Short ride on the Ocean to Lake Trail

What a beautiful day! The cloudless deep blue sky and gentle breeze made it a perfect day to get outside.
Aside from just getting outside anywhere, today’s goal was to explore the section of the Ocean to Lake Trail that leaves from Riverbend Park in Jupiter Florida. I knew it was a hiking trail, but rumors had it there was a section open to bikes.

Starting in Riverbend Park, I followed the trail that goes under the bridge for Indiantown Rd. The Ocean to Lake Trail begins on the north side of Indiantown road. I sunk into the mud and spun my way out as I went through the trail entrance. This is going to be my kind of trail:) I had heard reports of this trail being very wet and at times deep. Fine by me; if you’re not getting dirty you’re not having any fun!

Today, the most mud was right there at the entrance. The trail splits right after the entrance; one section goes straight and the other goes right. The straight trail connects with the same one the right fork does; it’s just a straight line. The right fork meanders through the trees and is narrow but an easy, smooth ride. It’s hard packed and in one short spot there are some big roots, but that is the toughest part of the trail.
The right fork leads into the main trail which at times is a two track dirt road
so you can ride smoothly and gain some speed if you’d like.

Further down the trail narrows again and enters a stretch of sugar sand. Thanks to the previous day’s rain, it was an easy peddle through this short stretch. There is a restroom here, aka outhouse and a short trail that leads to the Loxahatchee River and the famous dam. You can watch kayakers and canoers attempt to go up/down this small dam. Today the river was really clear and looked inviting but I wasn’t prepared to jump in. Maybe next time.

The trail continues and at times is very narrow and often I just ducked and went through the vegetation. Another reason to wear a helmet! Fortunately nothing was big enough to knock me off the bike either.
The trail ends up at a fence that borders noisy interstate 95. If you go left from here the trail dead ends into the river. Going right it follows the highway and then turns back toward the entrance. I thought for sure there was a path under the bridge of the interstate and to the other side. I’ll have to review some maps and see if I missed a turn.

Either way it is only about a two mile ride that, with a couple of exceptions, is very easy and would be fun for any ability.
It was a great day to be out and I enjoyed being in the forest again and feeling the fresh air. There’s nothing like a walk/ride in the woods to nurture the soul.

For more information:
http://www.pbcgov.com/parks/riverbend/index.htm#.U2bQq3jD_IU

Owahee Boardwalk Video

Often when you venture off the beaten path you find some amazing places. Here’s a video of a long boardwalk I found that traverses a couple of ecosystems.
Enjoy the ride and keep exploring!

Apoxee Park

As I was soaking up the serenity of nature, I was amazed at how quiet it was considering the proximity to busy civilization.   Natural areas within the city limits are a great respite from the city, but they often can’t escape the noise of the city. Somehow this park did and it was nice to fully immerse myself in the surroundings without the distractions of civilization.  apoxee water

The park is named Apoxee Park.  Apoxee (pronounced Ah-po-ee) means Beyond Tomorrow in the Miccosukee language and is the first of the City of West Palm Beach’s urban wilderness parks. Unique to the park is they use the wetlands to provide a new water supply (maximum 10 million gallons per day) in order to achieve both urban and environmental water sustainability.

apoxee owlFrom the parking lot, the trail is paved and shortly after provides two options; a paved loop or a dirt path to the right.  The paved portion is a short loop through pine and oak trees.  If you go in the late afternoon, you’ll hear the calls of the Great Horned owls echoing through the trees.  I was lucky to actually see and photograph both of them.  It is amazing that such a large, majestic bird can fly so silently.

You can walk the paved path in about ten minutes or so depending on if the owls are there. The dirt path is a much longer trail that is suitable for hiking and biking.

The dirt path is narrow and tree lined with occasional openings to catch a glimpse of the water.  A boardwalk here and there provides unobstructed views of the lakes.  Benches are strategically placed along the way to sit and enjoy the view of the water or just enjoy the sunshine. One of these benches amidst some trees was the perfect lunch spot.

