Fort White to Ichetucknee Springs

We headed out to the Springs in search of a farewell party for Rachel, one our riders who will be leaving us. Never did find the party, but Sandra and I enjoyed a very pleasant ride through the countryside in and around greater Hildreth, Florida. We visited both the north and south entrances to the State Park and found absolutely no shortage of tubers, in cars and trucks, on foot, in trams, in line, just couldn't quite locate that one we were seeking.

On the way back into Fort White, the timing was just too perfect to pass up an opportunity to stop in at the Goose Nest for a buffet lunch. They are now selling to-go buffet orders by the pound.

After lunch, we switched horses and Sandra had a test ride on the Trice Q.

O\vo~

Flagler-Marineland at 8:00 AM

Well, actually, no. It's not really a "Rail Trail", it's more of a glorified sidewalk, but it is a nice change of pace to be able to ride along the coast, see the ocean, and breathe that fresh salt air. Many things, including people, just seem to be a little more colorful in this environment. The trip from the center of Flagler Beach up to Marineland is only 14 miles and includes three readily accessible, public restroom facilites. By far, the nicest of these is to be found at Bing's Landing where there is also a boat ramp and well shaded park.

Just across the street from Bing's there is a popular little Ice Cream/Subs Shop in case it gets too hot. We had started just early enough to be on our way past the place ten minutes before it opened, so we missed it on this trip.

Possibly as much of a third of the route is shaded and at one point in this area (near Palm Coast) there was a break in the surface today, with a very brief little detour onto the grass around the construction. Nothing near as inconvenient as the one of a couple years back, when the new Publix was under construction.

Larry, Sheila, Carol, and Shelton joined me on this excursion and it was smooth sailing all around. We even had a light sea breeze cooling us off on the return trip into Flagler Beach.

30 miles

Trail Condition: Not bad (I've seen it cleaner)
Facilities: Very Good
O\vo~

Nature Coast State Trail

Today was particularly toasty but light tailwinds seemed to come out of nowhere! Gary and I rode over to Cross City, where you simply never know what you are liable to see, and managed to get back across the Suwannee River before noon, escorted by one of these light and variable breezes.

I wanted to get this trail mapped on my Trails Guide, so we split up (Lone Ranger and Tonto style) at the "delta" and I headed on southward to Chiefland for lunch. It turns out to be somewhat interesting to note that this trail, ridden from end to end to end is exactly one metric century. (100km = 62.1 mi) I am not entirely sure it is appropriate to discover this when the heat index is hovering around 100 degrees, however! At least, the smart money would have been on including a visit to Fanning Springs in the middle to cool off!

Trail Condition: Excellent!
Facilities: Trenton - open, Cross City - locked, Chiefland - open

O\vo~

Hawthorne Trail

A warm, moist morning produced visible sun rays piercing the forested hills of the Hawthorne Trail. These hills are always like a little cup of coffee to really get you charged up early in the ride and then to remind you that you aren't quite through just before you get back to Gainesville. The natural setting of this trail easily qualifies it as one of Florida's best with the lure that you can almost count on seeing wildlife as well as other folks enjoying the corridor not necessarily on wheels.

To add additional accuracy to the Trails Guide page I'm building, I went ahead a pedaled down to the overlook at Payne's Prairie only to find this youngster and her mother (click on the photo to see more).

Gary, Deanne, and I were feeling confident that we could make this trip in spite of the heat forecast for today since we had started early enough and there was a light breeze. Our usual rest stop was somewhat disappointing with a posted "Out of Order" sign deflating hopes for convenience, but we were making such good time that we merrily forged on. Just after admiring the new concrete trail section that bridges the intersection of SE 200th Terrace, we arrived in Hawthorne and met up with George Edwards' troop preparing for their return to the Rochelle trail head.

The aforementioned breeze seemed stronger as we turned to face it and it carried along with it a noticeable increase in the chance of a shower. A cotton-tailed rabbit grazed bravely on the trail right of way as we approached and turned tail just as I clicked the camera on. Our return trip seemed to be going rather smoothly, yet just as we passed George's group again, droplets became drops became full rain which changed the experience into an entirely different one.

By the time we were climbing the hammock again, the rain had stopped, but everything was wet and refreshed. The turns in this area called for a little more caution with loose debris from the hard rain the day before and water from this new shower. While we loaded up, George rang me to confirm we had seats waiting at Satchel's for pizza. That turned out to be an experience not to be missed!

32 miles

Trail Condition: Beautiful, some light forest litter
Facilities: "Out of Order", temporarily we hope
O\vo~