Archive for May, 2012

I was able to get the wife to take a leisurely ride with me today. We loaded the bikes onto the rack on her car, and we drove to the local neighboring communities of Watercolor and Seaside.

Seaside is well known in these parts for it’s role in the movie “The Truman Show” It is also known in certain circles for a more historic reason. In my job I am on occasion placed in the role of tourist information guide. I had made the mistake of telling a visiting group about Seaside’s role in the aforementioned movie. I was then given a long lecture as to the architectural importance of this community. It turns out that this town was one of the first planned neighborhood, designed to be a walking community.

One feature of this neighborhood is the many beach accesses. The town of Seaside lives up to it’s name by stretching along a few miles of the sugar white beaches of the Florida Gulf coast. It’s quiet, narrow, brick paved roads make for a very relaxing environment.

There are several gravel covered multi use paths through these little towns.

Some make use of wooden boardwalks over the wet grounds surrounding the lake.

The walking and bike paths make use of several bridges. Some criss cross back and forth across one of the thirteen coastal dune lakes of the area. Western Lake is a centerpiece of the community of Watercolor.

Some of the trails are accented by various water features. Some are tile lined concrete streams with built in waterfalls, and others are more sculpture like in nature.

We stopped for lunch by the “Boat House” where visitors and residents can rent various water craft, such as canoes, kayaks and stand up paddle boards.

We enjoyed a shady spot within a well flowered butterfly garden. We even had a visit from a hummingbird. (For some reason I didn’t take any pictures of the garden, but I did get a pleasant one of the wife…)

It made for a great day. We went home and avoided the heat, and holiday weaken crowds by hiding and watching movies. Another trip out is planned for the cool of tomorrow morning. Time will tell if it will include the bikes. A return trip to the home of these shaded brick roads and cool man made streams is in our future.

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I had been lazy. A week without a single trail ride, and I felt the need to get out there. This last week found me with a schedule of 12:30 PM to 9:00 PM, and I found my mornings a little too filled to be able to get out and enjoy them. So, I had a trail system I wanted to check out and last night I decided that I would wake up early and do just that. I set the alarm in the phone for 4:40 AM and went to sleep. 4:40 came and went, with a momentary awakening to slide the snooze button on. I think I actually got up around 5:30 AM, and was on the trail by 7:00, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I looked over the map of the trails I intended to try out.

I wanted to get a feel for a few different levels of trail. This system has the blue as beginner, green as intermediate, and red as expert. I was interested in going in from the Ranger Trailhead side, so it looked like Speed Demon, Pine Dog and Carbo were going to be the ones I’d try. I jumped in the truck, and headed off. I made a few pit stops. One for fuel, another I picked up a McGriddle meal from McDonalds (something I would regret later) and at the last stop, a few bottled beverages for hydration purposes. I made it to the trail head, and just as I got there, the storm I had noticed brewing while buying my drinks, had caught up with me. Now I’m not afraid of getting wet, but there was two things keeping me from getting out into this storm. One, the rain drops were huge. They felt like wet fists. Not just wet but cold, giant cold wet fists hitting me. Even more justifiable, was that bolt of lightning I had seen a few miles in FRONT of the storm, and continuing rumbles that were persisting while I waited for the storm to pass. Finally things cleared up, and as I said, by about 7:00 AM I was getting my tires dirty.

I had decided I’d warm up on one of the blue trails, which in this case would be Speed Demon. I started pedaling, and noticed a problem right away. While the first sign post was good, the second of the markers that should have been holding a sign, or the color coded reflector was bare. I soldiered on anyhow, figuring worst case scenario, I ended up on a equally good, but different trail.

There’s actually a pretty good amount of elevation change at the northern end of Speed Demon.

There’s a creek bed off to the left as you ride north on the wester half of this loop.

Evidently they’ve closed off at least one of the old trails.

I had made my way along, but noticed that I had seen none of the color coded reflectors that served to show which level trail you were on, as well as tell which direction you were supposed to be riding. So I turned around, and headed back the way I came.