Shortly after crossing the power line road, the trail forks and fortunately there is a big sign and a map. I took the right loop and found a long L – shaped boardwalk that traverses one of the lakes. Throughout the water is a variety of plant life that provides a carpet like covering on the bottom. The plant life is so thick in areas, it looks like small canyons under water.  Most rivers in the area have tannin (decaying plant material) so the water isn’t clear. Here the water is crystal clear and all the fish, plants and other inhabitants were visible.

The boardwalk dead ends into another tree lined dirt trail which is flat, straight and the perfect place to ride a bike. According to the map this trail stretches for  few miles if not more.  On the other side of this trail is another lake full of lily pads, birds and trees.  The serene view, gentle wind through the trees, and warm sun made for perfect place to just relax.  A strategically placed bench was the perfect place to hang out and enjoy the view. apoxee trail

According to the map, the trails extend for many more miles so I’ll be back with my bike to continue exploring and will provide an update.   Apoxee park is a nice oasis for a gentle walk, a medium hike, biking, or birding all right in the middle of town.

Here’s a short video of the boardwalk: http://youtu.be/THrKrn9iRRg:

For more info on the park: www.wpb.org/park/apoxee-park/

Camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness

I’ve visited Disney’s Ft. Wilderness campground and enjoyed the festive atmosphere. When I got the chance to camp there with a group for only $28, I was in!!

A quick disclaimer…..if you’re used to quiet primitive, back country camping this isn’t it. This a fun, lots of activities happening, place.  Even if by chance you don’t hear many people, you will hear and see the fireworks from the nearby parks. 

The campground is very pedestrian, bike, and golf cart friendly. In fact golf carts seem to be the preferred mode of transportation.  There are also free buses to take you around the campground or to other Disney locations.

My first evening of exploring, I ended up at an outdoor amphitheater. Kids, of all ages, were roasting marshmallows and the concession stand had cookies, popcorn, hot chocolate, and the like.  Shortly after I arrived, they began showing a Muppets Christmas movie.  Lots of families and kids milled around so it wasn’t perfectly quiet, but it was fun to watch a movie under the stars.

Then I headed back to camp and grabbed a shower. It was great; I had the place to myself and plenty of hot water.  The next morning I went to brush my teeth and there was a long line. The next night I did the same and there was no one there again.  Speaking of the shower, it was as nice as the shower at home. Wall to wall earth toned tile with an inset for shampoo, soap, and shaving supplies.

Comfy Shower Stall
Comfy Shower Stall

One of the advantages of camping at Ft. Wilderness is the proximity to all the Disney areas .The next day we caught the boat to the Contemporary resort. From there, took the monorail to the Grand Floridian for some exploring.

Now, if you’ve never been to the Grand Floridian at Christmas, you need to go. At the front, you’ll be served roasted chestnuts and apple cider. Once inside, there’s an incredibly large Christmas tree that can only be described as Disney in size. Every year, the crew makes a full size ginger bread house and you can listen to them describe how they built it.  On the other side of the house, you can buy all sorts of sweets and treats.

From there, we hopped a bus to Downtown Disney for lunch. After wandering around the shops, it was time to catch a bus back to the campground.

After seeing lots of people out holiday shopping it was time for a quiet bike ride along the trails.  There are two nature trails that run between Ft Wilderness campground and the Wilderness Resort. One is paved and follows the road between the two resorts. The other is dirt and is accessed from behind The Wilderness Lodge, just beyond the main pool off to the right. You’ll see bike rentals and such and the path begins there.  It’s common to see deer along this path and you can also enjoy some nice views of the Contemporary Resort across the lake. The dirt trail connects back to the paved trail so you can easily find your way back to the campground.

After exploring the trails at dusk, I headed back to the campground and quickly found the golf cart Christmas parade. Each cart was uniquely decorated with lights, figurines, sound systems and the like.   Definitely plan to explore the campground at night so you can enjoy all the holiday decorations.

Here are video links to the golf parade:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5oKx-SbdVs&feature=youtu.be
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ho09lJPXNqg&feature=youtu.be

Afterwards, I made my way back to the beach for a front row seat to the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks. The fireworks start at 10pm, but if you want a beach chair, get there by 9:15. Course, just bring a blanket and you can sit in the sand. It’s the same view.

