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Trail Rider
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I've been toying with the idea for awhile to do some bike packing here in Florida for about a year now. The Passion forum here doesn't help that nagging idea in the back of my head, surely. We don't have mountains, but we have nice sweeping prairies, sandhills, forests, beaches, areas full of karst features, reclaimed mines, creeks, rivers, swamps, springs, sinkholes, and beaches - by all means an outdoor paradise. Why not enjoy it a couple days at a time?

The trick is, staying off asphalt... We have alot of trail systems, along with alot of State Parks, National Forest, and Greenway systems, but alot of them don't interconnect very well, atleast not without hooking into actual roadways. The next issue is camping, there isn't many areas where you can just set up camp(National Forest being an exception, with caveats) without being in an estabilished site, which isn't a problem - unless you are trying to connect for some mileage.

I know some of you central FL folks are doing some long rides, 100+ miles, doing any camping along the way - or just badass ride-a-thons? Surely some more people out there are camping it up. What routes are you guys taking?

Anyone doing it in the panhandle?

I'm hoping to put together some progressively longer rides in the Tallahassee area. I know its possible, with various routes utilizing Apalachicola National Forest along with the St Marks Wildlife Refuge. I wish it could all be single track, but there's not enough around here to connect more than 20-25 miles of it. So its going to entail service roads, tram roads, and dirt roads, and unfortunately small sections of asphalt to get even some of these connected. This will open up 100+ mile rides I believe. The camping part is easy within Apalachicola National Forest, I just have to be so far off any given trail to be legal as far as I can tell from the rules on primitive camping(and no fires ATM). Elsewhere I'm limited to private campgrounds unfortunately... St Marks Wildlife Refuge is a bit disappointing in that aspect. They have through-travel camping for hikers, and paddlers, but no such considerations for bikers.

As far as gear goes, I'm trying to be atleast somewhat hollistic, but I am bringing a tent. Tent and bag on a rear rack; lots of water, snacks, food, tools, spare parts, gps, camera, maps, swim trunks, extra set of shorts/shirt, phone, toiletries, all on my bike or backpack.
 

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The Voice of Reason
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here in the panhandle we have a huge state forest with lots of dirt and gravel roads. usually when it gets cooler i try to get in some longer rides in the 30-40 mile range. i've not done any camping but it would be easy to do. i'm planning on going farther but running a single speed limits my adventures somewhat. how about a tallahassee/munson/tallahassee rondenee?
 

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Trail Rider
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
You can pull about 20 miles out of Munson, if you hit every bit of trail there, but it doesn't connect to anything after that without lots of asphalt mileage. 20 miles isn't worth taking camp gear, thats just an after work ride :) Albeit a good one that'll earn a beer.

Hooking trails from Fern - Magnolia - Cadillac - Alford B Greenway, then back, you can probably rack up 30-35 miles. Which is a good days worth of riding IMO, but then you're done without substantial asphalt in between connecting it elsewhere...and you'd have to find somewhere to camp.

Redbug and Lake Overstreet trails could be connected to Elinor Knapp for 20+ miles, but then you're kinda stuck again for reaching out elsewhere, and then there's the camping conundrum.

Whats Rondenee?



I'm thinking my best bet for the least amount of asphault traversage and the most amount of mileage, while having available primitive camping available, will have to be done by using Apalachicola National Forest lands(which I think still allows primitive camping) and hooking into St Marks Wildlife Refuge(which has some camping available commercially on Hwy 98, but nothing within its borders unless you are a through hiker, or through paddler - no concessions for through bikers). I can almost certainly do it in Apalachicola National Forest alone, but figured some riding along the coast will work to break up the scenery a bit, without deviating from the overall goal.




Looks like Withlacoochee State Forest could work.

I'm sure Ocala National Forest is a good place for adventure too.
 

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We now ride pretty much longer distance stuff compared to a few years ago when it was all about how many laps at a local trail.

I'm not specifically familiar with the Tallahassee trails. Your request and description sound familiar for what we also deal with. Difficult to find an all off-road route to log longer distances.

We make the best of what is available, using roads, canal banks, dirt roads or whatever fairly legal means possible to get these rides in.

We have not yet officially camped, but would like to.

For a longer distance in the middle of the state, get in touch with Karlos, AKA the naked indian. He is the one that organizes the Cross Florida Individual Time Trial. Last year was around 175ish miles. Unfortunately because of our daughters wedding we aren't able to ride it again this year.

Best of luck with this, if you need routes for more south Florida ask.

PK
 

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Trail Rider
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the link, I've run through it(the blog) a few times over the last few years and again when I started thinking about doing some bikepacking in this area recently. Great stuff.




I hate laundrymats... but they give me time to do stuff I normally don't set enough time for otherwise... So I mapped out a 60+(estimated) mile trip through St Marks Wildlife Refuge this morning. Still have to utilize ~12 miles of pavement to connect trails. Should make for an easy two day(one night), first bike packing adventure. It will pretty much run me through the entire reach of that Refuge, but can be built on by heading north from Panacea, into the Apalachicola National Forest for even longer trips in the future.
 

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There was a bikepacking/camping event a few years ago called To Hell and Back that left the Capitol and travelled through the Appalachicola and Tate's Hell. The camping spot was in Sumatra over off Highway 60. I think it was 60 miles each way. I'm sure you may be able to find some old info about it online.
 

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When the gas crew was working on the pipeline around Munson/Twilight they built a bridge across the creek next to Crawfordville road. I would cross that bridge and hit Apalachicola forest. There's plenty to ride there for days. It's not singletrack but there are tons of dirt roads, double tracks and dirt bike trails which the fatbike handled quite well. (it's all deep sugar sand)

Apalachicola has a couple of camping sites. If I remember correctly there's about 60-80 miles between the two sites. I've wanted to do a two day trip through Apalachicola for a while but it just never came up. Once the crew demolished the work bridge across the creek I haven't found a route to the main forest and/or a better parking spot. The Munson trailhead has had a few breakins so it's probably not the safest place to leave the car overnight either.
 