There was some interesting red lichen on one of the trees along the way back…

I found where the trail split, and I decided to try to find my way along the red expert level trail. Here is where I started to regret my McGriddle purchase, and was wondering if my gut was about to try to return the order…

I had found the Carbo trail. This trail kicked my butt. I am far from a good rider, nor am I in particularly good shape, and I had been warned. I took my time riding this, and I still felt like I was getting whooped. Every “right” turn was an uphill climb, and every left was a combination of braking, desperate steering, and refreshing coasting.

I stopped and checked out some future “items of cultural historical interest”

This image almost gives you an idea how winding this trail is. But it still doesn’t do it justice.

Here’s one of the reflectors. Since it’s on the side of the tree that we can see, it means we’re heading the right direction.

Here is the intersection where the Carbo trail technically ends. The sign offers an extension. To the left is the Speed Demon trail, and to the right is the Pine Dogs trail.

This is the first intersection I came across while riding the extension. I think I ended up on the trail named “Quitters” but I wasn’t ready to quit yet. I took the left, and made my way back to Speed Demon trail.

I recognized the trail right away, and I decided to follow it beyond where I turned around. I completed the northern loop, and rode along the twists and turns that roughly paralleled the power lines that made the north border of the permuted bike area. I came to another intersection, and it put me on the Pine Dog trail.

This section can be a real heart breaker. You go along what seems at least a quarter mile, and then you notice there’s a trail ten feet from you, and that it is some of your back trail. This section has long serpentine loops that almost touch themselves in the middle of the segments. Sections can be a little monotonous, being what I’d guess to be a pine scrub environment, filled with sand pines. Not one of my favorite trees. But every once in a while you come across something that looks a little more interesting.

This is a sand pine corridor, leading to the end of this particular stretch of trail.

A couple of the signs that indicate the trails you were just on, or might be about to take.

I was trying to be cool, and “jump” one of the downed trees across the trail. I managed to slip my foot from the pedal, and it swung up and bit my shin.

As I left, I decided to photograph the Timberlake Trail Head signs. I’ve heard people say they’ve had a hard time finding this road, and I thought these might help.

I will certainly find myself out on these trails again. My next write up should be from the western half of the trails. I’d like to see the lake from which the trail system got it’s name. As well as checking out the campground where I’d like to stay sometime in the future.

I was very excited to get out and do some more exploring on the bike today, but then there was this…

The trouble was, it only got worse as the morning progressed. Finally it cleared up enough, that I thought it safe to go ride the rolling lightning rod…

I decided to come at a trail I found yesterday, from the other side, and this is what it looked like…

But once again, you sometimes have to stop and appreciate the little things…

When I went through this trail before, it was dry.

Climbing a mountain of sand…

Yet another natural community inside this one block of state forest…

A raised access road along a drainage ditch.

The afore mentioned ditch…

More stopping to admire the little things…

The rain really raised some of the local water levels…

This is a service road, turned river. Look at the flow of water at the top of the image…

It got deep in a few places. Sure, they’re forestry service roads, but I’m glad I don’t have to take the wildland fire truck through this…

I knew I would find some higher ground eventually, since for the half mile or more of walking/pushing the bike, that I did, the water was always flowing towards me. Well, higher ground was found!

I could put wet trails behind me, for the time being.

This was a pretty sight. It looks like some long leaf pine restoration in the works…

I found my way back to the single track. I forgot how much fun this is to ride. I might give muddy exploration a break, until things dry up some, and get back to trying to improve my riding skills.

One mile to county road 83!

I made it to the main road, and took a detour to the beach. I was able to wash the grit out of the gears using the public foot wash…

I got back onto the same single track trail, and then saw an off shoot that I had never checked out before. It had the end obstructed with a couple of dead branches, but that didn’t stop me… I almost wish it did, because it was nice at first, then it turned to this…

I followed that until it turned back into a little firmer packed boundary service road. This opened up to a little development. I followed brick pavers for a while, until I met up with this guy…

Run away little guy, run away!