At the beach, you can only see the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks. From the campsite you can hear/see the fireworks from Epcot at 9pm and Magic Kingdom at 10pm.

I was only there two days, but could’ve easily spent a few more. There is plenty to do for kids and adults at the campground and surrounding areas; bike rentals, boat rentals, kayak rentals, carriage rides, horseback rides, a show, multiple swimming pools, etc.

The winter season is usually the busiest because the weather is cool and dry. So plan to come and spend a few days. Even if you can’t camp, swing by and enjoy the festivities.

For more information: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/campsites-at-fort-wilderness-resort/

Riverbend Park Moonlight bike ride

Riverbend is a beautiful park with lots of recreation opportunities in the northern section of Palm Beach County. Hiking, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, walking, and historical tours are enough to fill a day or two easily. I know I spend a lot of time biking there and enjoy the diverse trails, wildlife and natural scenery.

Like most county parks, it closed at sunset, but last night we enjoyed a special treat: a moonlight bike ride through the park sponsored by the Palm Beach County Parks and Rec dept. There were about 30 cyclists of varying ages and bicycles along for the ride.  We split into three groups and each group was led by a ranger.

Periodically the ranger, who was also a naturalist, would stop and talk about something unique to the area. At one point, he shined his light into the water to show us an alligator. That was the extent of the wildlife I saw.  I’m sure there was plenty I didn’t see.

Since it’s just a casual ride, it was fun to meet new people and share stories as we rode.  With a large group, we were spread out along the trail and all you’d see ahead is the blinking rear light of the cyclist in front of you.  That’s fine when the trail is straight, but when the trail turns or forks and you lose sight, it got challenging.

At one point I had fallen back to talk with someone. We rounded the corner and there weren’t any lights.  The lady in front of me didn’t see which way the group went either. So here were a few of us cyclists at junction  with 3 different ways to go and it’s dark. We headed straight for a few yards, but didn’t see anyone, so we went back to the trail junction. One gentleman read the map and we embarked on a trail that would lead toward the campfire. dsc_0590

Just a few minutes later we caught up with the group; they had only made a loop so by turning around, we just caught right back up. That was convenient!!

It was just a few more minutes of riding till we reached a spot with a campfire and smores. Now this is my kind of bike ride!!  It was a good chance to get off the bike, enjoy some smores and actually see the people I had been talking with on the ride.

As we headed back toward the entrance of the park, the moon was just peeking through the clouds. The trail led by a lake so it was a perfect photo op to catch the moon as it reflected off the lake.

A fun, easy ride, nice people, beautiful park, and smores, what’s not to like. The good news is this ride is held on a regular basis and the next one is scheduled for Dec.28th.

dsc_0308Even if you’ve visited Riverbend Park before, you should enjoy the Moonlight Bike Ride. Call ahead to reserve your spot; It’s only $5 and includes the smores. You can bring a bike or call ahead and rent one. If you bring your own, it is recommended to bring a headlight and taillight.

For more information on Riverbend park: http://www.pbcgov.com/parks/locations/riverbend.htm

For a calendar of events: http://pbcgov.mhsoftware.com/

p.s. I included some day time shots so you can see just how pretty it is. Every corner brings something new.

Myakka River State Park

Numerous friends had recommended that we visit Myakka River state park.  They said we’d love it because of the kayaking and all the wildlife. After all the recommendations, we had to check it out.

Located about 2 hours from the East coast of Florida, it is an easy drive through the center of the state. Along the way you’ll see the historic section of Florida; wide open prairies and cattle ranches.

We had reserved a cabin and sometimes those are a hit or miss depending on the amenities. This one was perfect; decent size kitchen, with a large great room that housed a fireplace, dining room table, and bed.  Out back was a small porch and a picnic table. Of course, it had the most important thing; air conditioning.

Once unpacked, we set off on our bikes to explore. I really enjoy biking around parks because I see so much more by going slow and I can explore trails along the way.  We peddled down the main grade past a bridge with an overlook into a canal. A perfect place to view alligators, but they were not to be found this time.

