Withlacoochee State Trail

This Saturday, the Withlacoochee Trail was alive with cyclists, skaters, and walkers (of all speeds). Quite a nice day resulted from a gentle tug of war between the prevailing ENE wind and a on and off again WSW seabreeze. Just enough cloud cover to hold off the day's high temperature until well after the noon hour provided yet another perfect morning for folks to get out and enjoy the trail.

Sandra and I carpooled from High Springs and were joined by Mark (now a local), Steve from Dover, Phil from Leesburg, and Jerry & Mary from Lakeland. After a little test ride and some obligatory gearhead talk, we headed south on four trikes and three two-wheeled 'bents. As is often the case, on the Withlacoochee Trail, we encountered many other recumbent riders including several trikes.

We made it as far south as Townsend Park and stood down for a rest stop before heading back up to Inverness to wrap up a neat little 30 mile ride. Since Sandra and I had to sort of hurry back, we parted company with some of the group earlier on and Steve and Phil stopped in to visit Regis at Hampton's Edge.

Trail Condition: Excellent
Facilities: Excellent

Nature Coast Trail

Leaping Sturgeon! The Suwannee River's slow current and glassy surface was interrupted frequently this early morning with the sights and sounds of large sturgeon jumping out of the quiet water and splashing back in again. We looked on from the old railroad bridge near Old Town on the Nature Coast Trail. Trail managers, Florida's Office of Greenways & Trails, had commissioned John Moran to photograph bicyclists enjoying the trail and we had happily volunteered as sublects, so we all gathered on the bridge and enjoyed a completely different approach to riding for a little while.

After the photo shoot, we re-organized at Old Town and decided on a ride down to Chiefland and back to Fanning Springs. A cool breeze faced us as we rode through a tunnel of shade to our destination and enjoyed drought spiting wildflowers reminding us it is still Spring. We were welcomed at the trailhead in Chiefland by Tom with the Office of Greenways & Trails as he personally unlocked the facilities for us.

The perfect ending to a day on the Nature Coast Trail was a visit to Petrello's at the Old Boarding House in Trenton for fine Italian cuisine and more visiting with friends.

A few photos are in the gallery.

Reminder: Don't forget to plan on joining us for the National Trails Day ride on the Nature Coast Trail on June 9th. It's on our ride calendar!

Trail condition - Excellent
Facilities - Excellent

Silver Comet - Northwestern Georgia

From our camping nest atop Cheaha Mountain in Alabama, we drove through Piedmont, AL and along the section of the Chief Ladiga Trail that remains unpaved over to Cedartown, GA. Construction has already begun to finish this project. Shortly after entering Georgia, the fresh concrete of the Silver Comet Trail could be seen alongside US 278, but since we hadn't the energy to ride the entire trail, we stuck to our plan to pick it up in Rockmart, GA and pedal east up through Bushy Mountain Tunnel.

Rockmart is a comfortable little town with an atmosphere that takes you back in time. Finding the trail in Rockmart isn't at all difficult as signage appears readily and pulls you in to the center of town along Euharlee Creek and a beautiful park setting. Just before setting out, we made note of Frankie's Italian Restaurant (about which we had been told) to confirm we must be in the right place.

Folks we had met earlier also informed us that the Silver Comet was a concrete trail. To me, this meant I was in for a faster ride, but I had read complaints of it being rougher than asphalt. Once riding on the surface, it all became clear. The concrete was coarsely brushed, which I suspect was done to enhance drainage and provide a more secure year-round surface, though the end result was a little rough feeling.

Scenery was wonderful, heavily forested and lots of elevation change alongside the trail. So, while the trail made gradual slopes the surroundings changed drastically from excavated, rock channel to deep ravines on either side. It could have just been that day, but we couldn't help but notice how many more motors we heard. There seemed to be lots of "industry" off in the acoustic distance and the maintenance crew was on site running a half dozen riding lawn mowers along the trail. While there were birds here and there and lots of bird houses to be seen, this trail came up short on wildlife sightings for us.

Riding through Bushy Mountain Tunnel was a bit of a treat, since we don't have things like that in Florida and it was also nice and cool in the shade inside. After crossing the trestle, we turned around to head back for lunch.

If your Silver Comet plans include nothing else, they should include a visit to Frankie's Italian Restaurant. The Talapia Salad and Talapia Parmasean were outstanding!!

Photos are in the gallery.

Trail condition - Excellent
Facilities - Excellent
Vista - Beautiful!

Chief Ladiga - Northeastern Alabama

Deanne and I began our Chief Ladiga experience at the Woodland Park trailhead at the southwestern end just outside Weaver, AL, home of the Bobcats. Without seeing a bobcat, we started our ride on a clear, mild morning and right away found ourselves immersed in sensory overload. Olfactory, aural, and visual were pegged with Sweet Jasmine, birdsong and sightings, and forrested canopy.

I imagine there could have been as much as a couple hundred feet change in elevation spread over the length of the trail, but the slow, gentle gradient kept the hint of a hill comfortably secret. There was so much natural beauty to consume that it was difficult to notice such things as the relatively narrow pavement compared to many other trails.

The people we encountered on the trail were quite friendly and readily engaged in interested conversation, of course it could have been because we were the only recumbent riders out this fine Tuesday. Germania Springs, in Jacksonville, made an ideal rest spot for us, both coming and going. The peaceful little park with sports and picnic facilities seemed to offer something for everyone, birds and chipmunks
alike. Lounging on the grassy banks of the crystal clear stream had a real story book feel.

Riding high on a carefully banked railbed with a shear drop on either side down to a rock creek gives one the feeling of flying through the upper trunks of very tall trees that let light fracture its way to the trail's surface.

East of Piedmont, the trail is exposed to longer views of the surrounding hills including Duggar Mountain, then begins a climb in that direction carved through some rock face alongside Terrapin Creek. The pavement ended at, and cyclists rested on, the bridge over this waterway, where we visited, looked longingly eastward at the gravel double track disappearing up the slope, and talked of the Silver Comet which picks up this trail's scent in Georgia and takes the traveler on to Smyrna.

On the advice of wise locals met on Terrapin Creek, we stopped in at the Solid Rock Cafe, just two blocks off the trail in the center of Piedmont, for lunch and enjoyed chicken salad croissant, potato soup, and a painfully delicious peach smoothie!

We hadn't really thought of completing the entire paved portion nor of having such a terrific lunch, but were nonetheless very well served by the coincident tailwind that helped us back to Germania Springs and then to the beginning. At 49 miles round trip, this was certainly one of our longer outings. Photos are in the gallery.

Trail condition - Excellent
Facilities - Excellent
Vista - Gorgeous!