Saturday, March 22, 2014

Biking Florida's Spring to Spring Trail

This trail is also called the Lake Monroe-Gemini Springs-DeBary Hall Trail because it connects these three areas with a 5 mile trail. We began at Lake Monroe Park off Highway 17 just north of I-4. This park has no entrance fee and is mainly popular for its small campground and two boat launches. Drive past the launches and you'll find parking by the bike trail, along with picnic tables, washrooms, and a water fountain. First you'll bike on a lovely and lengthy boardwalk through a swampy section...

...and the rest of the ride provides magnificent scenery as shown in the two photos below.

Here's the trail map (click to enlarge.)  Lake Monroe Park Trailhead is at the bottom, and there is also parking at the northwest corner of Gemini Springs Park which is located east of Highway 17 (Charles Beall Blvd.) on Florida Route 4162 (also called Dirksen Drive.)  The trail then continues east and north along Dirksen and then along Mansion Blvd. to DeBary Hall.

If 5 miles (10 mies round trip) is too short for you, as it is for me, then do it twice!  It's very scenic and is far from boring, even the second time around!

From the website:

 When complete, the Spring-to-Spring Trail will stretch 26 miles from Gemini Springs Park to DeLeon Springs State Park. It is being designed to accommodate walkers, joggers, inline skaters, bicyclists and people with disabilities. To date, Volusia County has completed several segments of the trail totaling nearly 15 miles. In addition, five trailheads have been built for your convenience at DeBary Hall Historic Site, Gemini Springs Park, Lake Monroe Park, Lake Beresford Park, Blue Spring State Park and along Grand Avenue in Glenwood.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Biking Florida's Withlacoochee Bay Trail

The Withlacoochee Bay Trail extends east from the Gulf for nearly 7 miles.  The trail is immediately south of the Highway 19/98 overpass at the Old Cross Florida Barge Canal.  A paved road runs alongside the east side of 19/98.  A right turn takes you to Felburn Park which has plenty of parking, washrooms, picnic tables, and more.  An alternative is to park at the Florida Wildlife Office lot at the end of that paved road.  This trail is the western terminus of the Carr Cross Florida Greenway.

The 12 foot wide paved trail parallels the canal on its south side for 7 miles and an equestrian trail is also nearby with access to 11 miles of riding trails.   The trail is in good condition and mostly flat, though there are some minimal ups and downs.  the western-most couple of miles run through maritime hammocks and along salt marshes.  It runs about 5 miles west to the Gulf, and the trail also extends east another mile and a half or so before ending east of Felburn Park.

 Rest stops are frequent and quite elaborate as seen below...

A marvelous view of the Gulf awaits you at the end.  

This osprey and its mate in the nearby nest patiently waited as I took their photos in the parking lot...

Miles of old logging roads offer hikers and mountain bikers more miles of wooded trails.

The Withlacoochee Bay Trail is located at US 19/98 at the old Cross Florida Barge Canal, approximately 12 miles north of Crystal River and 0.5 mile south of Inglis. Turn east at the south end of the bridge and proceed north on the frontage road to the road to Felburn Park trailhead parking.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Biking in Florida

I've biked about 270 miles since arriving in Florida 13 days ago, all on trails such as Gainesville-Hawthorne, West Orange, Lake Mineola, Flatwoods Wilderness, Starkey Wilderness, Suncoast, Legacy, Auburndale, Van Fleet, and Withlocoochee Trails, the latter two trails more than once.  The Withlacoochee is Florida's longest trail at 46 miles, and the Van Fleet runs for 29 miles, and here are a few of the sights i've enjoyed along them theislast week...

Here's the lovely Withlacoochee River where it parallels the trail around Brooksville...

I watched 4 wood storks along the Van Fleet near the south end...

About six tortoises were out sunning themselves as I biked the Van Fleet...

The Van Fleet on the south end passes this llama farm...

Henderson Lake along the Withlacoochee in Inverness, Florida...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Biking Florida's TECO Auburndale Trail

The TECO Auburndale Trail's northern end begins in the trailhead lot for the Van Fleet State Trail in Polk City alongside State Highway 33. The first mile or so is tree lined and parallels Berkeley Road and passes under I-4. The trailhead sign calls the trail "Van Fleet Extension" and in fact the first couple miles are a paved connector leading to the actual Auburndale Trail, and then at the 2 mile mark, the trail signs announce the Auburndale Trail.

The "TECO" part of the name refers to the Tampa Electric Company whose high tension wires run above you from mile 2 to mile 5.5 as seen in the photo below.  The trail is paved, mainly flat, and in good repair.  Swinging gates at every road crossing are open but for some reason allow for the trail to be closed off and locked. From here south, rest benches and mileage signs are spaced every half mile.

Around mile 5.5 you reach a small trailside park with the Playland Fitness Course structures for your use.  There are also several blue water spigots available.

At mile 6 you reach Lake Myrtle Park with its numerous lighted baseball and softball fields, washrooms, water fountains, and tons of parking.

A fenced dog exercise park is next, and then the trail ends at mile 7 at the Lake Myrtle Trailhead  (Denton Avenue and Jones Road) with parking, washrooms, and a picnic table.