He ended up getting himself a little stuck at the edge of the road where there was a drainage basin. I picked him up, and set him at the hill side that was a straight shot to the pond he was aiming for. He slid down that hill so fast, he actually ricocheted off from a tree on the way down!

I made my way through that little community, and popped out on 30-A and took advantage of the paved bike path there. I got this shot looking out from a covered bridge on said path…

Enjoying the shade and breeze under the covered bridge…

I was soon within sight of the beach again…

I ate a sandwich on the bench that they built into this little bike path bridge.

From there it was just a couple miles of easy paved trail back home. Another nearly sixteen miles of bike riding (and pushing) behind me. I certainly worked some different muscles this time, but it feels good to be getting out and about. I’m getting to see sights that are within just a few miles of my house that I never saw before. That most people around here don’t even know exist.

It feels good to be one of the few privileged ones.

So last night, I was checking out my area using the Google Maps in satellite image format. I was noticing some old trails on some state land nearby. So I decided to try to find those paths.

I started off with a quick view of the bay…

These guys seem to be everywhere…

I rode around on pavement for a while. I was disappointed because the access to the trail was at the end of a development that was a closed gate community. Fortunately there was a neighboring property for sale that had an access road to the back of the property that met up with the trail.

The area has a very nice longleaf pine stand, with a well established wire grass understory.

I saw an owl drop down from a tree about here, and swoop across the forest out of sight.

I found some interesting scrap metal deposits out there.

As well as an old building that once was screened in, next to a little pond. I’m guessing it’s a local teen drinking spot now. I found several glass bottles in the area and inside.

It’s been a while since this was used…

I saw a couple owls, and several deer. Including this one…

When I got home, I wanted to give the bike a good cleaning. Some of the mud from the other day was still caked on, and I couldn’t stand that.

So I took the wheels off to get it good and clean again. Things were going well until the wife saw I was using one of her towels…

Mud, Mud, and More Mud

Posted: May 12, 2012 in Trail Reports, Updates

I know, it’s bad for my drive train.

But it’s so much FUN!

I made my way out to look for another way to the trails I found the other day, it didn’t start off well…

I took a moment to stop and smell the flowers…

But then, there was something else that didn’t smell as well…

Then on to more open and clear trails…

This guy seemed to like all the downed trees though…

Then things began to improve. I found this nice trail through a cypress strand. Although, I might have accidentally been trespassing on private property.

It took a while, a few places where I had to push through sand, and didn’t feel like photographing my shame, but then I found some mud!

Where there’s mud around here, there’s pitcher plants…

Found some “easier to navigate” roads.

A little off the trail scenery.

Back to the trails…

With thick mud.

There were some spots without as much mud…

I wasn’t the only one playing in the mud…

Back to the mud!

I made it back “home” with only a few splatterings above my knees..

It was another great ride. I am really enjoying this bike, even if I’m abusing it a little… 😀

I bought a new bike…

A local forum member was telling me about an excellent set of local trails that I had been driving by for years, but never bothered to explore. So with previously mentioned new bike, I set off to investigate his claims.

I arrived in my trusty bicycle hauler…

As I was getting ready to pull the bike from the truck, I discovered that I had failed to bring my camelpack that I had loaded with ice earlier that morning.

I had nothing to drink, and I tend to get thirsty. So a trip to the corner store was in order.

Now, properly equipped, I could return to the trail head and remove my bike, to prepare for my ride…

I checked with the map kiosk, and picked my route. The blue trail, a little over five miles. That should be a good start.

The trail takes you through the four main natural communities of the forest, which include sandhills, flatwoods, cypress ponds and titi swamps.

At one point the camera, while mounted slipped free, and flipped upside down. On it’s way, it did manage to capture a shot of me…

With the ride completed, I decided to check out the area around the trail head parking.

