Monday, January 7, 2019

Everglades National Park: Trail Picnic

Al suggested a quiet Saturday away from all the people and noise of Miami. Some quiet, some solitude, and a chance to enjoy the beauty of Everglades National Park (ENP). He liked the idea of exploring some trails there. After all, ENP is just an hour's drive south of where we live. We'd take our old mountain bikes with the 1.75 inch tires and pack a picnic lunch.

Our lunch basket.
The weather wasn't perfect. Mainly dry but with spotty light rain. Since this was to be no fuss, I just scavanged in the kitchen for the picnic makings: a few English muffins from the freezer, some slices of an interesting cheese, and some bread and butter pickle slices. A can of large smoked oysters from last year's hurricane supplies. A few mandarin oranges from the snack bowl. Al made espresso and filled our two little espresso thermos bottles. It all got bagged and tucked into one of my Arkel tail bags. Because of the weather, we decided to head to ENP's Long Pine Key area. It had paved roads, grassy trails, and rocky trails. Lots to pick from depending on how wet things might be.

The government shutdown had the left gates of ENP open, but, of course, there were no rangers in the entrance booth. We drove through and down the road a piece to Royal Palm Visitor Center. The store and restrooms there were open thanks to the private concessionaire that runs it and some volunteers. We parked our car in the almost empty parking lot, unloaded our bikes, and headed out.

We first took a quick loop of the Anhinga Trail right by the Visitor Center. It's a short paved trail with long sections of boardwalk that cuts across the hammock and into the swamp.
It's usually overrun with tourists. But since we were there at such an early hour,  we had the place to ourselves. Lots of alligators, blue herons, and anhinga.

Next we wandered down Old Ingraham Highway trail and explored some grassy trails running off of it. They were pretty wet, so we opted to head back to the Old Ingraham Highway Trail and do some of it. Then we turned around, eventually turning down Research Road, then pedaling all the way to the locked gates of the old Nike base. We turned around again, and  explored the trails that came off of Research Road.

Since we were out on damp grassy trails, we needed regular breaks to pick grass out of our rear derailleurs and cassettes. Finally we pedaled out to Main Park Road and headed south to the Long Key campground area. We'd had enough of damp and thought the campground would have a quiet dry spot for our picnic. As it turned out, the wet seemed confined to the area where we'd been. The campground was nice and dry. There was an outdoor auditorium on a little lake that seemed perfect for our picnic.

We had lunch. As we were leaving the campground area we ran into EBC member Gloria B. who was also out enjoying ENP.

The Royal Palm/Long Key area is a good choice for a bike hike and picnic:
  • It has low traffic paved roads. 
  • There are a variety of trails that are accessible with trail bikes or hybrids. 
  • It's a pleasant alternative to Shark Valley.
  • There are lots of peaceful areas where you can enjoy nature. 
  • There's easy access to the bathrooms, water, and snacks at Royal Palm Visitor Center. 
It was a great place for our first 2019 bicycle micro-adventure. Easy, inexpensive fun.

Outdoor auditorium by the little lake.
The outdoor auditorium made a great picnic spot.
Espresso and a sweet mandarin orange for dessert.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

If no one ever took risks, Michaelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor. (Neil Simon)

I've been spending time pouring over maps. I love maps.

Last year I made a discovery. One week I decided to pack my bike and take a solo overnight trip down to the Keys. I thought of it as running away from home on a bicycle. I had way more fun on that trip than I'd had in a long time. I realized that something got lost when Al and I moved to Miami. I felt the loss, but I couldn't pin it down. I had great bikes. I was riding a lot. We were traveling to bicycle events all over Florida. But I was, well, bored.

People ride bikes for a lot of reasons. Since the very first bike I owned as a kid, I loved riding a bicycle because of the places it could take me and the things I could see. When we moved to Miami, most of our riding became group riding. Riding with a group is fun and has a lot of advantages, but you have to accept the rules and route of the group. You can't just expect the group to stop to look at a fountain, some public art, or a garden along their route. I didn't want to give up group rides, but I did want to have more bike rides that were, well, more about seeing things.

So I got some bicycle travel gear. I got maps. And I started talking to friends. They introduced me to the term micro-adventures, adventures that are short, simple, local, and cheap. It is a term made popular by the British adventurer Alastair Humphreys. It was a perfect fit for what I wanted, a way to add solo travel to my rides rather than replace all of the group riding and bike events that Al and I do.

So I pour over my maps and make plans. Solo bicycle travel has its risks, but, after all, not much that is worthwhile in life is risk free.