips made as they herded the animals. The tour starts near Bradenton and ends about 120 miles east, at the beach near Fort Pierce. There are times - especially when they're on private ranchland - when riders feel like they've gone back in time a century or so. But over the course of a week traveling an increasingly urban state, the 21st century will intrude. The biggest group yet - 154 riders - started this year's tour, the 19th annual trek, with some staying all the way through, some dropping out, others leaving and returning. Photographer Carlton Ward Jr. joined the Florida Cracker Trail Association for the first two days and the final two days of this year's ride, which concluded on the final Saturday in February. Here are a few of the images he captured.

[Last modified March 16, 2006, 11:42:54]

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