It wasn't until I started riding again that those elusive off road paths suddenly came into view. You wouldn't see them in your everyday life where we drive from work to home but climb on some knobby tires and your eyes track the gaps between bushes and trees hoping for a little room to roam.
Englewood, Florida is a former fishing village, it is pancake flat and not a place people will ever associate with Mountain Biking. However it is my home so I started exploring. While I don't have any major parks nearby, I do have a couple small trail networks, a state forest and some bike paths. In the past weeks I've been checking out these areas and I'm happy to say they are not bad, for Florida.
Ann Dever Trails - In the woods behind the San Casa Recreational area are 2 and a half miles of fire roads connecting San Casa Drive with Placida Road. The trails are flat but wide, rolling on primarily crushed shell and pinewood needles. The coolest features are two bridges that cross waterways. These bridges are also wide but well built with decent views. I personally love these trails because I can use them to extend longer rides while enjoying a little shade.
Cedar Point Environmental Park - This small nature park across the road from Lemon Bay High School is not really made for Mountain Biking so I only use it as a ride through. Cedar Point has 2 miles worth of narrow, twisting trails riding on grass, sand, muck and pine needles. It is a slow ride best done in low gears, it can be techy in places and you are almost certain to see cool animals. I've seen a bobcat and an eagle.
Myakka State Forest - On the larger side of rides comes Myakka. With 13 miles of marked trails there is plenty to explore and you have a good shot of seeing wildlife. However, you will also get fried by the sun as there is not much cover. You can enter the park from several sides with just a bike but the rear entrance is often flooded during the summer months. The front entrance also connects to the 4 mile long bike path that lines Winchester Boulevard.
Lemon Bay Park - With over 200 acres alongside the intercoastal, Lemon Bay park has some cool bridges for easy nature walks with sweeping views of the waterway. As for biking, there is not much here. One path made of crushed shells will keep you out of the puddles but it is only a mile long. It's good for a little spinning just don't run over any pedestrians or armadillos.
Cape Haze Pioneer Trail - I've known about this bike path for a while but didn't ride it until recently because it sits in the middle of nowhere. It starts behind Wendy's Restaurant on 776 and is a 7 mile straight shot to Placida. Not much shade, only a couple turn offs, very little to look at but perfect for a long uninterrupted ride.
Boca Grande Trail - The second prettiest ride in Englewood is not off road but it is a bike trail. There is a 6 mile paved bike path that travels the length of the island. It starts before the bridge and ends at lighthouse beach. I have ridden it in the past on some terrible bikes which had no problem dodging iguanas and old rich people. A big bonus is that the path passes inches from the window of an ice cream shop in downtown Boca.
Beach Road - They could rename it paradise road if they wanted. Beach Road is seven miles of eye candy. It rests under canopy trees, passes three beaches complete with bikini clad ladies and has views of enormous winter homes. You are almost guaranteed to see another cyclist at almost anytime on any day. Plus the rides over Lemon Bay Bridge and Manasota Key Bridge are the only climbs for many miles.
There are more places to ride in Englewood and I will find them all.
Check back for updates.