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Worst mtb trail in Central Florida? Snakes, spiders, sugar sand & ticks.

Friday, September 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

September
23
2011
"Bike on a Beach" shot..., um, I mean "Bike on a Trail" shot for September 22, 2011. Deep sugar sand covered 90% of the so-called "bike" trails.

"Bike on a Beach" shot..., um, I mean "Bike on a Trail" shot for September 22, 2011. Deep sugar sand covered 90% of the so-called "bike" trails.

Yesterday I was in the mood to check out some new trails, so I decided to head over to Rock Springs Run State Reserve. Rock Springs Run State Reserve is a 14,000 acre state park located in Sorrento, Florida. I knew there were mountain biking trails there, but the reviews of the biking trails were pretty bad. Still, I thought it would be fun to check them out myself, get a good workout in and maybe get some nice pictures.

When I arrived I expected to find a ranger station to gain entrance to the park. What I found instead was a small unmanned kiosk where you are to take an envelope, separate the rear view mirror parking hanger from it, place $3.00 in the envelope and deposit the envelope into a locked, metal cylinder. I have a pass that allows me free entrance to all Florida State Parks, so I just wrote my pass number on the parking ticket and hung it from my mirror.

Golden Silk Orb Weaver. Welcome to my nightmare.

Golden Silk Orb Weaver. Welcome to my nightmare.

There are three trailheads: two for hikers and bikers, and one for horseback riders. I rode past all three trailheads and there was not a single soul there: the place was absolutely deserted.

I decided to start from trailhead #1 which, based on the trail map, had the most red blaze (biking) trails. The first part of the trail was probably at one time decent singletrack, but it was badly overgrown and not at all maintained. I got 10 feet in and ate my first giant spider web. The very large Golden Silk Orb Weaver spiders are something I’ve grown (mostly) used to, as they love to build their webs right across trails–usually at face level. No matter how many times I hit Orb Weaver webs I don’t think I’ll ever become comfortable with giant arachnids crawling on my face… and that’s exactly where this first one was. I was trying to flick it off me when I hit another one. I looked down and this one was crawling up my chest toward my face.

Enough was enough. I stopped my bike and shooed the spider crawling up my chest off of me. I wasn’t sure where the spider on my face had gone, so I took my helmet off. There she was, sitting inside my helmet. I’m pretty she was laughing. I shook her out, wished her a good day and set off again…

Less than 30 seconds later I ate another web. I looked to my left and saw the biggest orb weaver I’ve ever seen in my life sitting on my shoulder. I was still processing this information when I ran through yet another web. *shudder*

I saw back bear tracks everywhere, but did not see an actual bear.

I saw back bear tracks everywhere, but did not see an actual bear.

The singletrack (if you can call it that) portion of the bike trail was not all that long, and when I emerged from spider kingdom the trail became wide open and very sandy (see the Bike on a Trail shot). I was not in the greatest of moods at this point, but I decided I was going to make the best of it and use the sugar sand to get a great cardio workout in.

As I plowed through the endless sugar sand, I noticed that there were black bear tracks everywhere! I forgot about the spiders and became very excited about the possibility of spotting my very first black bear. Unfortunately I never did see one…

Adding to the remote and desolate feeling of this place was that there were no signs of human life anywhere. I did not spot a single human footprint or bike track anywhere during my entire 14 mile ride.

Meet the Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake. These snakes are poisonous, very aggressive and they just so happen to love sunning themselves on the bike trails. They certainly added an element of "fun" to my ride.

Meet the Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake. These snakes are poisonous, very aggressive and they just so happen to love sunning themselves on the bike trails. They certainly added an element of "fun" to my ride.

What I did see, however, were plenty of pit vipers; Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnakes, to be precise. These poisonous and aggressive snakes were sunning themselves all along the trail. Most of them slithered out of the way as I approached, but a few of them reared up and stood their ground!

Completely alone and surrounded by snakes, spiders, fireants and bears, I continued to churn through the miles of sugar sand while pondering how I accidentally took the exit to Hell.

Something else that added to the unsettling feeling out there was I did not see any deer, birds or butterflies. It was as if everything pleasant in nature ran far, far away from this place.

A pair of Sandnhill cranes was a welcome sight.

A pair of Sandnhill cranes was a welcome sight.

When I got back to my truck I was happy with the workout, but that’s about it. I picked a couple of super-ticks off my legs that, apparently, were immune to DEET, and climbed into my truck. It was then that I saw a pair of beautiful Sandhill cranes–no doubt attempting to escape hellforest.

I was surprised that the Sandhill cranes allowed me to get so close, but then I realized that considering where they lived I was probably the least threatening thing they’d ever come across.

Well, needless to say I won’t be returning to the Rock Springs Run State Reserve.

Even hikers would be hard-pressed to enjoy this place. The trails through the trees are overgrown and poorly maintained, and the rest of the trails run through nasty looking scrub with no relief from the sun.

Sandhill crane closeup.

Sandhill crane closeup.

I suppose if I’d seen a bear it would have made the trip much more exciting and perhaps changed the overall tone of this blog. Well, at least I can say I’ve been there now–and I did get a great workout out of it!

Today I’ll return to the relative safety of my home gym. It’s back day! 🙂

Also, don’t forget that AtLarge Nutrition is running a 15% off sale on their entire line of supplements. Details here.

Happy Friday everyone!

John Stone Fitness Comments

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