I took a “beauty shot” of the bike, after the ride…

I made my return to the parking area, by way of the trail head kiosk…

I finished the trip with a side route through Panama City, and stopped for a bite to eat…

A little “nature geek” info on the property…

Pine Log State Forest Unit Management Plan

I love the outdoors. I’ve always been a bit of an outdoors person. I grew up in a small New England town, and I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by woodlands, lakes, and streams. As a child I traveled miles from home sometimes on foot, but most often on my bicycle. At the time it was just a means of transportation. I enjoyed it, but for the most part, the bike was just a tool to get me to where I wanted to go, to do what I wanted to do.

Fast forward to my late 20′s and I picked up cycling again. This time as a way to get myself in better physical shape. Lifting weights was good for building muscle, but for more my hobby at the time, hiking, it did nothing for my stamina. To me, cycling was better than running, so that’s what I chose. I went out and picked myself up a 2004 Specialized Allez triple. It was a sleek little bike, and I was putting miles under the tires all over the south eastern area of Massachusetts.

I hiked the mountains of New Hampshire as often as I could when I lived in New England.

Well, I moved from my childhood home, and found myself in Florida. Where I ended up was not as friendly to road biking as all of those sleepy New England towns. I tried it for a while, but just couldn’t get back in the roll of things. I tried walking around down here, but never really enjoyed it. My wife and I made several walks through the swamps of the Choctawhatchee River basin, and I’ve explored pretty much all of the “local” state park and it’s 1600 acres of preserve. My wife and I would do some “water hiking”, with the canoe, and then our kayaks. While I enjoyed our times together, something was missing, I just wasn’t really enjoying it like I used to.

Fast forward again. I tried walking around down here, but never really enjoyed it. My wife and I made several walks through the swamps of the Choctawhatchee River basin, and I’ve explored pretty much all of the “local” state park and it’s 1600 acres of preserve. My wife and I would do some “water hiking”, with the canoe, and then our kayaks. While I enjoyed our times together, something was missing, I just wasn’t really enjoying it like I used to. I’ve gotten married, older, and a little heavier than my youthful self. My wife had taken up walking and running. She was riding her beach cruiser bike, and logging it all on her fitness tracker using the GPS in her smart phone. She began to brag about all the miles she was logging. Sneering at me, and my growing gut as she did so. A challenge was presented, the gauntlet thrown down. I accepted.

Then enter mountain biking. I’ve found my passion again. I look forward to going out in the woods.

I started off with my yard sale special, an old Giant Sedona. I was having fun again. I was out in the woods all the time, riding alone, or with some local riders. I was enjoying it so much, I felt it was justified to put a dent in my finances, and recently I upgraded to a new bike…

I feel it’s been worth it, Take today for example, I worked my shift, and came home. I took a nap while the heat worked it’s way down to something comfortable. Up until recently, I would have just hung out around the house for the rest of the evening. But instead, I grabbed the bike, and went off exploring.

I had taken my old 26er out on some service roads in the State Forest just down the road. I had been stopped in my tracks a few times due to the soft sand. My new Trek Cobia 29er just pushed through this with ease. Sure, it was better packed from the rain yesterday, but I’d like to think that the bike had something to do with it as well.

About this point, I started to pause to take pictures. So enough with the words, and I’ll let them do the rest of the talking….

Have you ever seen the flower of a pitcher plant before?

I managed to cross though this with relative ease. I love my new 29er!

I cheated, I popped out from the woods, and took pavement home.

Along the way was one of the county beach accesses. I was able to use the foot rinse station to give my bike a bath. I then took a couple shots of the beach as a backdrop.

It was a great way to end the ride. I had another mile or two to get back to the house. All in all about a 10.5 mile trip, with half of that on previously unexplored (by me) mud filled service roads. There’s plenty more out there, some of them were visible with google earth. I’d love to get permission to put up some trail markers, and establish a loop or two out there.

Next step, buy the wife a bike, so she can join me on a few of these wheeled excursions.