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  1. #1
    Senior Member Podagrower's Avatar
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    Lake Apopka Loop ride report

    Yesterday was our first (and possibly last) ride on the Lake Apopka Loop trail. We started at the North Shore Trailhead and rode the 7.5 miles to the Historic Pumphouse. The trail is not paved, but hardpacked limestone and gravel. My 700x35 Vitorria Hypers (no tread) handled the trail fine, but it is not road bike territory. There are almost no facilities, and almost no people, so be prepared. There is no shade from the sun, so bring extra water and extra sunscreen.

    But this ride is all about the nature (it's not called the North Shore Restoration Area for nothing), so bring a camera, after our ride, I'd suggest a video camera mounted to the handlebars. The birding statistics are insane, something like 330 species of birds in a 50 mile area. The alligators are doing just fine as well, there were 4 that we saw that were over 10 feet long sunning themselves. These were the largest alligators I've seen in the wild, so big that my mind registered them as a movie prop, because surely I can't be riding a bike 15 feet away from a 12 foot gator, right? The gators under 10 feet didn't get counted, there were just too many, several 6-8 footers in the water and out, and a "school" of 2 footers still believing in safety in numbers for protection.

    Then we get to the animals I can't positively ID, because the encounter was so short. Animal number 1 appeared to be a stray dog, 50-75 pound was my guess from the size. I moved myself between the dog and my wife, and since we were riding into a headwind, I hoped we'd be too close for it to plan before it realized we were there. But the gravel made enough noise that we were heard, and the animal looked at us and fled into the woods. It was not a dog, dogs don't move like that, it was a cat, a sable colored cat with a tail as long as it's body, and there's only one kind of cat like that in Florida-panther. I've never seen a panther in the wild, the encounter was very brief, and there was no time for a photo, but dogs don't move like that, and dog tails don't move like that. Animal number 2 was an even more brief encounter about 1/4 mile from the first. This animal was about 50% of the size of the first, again definitely not a dog. The shortness of the tail on the second animal would let me be easily convinced it was a bobcat, but my wife is more convinced it was a juvenile panther. So, we have seen either our first and second panther, our first panther and first bobcat, or our animal ID skills are not to be trusted.

    If you want to ride the Lake Apopka Loop, here's a checklist:
    Tires at least 32mm wide
    1.5 times the water you think you need
    Cell phone
    Spare tube
    Patches
    Pump
    Suncreen
    The wits to be in very close proximity to dangerous wildlife
    The ability to enjoy being in very close proximity to dangerous wildlife (wife says with firearms if necessary)
    The mentality of "Pack it in, pack it out", this area has suffered terribly at the hands of man for the last 100 years, now is not the time to drop your cliff bar wrapper.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member dbikingman's Avatar
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    "so bring a camera" I don't see any photos in your post, I hope you followed your own advice and will post pics later.
    WTB SPD pedals style???
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  3. #3
    Let's Ride! Jimbosays's Avatar
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    . . . Thanks for confirming what I kind of figured!

    Are there any location markers along the trail that you can refer to should a traveler require emergency assistance?
    Work Some - Play MORE!
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Podagrower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbikingman View Post
    "so bring a camera" I don't see any photos in your post, I hope you followed your own advice and will post pics later.
    I always have at least 2 cell phones with cameras, I've got pictures of deer, bear, hawk, antelope and giraffe from my rides. I would have loved to snap some photos of the gators, but it would have looked like the blair witch project as my darling wife was in no mood to stop for photo ops. The panther/bobcat encounters were so brief, it would have been a miracle to capture any evidence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbosays View Post
    . . . Thanks for confirming what I kind of figured!

