Monday, January 18, 2016

Refresh on the Florida Greenway Trail

Last weekend we took a last minute trip to Florida to see Matt's family. Finding direct flights from Colorado to Florida in the winter on short notice is practically impossible, so after a long day of travel - with the extent of our exercise being walking around airports - we needed a reboot.

We had done some research before our trip to Florida last winter and found the Cross Florida Greenway Trail. The trail is part of a large network of trails throughout the state that provide access to runners, hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders to Florida's diverse ecosystem.

An attraction along the trail just a short drive from my mother-in-law's house is the Land Bridge, which is literally a bridge over highway 75 that was built to be an extension of the trail featuring trees and other green vegetation, and an uninterrupted dirt path.

Early  Morning Run - Florida Trail

There are two trailheads close to the Land Bridge, one reaching the bridge from the west - the 49th Ave Trailhead - which is where we started the first time, and the second coming from the east starting at a trailhead right by Cactus Jack's Trail Rides off SW 16th Ave, which is where we started this time. The parking lot is rather large and there are huge trees shading picnic tables, and an outhouse.

Unfortunately I couldn't find one great resource with maps of the trail that are user friendly for people who don't know the area well. Google maps only shows one basic trail, but there are several loops from this trailhead and they are pretty easy to stay on course. There had been a strong rain the day before our run so the biking and equestrian trails were pretty muddy, but there is an old limerock road that you can follow (although the uneven and sharp rocks make it a bit tricky to maneuver) and a nice foot-traffic only path great for running.

We ran towards the land bridge along the limerock road, over the bridge a bit then turned around and took the foot trail back. Since we were aiming for 6 miles and got back to the parking lot too soon so we crossed 16th Ave and easily picked up the trail on the other side to reach our goal.

I haven't spent a ton of time in Florida but was pleasantly surprised by the diverse ecosystems that we ran through on just a 6 mile run. There are sections with large oaks bending down on top of us and then minutes later we'd be running through a pine forest that looked, and smelled, like the woods at our family cottage in northern Michigan. It was a bit surreal and absolutely beautiful.

Early  Morning Run - Florida Trail Run

The drastic change in scenery from our typical runs in Colorado coupled with the fact that we were running at sea level made the miles melt away quickly. It was exactly what we needed although now that we're home I haven't been so excited about getting back to the same old routes. I'm craving new scenery, and to run without three layers.

If you happen to find yourself around Ocala, Florida and are looking for a place to run, or go for a hike with family, I highly recommend this trail.

Do you often run the same routes over and over, or do you mix things up regularly?

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