Monday, January 25, 2016

Half the fun of the travel is the aesthetic of lostness. (Ray Bradbury)

The Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST) is unique, a recreational trail on top of the dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee, Florida's largest freshwater lake. It is the way you feel, pedaling on top of the dike, looking down at the lake on one side, looking down at the surrounding roads and homes and fields of sugarcane on the other side, that make this our favorite inland trail.

The LOST runs all the way around the lake. Portions of the LOST are paved. Other sections are just hard-pack trail. Navigating the whole thing is complicated by locks and water control structures. And then there are the dike repairs. This work by the Army Corps of Engineers has closed whole sections of the LOST, especially on the south and west sides of the lake.

We planned to spend two days on the LOST. This wasn't a trip for long rides or miles. We wanted to nose around the LOST, learning how the construction and repairs were affecting riding the trail, and gathering ideas for future trips.

Our first day of riding the temperature was 48 degrees. When we returned to our motel after a few hours of riding, the temperature had soared to 49 degrees, our high for the day. At Clewiston there was an unpaved section heading west but construction had left only a 4 mile stretch of paved trail open to the east. (Large locked chainlink gates blocked the trail when they really, really didn't want you to go farther.) The second day was a bit warmer. We roamed between Clewiston and Port Mayaca locks. If you didn't mind unpaved trail and detours off the trail around large strips of construction, you could put together a decent day of riding.
Paved sections of the trail are perfect for road bikes. The section between Okeechobee and Port Mayaca is best.

Unpaved segments are easily handled by mountain or gravel bikes.

Rubble boulders, part of the dike repairs, lend an exotic beauty to some areas.

In some areas bridges take the trail over canals. 

A sugar cane field being burned near the lake fills the air with smoke and ash.

Some water control structures have a rustic beauty. This one was particularly striking.
An unexpected sight in an RV camp on the lake's edge in Pahokee was a tiny Casita trailer colorfully decorated by its owner.