Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Real Florida Mountain Biking (My Return To The Swamp)

If you’ve been around here for a while, you already know that I grew up in Florida. Swamps full of alligators, palmetto bushes, and sand are the norm anywhere around there. Since I’ve only been in Charlotte for a few years now, I’m not that far removed from the above mentioned things, but it’s still nice to go back and play once in a while. Last Saturday was yet another Florida mountain bike adventure, this time at the Balm Boyette Scrub Preserve just south of Brandon, FL.

This was a new trail experience for me and Lunchbox, but Mr. Shepherd has been there before. As a bonus, the previously anonymous Senor Oeste had planned to meet up with us for his first ride there as well. We all got ready, and caught up on old times.

It would appear in the above photo that Senor Oeste has forgotten his bicycle, but that is just my awesome Photoshop skills. I was gonna put him on a pony or something, but I was being lazy.

The trail started from the parking lot, but there was about a two mile or so long fire road to the actual singletrack. Some of it was through some really deep sand, which was nearly impossible to ride through. I felt like I was riding on the beach. We managed somehow, and kept going. Every once in a while I would dart up ahead to capture so not-so-quality photographs.

I don’t recall ever looking at a map, but the trails all seemed to be loops off of a main out-in-the-open trail, so we took the first one we came to. We quickly found ourselves on a narrow trail which ran beside a swamp, with a slightly off-camber tilt towards said swamp. The other side of the singletrack had trees and such, so you had to be careful. It was a quick loop, but we still stopped at the end to discuss our options, and to admire the creatures that were waiting for us if we made a mistake.

One false move out there and you’ll be gator-bait.

The next loop we hit was a little further away from the water, and it was fast and flowy. It was called Spider Berm, and it was a blast. Lunchbox will show you how fun it was:

Senor Oeste was having fun too, but he didn’t want you to know that:

When I stopped to take that last photo, a large pipe fell down towards the trail. Luckily, I was able to stop it with my helmet and save Senor Oeste’s life. He was grateful and managed sort of a smile this time:

Here is a view of the trail, which was pretty much what everything looked like out there:

Next up was a loop called Swamp Thing. When we started on it, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive Swamp Cabbage Man, Florida’s version of Bigfoot. The only thing I saw was Lunchbox doing his best to be the subject of a blurry photo, which would be subject to further scrutinizing. Is he related to the Swamp Cabbage Man (or the more mainstream name, Skunk Ape?) Who knows, but see for yourself:

Swamp Thing was rather uh, swampy, so I had the official B-43 photographer document this beautiful terrain. You can see the swampy goodness in the background, but still no Swamp Cabbage Man.

After our Florida Bigfoot hunt was over, we hit up the Ridgeline trail. This thing was fun, and really fast. It was a lot like a giant roller coaster, with steep drops and climbs. Here’s the rundown:

Mr. Shepherd climbing up after a fast descent:

Hold on!

“Should I?” asks Mr. Shepherd.

“Sure,” I replied. “Come on down!”

That loop was hella fast and fun, but it was over before we knew it. We met back up with Lunchbox and Senor Oeste (they waited and kept an eye out for the Swamp Cabbage Man while we rode the Ridgeline), and made our way back to the rest of the trail. The remainder wasn’t much to speak of, just your normal flat, Florida trails. We did find a rather pertinent sign that displayed the names of two of the members of the B-43 team though.

Neither one of these guys real names are used on the here B-Log, so you’ll have to guess who’s who. Here’s a hint: No one has the name “trail.”

This was a fun trail, and I’m glad we finally got to check it out. The local club, SWAMP did a great job with the one for sure. There were signs all over the place informing you, the rider, about what they do and how much they do it. Here is one such sign:

In fact, they did such a great job that we immediately headed over to one of their other trails. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out which one though. I gotta keep y’all coming back somehow. In the meantime, watch out for alligators…and The Swamp Cabbage Man.

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