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37.71 mile bike ride to Big Tree park: stories and pictures (video to come!)

Monday, November 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

November
30
2009
38 mile bike ride to Big Tree Park

38 mile bike ride to Big Tree Park

Yesterday was awesome! The weather was perfect, and Lisa and I set off on our longest and most exciting bike adventure yet – almost 38 miles! We started off at the Prado trailhead on the Seminole-Wekiva trail, which is where we normally start that trail, but we did not complete the entire trail – we had other plans! At around the 9.5 mile mark there is a magnificent pedestrian overpass that connects the Seminole-Wekiva trail over Interstate 4 to the Cross Seminole trail system. We took the overpass, and then rode south along the Cross-Seminole trail all the way to Big Tree State Park. The round trip was 37.71 miles – a new distance record for us!

Some of the Cross-Seminole trail we rode was quite beautiful, but most of it ran along busy roads and through industrial areas. One section was covered in graffiti and ran behind what looked to be a pretty rough area of town.

The Senator

The Senator

Once we got to Big Tree Park we rode along a boardwalk into the woods so we could take a look at the famous “Big Tree” (also known as “The Senator”). Big Tree is a 125-foot tall Bald Cypress that is believed to be around 3,500 years old. It’s the largest and oldest Bald Cypress in the United States, and the biggest tree of any species east of the Mississippi. It was quite a sight!

There is a paved trail system at Big Tree park. Even though we still had a 16 or 17 mile ride back to our car, we just had to go explore this new trail a bit. I’m glad that we did, as the trail was absolutely beautiful! Everything is very well maintained and there are no cross-streets to deal with. We really enjoyed taking in all the incredible natural sights as we pedaled down the winding trail.

Right before we set off on the Big Tree Park trail system we met a couple at Big Tree park. I asked them about off-road trails, which I had previously been told existed. They told me there were only paved trails at Big Tree. Well, that was not correct… We were about 1.25 miles along the paved trail when I saw what was obviously a bike trail into the woods! I didn’t even hesitate, and took off down the trail. I was cruising along the very narrow trail when, not too deep into it, there was a sharp turn, I hit the brakes and made the turn (barely). I looked to my left and was about a half-foot from a ~12 foot drop into a shallow creek. Lisa had not followed me into the trail, and I had no idea where it went or how far it went. I decided to head back to see if she wanted to explore it with me, or if we should just come back another time. I started riding back when another rider appeared coming right at me. We missed each other, but he crashed into the woods. I felt so bad. I started apologizing up and down, especially once he told me that it was a one way trail. There were no signs indicating this, but I still felt like an idiot. The trail was so narrow it should have been obvious to me that it was one-way. I think I said “sorry!” about 10 times.

Tortoise

Tortoise

I have about three hours of HD footage to edit down (including the entire off-road incident I just mentioned), and will post it as soon as I have it done. There’s some pretty good stuff in there, including quite a few people laughing at my helmet cam. It became sort of a joke as I rode by a group of people and then I’d hear Lisa cracking up as she got to see the “WTF?!” reactions on people’s face. We started amusing ourselves by fabricating stories about why I was wearing the cam. Thanks to the excellent wind noise reduction of the GoPro, I have footage of that, too.

Oh, on the way back we saw a large tortoise eating alongside the trail. I stopped to take a picture when I noticed that there were perhaps a dozen large holes spaced out along the embankment. They were tortoise homes! I peered into a few of the holes and saw tortoise in each one. I thought it was pretty cool.

So much more happened, but I need to sign off now. I’ll work on the video as soon as I have time and get it posted.

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