    Are there any location markers along the trail that you can refer to should a traveler require emergency assistance?
    There are mile markers (like the west orange trail has) in the section that is in Orange County, so riding west from Magnolia Park there are about 9 miles with markers, but no markers in the Lake County section
    2014 TDC Lake Nona, who's going?
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  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    Here are some photos of Magnolia Park and Apopka Loop Trail that I posted on my website for anyone that's interested.
    Veni, Vidi, Bici
    2013 Specialized CrossTrail Sport Disc, 2013 Cannondale CAAD10 5

  6. #6
    Senior Member mrodgers's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed702 View Post
    Here are some photos of Magnolia Park and Apopka Loop Trail that I posted on my website for anyone that's interested.
    Absolutely interested, that is gorgeous! I'm always amazed at the amount of sky shown in photos of other areas. It seems that I am always under tree cover whether biking on the paths or on the road. I wish more people would post more extensive photos of the trails and paths they use. I should try to get more photos as well. I have a lot of gravel road photos and am trying to get more photos on the rail trails here. Problem is, for me it is so ordinary to be riding in the woods and forest that it's no big deal to me where I am amazed at others' photos such as yours while for you in Florida, the Florida flatness and openness is ordinary to you. Hard to think that someone might be amazed at my ordinary "in the woods" photos, LOL.

    Example, the following from your photos looks absolutely stunning to me to ride along because that is probably more sky than I see in 30 miles....



    While this following is just plain old ordinary to me but might be stunning to those who live in flatland to think to ride through (sorry, crappy cell camera quality) ....

    Ride no faster than your Guardian Angel can fly!

  7. #7
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    Thank you Mrodgers, glad you enjoyed them. We do have some beautiful could formations and skies here. Normally, during our summer months it rains late afternoon however this season we’ve also experienced rain much earlier in the day. On this particular morning I arrived at the park a little later than I planned, about 8:30AM. While most cyclists I know primarily focus on their ride I prefer to explore my surroundings, which of course takes time. I enjoy photography and always pack a point and shoot camera to document my outings. I initially explored the park, and then headed down to the trail. It was sunny when I arrived at the park however as noted in the photos it progressively became cloudier as I traversed the trail. When I arrived at the pump house around 11AM the sky was dark and overcast. I decided at that point to return to the trailhead. Central Florida has the distinction of being called "lightning alley" and I wanted to avoid being caught out in the open.


    If you look at some of the photos taken on other central Florida trails you’ll notice that many areas are canopied and very little sky is visible. During our very hot summer weather, I especially enjoy the shade they provide during lengthy rides.
    Veni, Vidi, Bici
    2013 Specialized CrossTrail Sport Disc, 2013 Cannondale CAAD10 5

  8. #8
    Senior Member mrodgers's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed702 View Post
    If you look at some of the photos taken on other central Florida trails you’ll notice that many areas are canopied and very little sky is visible. During our very hot summer weather, I especially enjoy the shade they provide during lengthy rides.
    Excellent point. I don't have the heat you do (I have that and a lot more at work all day) but we do get our 90+ with 100% humidity and it is a good bit better riding in the woods. The best part is every mile or sooner there is water flowing down the mountain side to the river I ride next too and with all the rain we've had this summer, I can feel the air temperature drop probably almost 10° as I ride past these streams coming down the mountain.
    Ride no faster than your Guardian Angel can fly!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrodgers View Post
    Excellent point. I don't have the heat you do (I have that and a lot more at work all day) but we do get our 90+ with 100% humidity and it is a good bit better riding in the woods. The best part is every mile or sooner there is water flowing down the mountain side to the river I ride next too and with all the rain we've had this summer, I can feel the air temperature drop probably almost 10° as I ride past these streams coming down the mountain.
    Each area is special in its own way. Occasionally, the thought of trading Florida’s essentially flat geography for a mountainous region like you describe sounds wonderful. While I haven’t had the opportunity to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains lately, next year I’ll have time to bike portions of it. Of course, as they say, man plans, and God laughs.
    Veni, Vidi, Bici
    2013 Specialized CrossTrail Sport Disc, 2013 Cannondale CAAD10 5

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