Continuing on, we saw vast grassed prairies that would be perfect for a giraffe or Rhino to roam. Further along, the road is enclosed by a canopy of trees with that beautiful hanging Spanish moss. Hanging like a sheer curtain, the moss gives the trees such character.

In the “middle” of the park is a large lake complete with a boat ramp and boat tours. A large concession stand and store are conveniently located there too.   A variety of foods were available, but on this hot summer day it was two words: ice cream!!!  Sitting upstairs, we had an unobstructed view of the lake and boat launch. Anhinga, a small gator, herons and the like were easily spotted.

Continuing on, we ventured further away from civilization and found a long boardwalk that had a panoramic view of the area. There wasn’t anyone else out there so it was perfect. Course, I’m sure in the winter when the weather is nicer, more people wil l be there.

The afternoon was winding down so it was time to head back to camp. Late afternoon is always a great time to see wildlife and this was no exception. Numerous hawks flew over and sat in the trees just above us.  A few deer trotted across the road and into the woods.

As we entered the cabin, sweaty and hot from the long ride, we were thankful for the air conditioning. We had heard about a drum circle and great restaurant at Siesta Key so we cleaned up and headed out for a more “civilized” evening.  About 30 minutes away was everything you could want in civilization. Great restaurants, pristine beaches, and more.

Arriving back at the cabin around 9pm, we still had a sense of adventure and knew that there would be wildlife out at night.  A blast of the bug repellent, a couple bottles of water, and a camera and off we went exploring.

I opened the moon roof for a view of the stars and gently drove around the park at a meagerly 10mph. Wow!!! The things we saw that night were unforgettable.  Frogs, snakes, and all kinds of crawly things were everywhere. We couldn’t drive more than 10 feet without seeing something interesting.  We stopped so much and saw so many things, I felt like I should be shooting one of those wildlife by night shows.

One of the most memorable scenes was a barred owl that flew down from the tree into the road, picked up a frog and flew up into the tree. To see that right in front of you is truly unforgettable. I had my camera, but there are times it’s just better to watch life unfold. Yeah, I miss a few shots, but I have some fond memories.

And this was just day one!  The next day we did even more exploring of the trails including a boardwalk that provided a 360 view above the tree canopy.

So my friends were right; Myakka River state park is a very fun place to visit. You can kayak, bike, experience nature first hand and civilization is not far if you need it. For more information, check out their website:

http://www.myakkariver.org/index.php

White Lightning Clean Ride chain lube

The chain on my mountain bike takes a beating; sand, mud, dust, grass, water, etc. I’ve tried numerous lubricants with a variety of success. Teflon, bike oil, motor oil and even automatic  transmission fluid. The ATF was really smooth, except it attracted everything and constantly slung off on my legs.

Wandering in my local sport store, I found a product called  White Lightning Clean Lube Wax lubricant that says it’s a wax lube. Something new that I haven’t tried so I bought a small bottle. 

The first thing I did was clean my chain and sprockets with Simple Green and a tooth brush. Who knew my sprockets actually were chrome plated? I hadn’t seen those in awhile.

I cleaned all the dirt, grime, and sand from all the crevices. I usually wash my bike after a ride, but obviously I have been missing a few spots.

Once it was all dry, I applied the wax lube. It says to coat the chain, wipe the excess and let dry. I liberally applied it as I rotated the chain several times. I let it sit for about an hour and headed out for  a 5 mile ride.

I’m not sure if it was because everything was clean or the lube, but pedaling was significantly smoother. The shifting worked properly and didn’t click or miss. I only rode on pavement for the 5 miles, but the difference was significantly better.

My next trip I’ll take it in the dirt and post an update.

Garmin Handle Bar GPS mount

I’ve had multiple bike computers and none survive past 6 months. If they make it a year, I’m amazed.  I change the batteries and my bike lives in a shed.  I’m not sure if it’s the heat, the humidity, or the occasional rain storm that gets them.

My bike is a mountain bike so all I use the bike computer for is to tell me how far and occasionally how fast.  Nothing too difficult there. When my last bike computer quit, I decided to go a different route.