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Trail Rider
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Norcom - I think you can camp off any of the roads in Apalachicola Nat'l Forest as long as you're 300' off the road(campfires are banned right now due to dry conditions, understandably). I'm going to verify this of course :) I don't think you HAVE to use the designated campsites as long as you use a leave no trace policy and have no issues with very primitive camping.

I definately plan to incorporate ANF into my future rides, especially the longer ones.

I've mapped a good 60 miles of route through St Marks Wildlife Refuge to run through in what I hope to be an easy two day ride - just to see what kind of problems I'll have to overcome with bike packing. Will camp out at the campsite on Hwy 98 in Newton, adjascent from Lighthouse Road. Gonna start over by Sopchoppy/Ocklocknee Rivers and push as far east as the Aucilla, making some runs towards the beach, and stopping by Shepherd Spring for a dip.

Over the next few weekends, I'm going to verify viable trail, and trail connections where I have some questions. Within the next two weeks, I should have a handle on if my route is doable.

If anyone is interested, they're more than welcome to come along.

Figure I'll do this route in mid-late October. Then I'll add to it via connecting Apalachicola National Forest to my St Marks Wildlife Refuge Route, or by making a route self contained within ANF, who knows. I'll do this ride in the Spring(2012) and probably shoot for 100+ miles and 3 days minimum to do it.
 

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I've done a bunch of miles with my fatbike at the St Marks Refuge as well. I would post my ANF and St Marks GPS logs but my personal server's down at the moment. Word of caution for St Marks (besides the gators) there are TONS of pricklys out there. I run stans+slime in all my tubes on all my bikes. At St Marks few of the areas the tires were just covered with prickly things and at one point I pulled out a thorn about 2" long. The mix did its job though. As for the gators, ALWAYS be on a lookout. I stopped to look at the GPS for a minute and just as my head came up from bending down towards the GPS a HUGE gator rushed into a creek I $hit you not 20' away from me. I can't believe I didn't see it! I stood paralized for at least a minute. That was a great ride! :)

If you're planning your St Marks route through the Google Earth aerial photos, as I did. Some of those places will be covered with neck high grass. It looks like a road from the aerial shots but when you get there, it's completely different.

Wish I hadn't lost my Garmin at Tsali few months ago. I had the BirdEye Garmin services and aerial photography of AFN and StMarks on it. Makes trekking in the unknown much easier and fun. You can spot hidden ponds/sinks.

I would be down for an 'epic' ride. Though I've recently got into windsurfing/SUP and tend to spend my weekends at the beach. It's easier to ride on the weekdays at TomBrown/Munson/Phipps and save the beach for weekend.

Oh snap! Remembered I posted the St Marks ride to EveryTrail! Here's a link! That was a goo day. :)

St Marks Refuge Preserve Fat Bike Ride
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking near Tallahassee, Florida
 

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Slime is money well spent. Also, fresh tires are less likely to be flatted by sticky burrs / sand spurs. Both of our off-road tandems and some of the single bikes run slime tubes. We have done many rides start to finish, only to find a few days later a tire is flat. Quick patch of the Slime tube and good to go for more abuse. We don't run tubliss.

Gators, yes we are always watching, most times they want nothing to do with you. A couple months back was the first time ever one charged us.

Also, keep an eye out for snakes, one trail (jeep road) we utilize is adjacent to the water catchment area, a natural area almost to retain rain water to be used as drinking water. Suffice to say one of the north / south legs has been nicknamed by us the Moccasin Mile. Care to speculate why?

Have fun and be safe.

Added a few photos, these were all taken along the catchment areas double track road. Fun way to access a lot more places for us. Also, it is a good after work ride where we can leave from home and log around 35 miles finishing in the dark.

PK
 

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Trail Rider
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for the pics PMK

I've got a neat little pic on my cell phone of a Pygmy Rattler on the Munson Trail. He was a mean bugger, I chased him off the trail so he didn't get run over.

Then of course, there's this bigger guy from the St Marks Refuge





We have mocassins too, but they're typically less photogenic :D

Word of caution for St Marks (besides the gators) there are TONS of pricklys out there. I run stans+slime in all my tubes on all my bikes. At St Marks few of the areas the tires were just covered with prickly things and at one point I pulled out a thorn about 2" long. The mix did its job though. As for the gators, ALWAYS be on a lookout. I stopped to look at the GPS for a minute and just as my head came up from bending down towards the GPS a HUGE gator rushed into a creek I $hit you not 20' away from me. I can't believe I didn't see it! I stood paralized for at least a minute. That was a great ride! :)
Thanks for the heads up, I'm familiar with the pricklies... I run tubeless with Stans and hadn't freshened up the goo in over a year. Picked up about 60 of these on both tires at one point. I had to refill both front and back, once each over the 20 miler, but never flatted completely.



I'm not too worried about the gators, been around them my whole life. I thought a bear was on the trail last weekend, just east of the Pinhook River. Turns out it was a 200# wild hog. I didn't get a picture, because I was too busy pissing myself. I was 20' from it, luckily it fled, rather than fought. I would have been far less concerned over a bear...

I've seen the neck high stuff too. I was out near Shepherd Spring and came across one of those trails. Rode it for about a mile, got tired of it and came back... covered in chiggers. This is one of the reasons I'm preriding alot of the route in order to make sure I'm using viable trail.

More shots from the Pinhook - Rocky Bayou ride last weekend.











I'm going to preride some of the Panacea stretch of St Marks today, should get more pics.
 
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