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Mountain Bike! Florida
by Steve Jones (Menasha Ridge Press)
Located one to two miles away from the Gulf of Mexico, these roads command ground (or better said, sand) 35 feet above sea level on the 15,000 acres of Point Washington State Forest. The trail winds through marshes behind long, white knuckles of dunes rising along the Gulf of Mexico. As it gets closer to Eastern Lake, Gulf waters gleam through the broken row of trees on the horizon. Herons -- great, blue, Louisiana, and green-backed -- swoop over grasses growing along small creeks. Raccoons knock dry stalks and leaves together as they run in the marsh, sounding eerily like what my imagination suggested, at the time, was an alligator.
This trail was alot of fun. Difficult to find your way though. Lose sand made it hard to maneuver through at times, but overall, it was a fun and nature-filled ride!
If you take the 10 mile loop be prepared. This was a grueling trail for my wife. We had to push our bikes thru sand for about 2 miles at the end of the trail going counter clockwise. Start early as it took us 4 hours. The heat was taking its toll on my wife so there were lots of rest breaks. The trail is real rough in spots. Seen a couple of deer. I would do the trail again but my wife would not. Take extra water and something for energy. Temp was about 95.
Took one hour and fifteen min. to do orange plus some which was about 11.4 miles. If you go clockwise, you will hit the loose sand early which is on less than 10% of the trail. I did the ride the day after a rain so the sand might have been compacted a little. Only and to stand up a pump 2-3 times and used brakes twice. Exposed to the sun about 80% of the time. A couple of water/mud holes along the way.
Well, I have mixed feelings about this trail. The woods and wildlife are awesome, but the trail itself is tough on the bike. The sand/salt really chews up the chain, rims, derailleurs -- basically anything that moves.
The easiest way in is to take 395, which runs between HWY 98 and HWY 30A (near Seaside and Seagrove) and enter the trail on the east side of 395. The trailhead is about halfway in between 98 and 30A. From there, you have three loops that you can pick three routes: a ~3 miler, a ~5 miler, and a 10 miler. These trails are easy and open, much of it is on the service roads (hard pan, sand). The offroad trails are covered with mulch and loose sand and gravel -- some places are hard to traverse unless it has just rained. The long loop takes you by the Eastern Lake, and is scenic to ride. All of it is quite flat. I took my ten year old on the 5 mile loop and he didn't have too much trouble navigating it. I would advise early morning during the summer. Late afternoon is not bad, but the mosquitoes come out in droves in the evening.
This is a loop trail with a maximum possible length of ten miles. It is open to both hikers and bikers.
I have hiked this trail many times as a day hike. Starting in a counterclockwise direction, it meanders through a low pine forest before crossing the headwaters (a small bog) of Peach Creek. After climbing a long sand dune on a stretch of forest road it begins a gentle descent towards Western Lake. There is a small rustic picnic area at Wester Lake that was built by volunteers. It then proceeds eastward for a mile or so on basically flat ground. It then turns northward and climbs into open Pine forest and grassland for several miles before again descending, this time into Peach Creek. We have eaten lunch while sittingon the bridge across Peach Creek many times. From Peach Creek the trail begins a gradual circle to the west through Pine woods and grasslands until it arrives back at the trailhead.
There are several points along the way where a hiker or biker can cut across the circle to make smaller loops of various sizes.
Sites include deer, hawks, Osprey, vultures and ducks. Wildlife is becoming more abundant in recent years.
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