Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Boca Grande Trail

A drive across Boca Grande Causeway (toll $4 in 2009) gets you to Gasparilla Island. The Boca Grande Trail runs the entire 6.5 miles of the island following the right-of-way of the old Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railway. The trail north of the town is shrouded in places by vegetation as seen below, but unfortunately, you rarely see the water...

... though the road is always visible 30 feet away. South of town, the trail turns and parallels another street, running right alongside it. Be aware that golf carts are allowed to use the trail with you...

The trail is the first paved rail in Florida (dedicated in 1981) and takes you past stately homes, retail shops, lush vegetation, and swaying palms, over flat terrain. At the southern end of the trail is the Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum, pictured below. You can see from the flags that wind can be a factor as you bike here.

Boca Grande means "Big Mouth" in Spanish and refers to the wide mouth of the waterway, Boca Grande Pass, at the southern tip of the island. The waters of the pass are naturally deep so the pass was used as a busy shipping point for many years. Their emerald green color invites you to jump in, but only do so from the white sand of the swimming beaches because the turbulent wates at the "pass" will sweep you away.

Hurricane Charley hit Boca Grande heavily on August 13, 2004, causing some 20 billion US dollars' worth of damage to Southwest Florida. There were no deaths or injuries on the island, but many buildings were damaged and most of the banyan trees were heavily damaged. We saw no evidence of damage in 2009.

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