To reach the Polk City/Van Fleet Trailhead, exit I-4 at exit 38 and head north on SR 33 to Polk City.  Follow the brown signs for the Van Fleet Trail.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Morse Museum featuring Louis Tiffany's Glass Artistry

Called "the most comprehensive and most interesting collection of Tiffany anywhere," the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida, celebrates the glass artistry of Louis Comfort Tiffany, including paintings, jewelry, blown glass, leaded glass, enamels, pottery, mosaics, as well as architectural objects and art from Tiffany's Long Island estate named Laurelton Hall.

It also features the reconstruction of Tiffany's Byzantine-Romanesque chapel interior he created for Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and later installed in his Laurelton Hall estate.  It has mosaic columns, a marble altar, stained glass, carved arches, scripture above the altar as well as on the risers of the steps, and a lighted, 1000 pound chandelier in the shape of a 3 dimensional cross.  The chapel was not available to the public for over 100 years, until the Morse Museum rescued it from the remains of the burned and abandoned estate and brought it here for repair and display.

Photos are not allowed in the museum, but I found these photos online.  Here's the marvelous Tiffany Chapel...

Here is his "Christ Blessing the Evangelists..."

His estate had an outdoor patio called Daffodil Terrace, which had support columns topped with daffodil capitals made by Tiffany...

Admission is only $5 and for seniors over 60, only $4.  I highly recommend this museum!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Biking Florida's Flatwood Wilderness Park's Paved and Mountain Bike Trails

Flatwoods Wilderness Park is a 4000 acre preserve composed of seven entities administered by the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, and offers 60 mlles of forest trails for hikers, bikers, and equestrians.
I've biked the Wilderness Park trails just northeast of Tampa, Florida, six times now and highly recommend them.  Here's a map of the trails (click to enlarge photos)...

The paved loop trail runs 7 miles,  If you also bike the half mile from the Flatwoods parking area to the loop as well as the 2 mile access from the Bruce Downs parking area, you get a nice 12 mile ride on pavement.  They even have re-watering stations in several places providing cold water from coolers, very appreciated on warm days.

Today I biked 25 miles, 15 on the paved trail, and 10 miles on the single track mountain bike trails. A few years ago, I've biked the 15 mile mountain bike loop, but generally I bike  the paved trail to reach my favorite mountain bike segments.

. The trails are in good shape with very little accumulation of "sugar sand" (a white sand often found in Florida) to impair your ride on the trail, unlike other places I've biked in Florida.  Be aware, though, that roots are abundant, and there are many tight turns and some places where the trail passes through narrow openings between trees, all of which make for a stimulating ride!  Just keep your concentration level on high mode and take your time.

Though there were a number of other bikers on the paved trail, including a number of road bikers on speed runs, I only saw 1 other biker on the dirt trails.  The paved trail is very wide, about the width of a 2 lane road, so there is plenty of room for the faster bikers to safely pass others. The mountain bike loop trail is well marked with white numbered posts and directional arrows directing to the next white post. Maps are available at the Flatwoods parking area/ranger station.

Official Florida website (including map)

Biking the mountain bike trails

Biking the paved trail loop

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Finally Back to Biking!

It's been the worst winter in decades in Chicagoland, and it seemed like forever before I left to make my annual escape to Florida, stopping in Louisville to visit family and get in a quick ride on the Loop Trail which now includes a ride up onto and over the old bridge over the Ohio River...

Then on to Tennessee to visit more family and a quick ride on the short but interesting Erwin Linear Trail...

Then to Gainesville, Florida where I met my cousin from Louisville and we biked 28 miles on the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail...

And then to Orlando where we met again and biked 27 miles on the West Orange/Lake Mineola Trails...

...and enjoyed these Sandhill cranes having lunch.  It was a real pleasure to be biking in shorts and t-shirt again, too!

Now on to some of my other favorite Florida trails, and perhaps some new ones, too.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Biking Tennessee's Erwin Linear Trail

The Linear Trail (Erwin Greenway) runs parallel to I-26 along North Indian Creek and Nolichucky waterways in Erwin for over 4 miles. Though short, it makes for a nice break from driving and gives you exercise and scenic views.  The greenway was designed to protect and enhance the environment and provide recreation to the community. 

The area includes wooded areas, natural ponds, wetlands, and mountain views.  The trail was designed to provide recreation and protect the few remaining natural areas. Trails wander around the ponds for recreation and fishing and include instructional wetlands areas for local school programs.  Other amenities include night lighting, restrooms, benches, docks for fishing and a family-friendly atmosphere. I biked it on a chilly early March Sunday and found many families on the trail, with children of all ages. About halfway you'll reach this park with washrooms available. 

Rest benches are scattered along the trail, which is lit with lamp posts.  Magnificent views of the mountains adorn the trail.  Mileage markers let you know where you are on the trail. The trail is paved, though frost and root heaves occur regularly.  The northern end has a few small hills and the southern end passes some light industry.

Parking is available at three places, all with exits off I-26:  Main Street (exit 36) on the north (turn right across from McDonalds to park) ;   Exit 37 -- 2nd Street/SR 102 in the middle;   and Red Bank Road (Exit 40) on the south (turn left into the Riverview industrial area.)