Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bushnell, FL - Van Fleet Trail

It's only 795 miles to Richmond, VA via this old rail line. The General James A. Van Fleet Trail is a Rail-to-Trail, and has to be one of the most remote biking trails in Florida. It runs 29.2 miles from the town of Mabel to Polk City. It is paved, extremely flat, and extremely straight. You could see the path ahead of you as far as your eyes could see. The only houses we saw (on the 15-mile section we biked) were near Mabel, the northernmost trailhead, and near the Bay Lake Road, another trailhead. Otherwise you are riding past fields, forests, tree farms, marshes and swamp. Hunting is allowed in the area, as it is part of a Wildlife Management Area, so pay attention to your seasons. The trail cuts through the Green Swamp Conservation Area.

We started in Mabel and headed south. If you are trying to find the Mabel trailhead from Bushnell (like us) note that the Trailhead is just west of 469. We had a 50/50 chance of guessing which way to turn, and, yep, we turned east at first. It seemed like such a fall day, except that it was a little warm (80's). There were crunchy leaves on the path, and a blustery wind. Some of the trees were changing colors. The most dangerous aspect of pedaling this path was dodging the butterflies, erratic dragonflies, and swirling leaves. Birds were chirping and fluttering back and forth. We saw lots of gopher tortoises perched at the holes of their sandy burrows. But my best surprise of the day was when I heard some rustling in the bushes on the edge of the path. I figured it would be a tortoise or an armadillo, the ususal critters, but instead I saw this little round, black face. By the time I stopped and turned around this wet river otter had gotten almost onto the trail, he saw me watching him, twirled around and was gone. And here I had been searching for a river otter in the rivers while kayaking - never expecting to see one on a bike trail! Wow. Unfortunately for Andy, he was about a mile ahead of me trying to get exercise out of this ride...whereas I always ride looking around at the scenery.

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