I purchased a Garming handle bar mount for my handheld GPS. The part number is Garmin 010-10454-00 Handelbar Bike Mount for GPSMAP 60 series.

Having a GPS  would be a perfect because in addition to distance  and speed, it can tell me my location.  Also, I could bike to a geocache  location, grab the GPS and go search for the cache.

One of the easiest installations I’ve done in awhile; just add the base to the handlebars, then snap in the carrier. Click the GPS in and you’re off.

The first test on smooth pavement worked well, but the real test came when I biked down a rough dirt road. The GPS unit stayed secure, even over the washboard ruts and potholes. As a safety measure, I wrap the GPS wrist strap around the handlebars as well. I didn’t jump off anything, but I got the impression the unit would stay secure barring anything except a crash. I try to avoid those….

In addition to the advantages listed above, I found another important one. I could mark where I left the truck!

I’ve been known to get a little “lost” as I explore on my bike. Now I have a little help, provided my batteries last.

RiverBend Park

This past Sunday I revisited one of my favorite parks, Riverbend Park. I call it one of my favorites because it’s not like a park at all. You won’t find concession stands, ball fields, bleachers, acres of concrete, or the usual signs of civilization.

It’s a place to get away from it all without being too far away. I can totally immerse myself in nature and not contend with tons of people. Sure the parking lot is full most of the time, but thanks to its size, you don’t encounter a lot of people.

This Sunday was really nice because the park was brimming full of water. While the rest of the country is in drought, we’ve been fortunate to have rain every day. The canals and ponds are full which gives the park such character, color, and of course brings in more wildlife.

One of my favorite spots is at the end of bridge that dead ends. When you first ride or walk up, it just looks like another bridge over water. Stop for a minute, drink your water, take a few pictures and the natural beauty will appear. You’ll see Garr swimming, turtles coming up for air, Apple snails on the bank, or the reflection of the hawk soaring overhead. It’s like stumbling into a play in the middle of a scene; the actors may pause while you sit down, but once you’re settled the story resumes.

My second favorite place is a trail opposite the picnic area and across the canal. It’s a place where the trees are surrounded by glass like water which makes it perfect for capturing beautiful reflection pictures.

Course one of the main attractions is the variety of wildlife. I always see hawks, wild turkeys, deer, and the ever present vulture. Each visit is unique and this time I stumbled upon a group of woodpeckers enjoying their community of trees. I particularly enjoyed watching one skip along the railing of the bridge. Every so often he give it a few resounding raps with his beak and move on. 

If being on land is just not your thing, you can also kayak through the park and down the Loxahatchee River. Kayaking, wide smooth trails for walking, running, biking, lots of photographic opportunities, and a variety of wildlife. Now you know why I think it’s almost perfect.

Shhh…don’t tell anyone.

For more information go here: http://www.pbcgov.com/parks/riverbend/index.htm

Self Sealing Bicycle tubes

Only 4 more miles till we’re back at the visitor center. We were nearing the end of our 15 mile ride around Shark Valley. Just then I heard an unfamiliar sound from my front bicycle wheel. It wasn’t a hissing sound, but a rhythmic rubbing sound.

I looked down at my front wheel and was not happy at what I saw. The front tire looked flat or very, very low. That explained why it seemed harder to pedal. I thought I was just getting tired.

Course, my on frame bike pump was in the 4Runner. I took the pump off while the bike was on the bike rack and forgot to put it back on. I was a bit disappointed to see a flat considering I have wheel liners and tubes with that green self sealing goo inside of them.With all of that protection, I should be able to ride through anything.

It was too hot to walk and as long as I kept moving it seemed to be fine, so I rode the 4 miles to the visitor center parking lot.  Back in civilization, I grabbed my full size, floor pump, and pumped up the tire just to see where the leak was. Hmmm, no hissing or any noises to indicate air leaking.

We ate lunch and hung out for about an hour. The tire was still holding air when we left.  Two weeks and 15 miles of riding later,  the tire is holding air just fine. I guess those self sealing tubes work after all. Just in case, I’m carrying an extra tube with me and will make sure  my air pump is on the bike before I leave.