When I was running the Southwest Florida Lung Cancer 5K at the Charlotte Sports Park, I noticed that there was a trail system behind the stadium. The Tippecanoe Environmental Park is maintained by Charlotte County who protect a beautiful piece of land hugged on its outer rim by waterways and a salt marsh. The County fenced off this property and set in place a system of wide (Truck size) trails meant for hiking.
Terri and I decided that it would a fun place to explore and we were hoping to get in a couple miles of walking in this beautiful fall weather. Happily, we got a little more than we expected.
Let me start off by saying, this park is still a work in progress. That was clear from the roughness of the sandy trails and the lack of internal signs. Biking is possible but pointless as the deep sand would not be much fun and the actual distances are rather short. Otherwise, everything is wide open. There are wide open views, wide open trails and a wide sky looming over you. We were lucky to have full cloud cover, otherwise you should expect a sunburn from so much open air.
We entered at the arch and traveled all the way down the Brown trail to "Mount Tippecanoe." This is a fifteen foot tall hill that has a striking view of the Sam Knight creek. It is also where our walk turned into a mysterious adventure. Something was being built on the hill (We are not at liberty to give details) but it seemed odd that something so unusual was being constructed so deep in the park.
We enjoyed our view of the adjacent Flamingo Waterway and then continued on our walk. I had memorized the trail map from the website so we wouldn't get lost. The Brown trail brought us under the cover of trees and then onto a bridge over a wide stream. It was easy to get close to the exotic birds that made their homes nearby but in the distance you could also see Osprey and an Eagles nest. Another flat bridge gave you views of the salt flats. Then when we turned the corner we ran into a new surprise.
There in the center of the trail was another creation being built. Was it another bridge? Was it a walkway of some kind? We still weren't sure what was going on but we knew that we were not alone in the park. Beyond the sounds of whispering winds and scurrying animals was the distinct racket of mechanical vehicles in motion.
The Brown trail broke off into the desolate stretch of Green trail which appeared to travel along forever. The park alters your spacial perceptions as everything appears further away than it actually is. At that point we would swear that our car was three miles away and yet we had only traveled a single mile to get there.
As we enjoyed the rustic scent of week old burnt brush, a white pick-up truck spotted us and started coming our way. The driver was a very friendly Charlotte County employee. He informed us that the park was closed because they were doing construction projects to prepare for the upcoming Tippecanoe Mud Run on November 23rd, 2013.
The mystery had been solved. Those unusual constructions now made sense. In fact, the County was working on building unique obstacles to make this year's race one to remember. The Tippecanoe race had already been recommended to us from several running friends. Their pitch was that the big races (Tough Mudder & Spartan) were getting too expensive where as Tippecanoe was local, cheaper and still a ton of fun.
While we were informed of some of the new additions to this year's course, we were also asked to keep the changes a secret. We had taken pictures of their constructions but I kept them out of our photo gallery. You might want to check out the Tippecanoe Mud Run on Nov 23rd. I can promise it is going to be a race worth watching.