Van Fleet and Red Wing

We’ve started getting in a routine of going on a longer bike ride at least one day each week. Most of our rides have been on trails that can only be described as old favorites…ones we’ve ridden on several occasions and return to for the comfort of a familiar ride. However, we don’t want to get in a rut so we also look for opportunities to ride new trails and visit different places.


Last summer we rode the General James A. Van Fleet Trail from the Mabel trailhead to the trailhead at Bay Lake, a twenty mile round trip, on what can only be described as a near perfect trail since it was flat, straight and shady. Last week we rode a second section of the trail from the Green Pond trailhead to Bay Lake, another 20 mile round trip. Like the portion we rode last year, this trail is equally flat, straight and shady, but since it travels through the Green Swamp, it’s wilder and more isolated.


Through the early section of the trail we were serenaded by alligators as we crossed the three bridges over the protected wetlands. Many riders report seeing not only alligators but deer, armadillo, rabbits, tortoises, snakes and even otters. On the day we rode, we spotted one gator and numerous gopher tortoises, not bad for a hot summer day, but a trip in the fall may be needed for better wildlife viewing and so we can complete the final leg of the trail from Green Pond to Polk City.


The trail’s well maintained and marked every half mile so it’s easy to know how far you’ve ridden and determine when it’s time to turn around, and while water and restroom facilities are available every 10 miles, it’s important to take plenty of water, especially on a summer ride. You also want to be self sufficient since there are few other riders and cell phone service is not available on all portions of the trail. However, with a little planning, the Van Fleet trail is a perfect way to spend a day in “wild” Florida.


Speaking of “wild” Florida, on our way home, we found a restaurant in Groveland that fits that description. Upon entering Red Wing Restaurant, diners are met by an antler chandelier, and walls lines with mounted deer, turkey, a rooster and even a jackalope. The sign in the parking lot announced all you can eat quail, but that’s a Wednesday night special. In fact, many of the wild dishes like gator tail, frog legs, venison and game sausage are reserved for the dinner menu, but we enjoyed the milder hamburgers, steak sandwiches and peach cobbler.

Finding a new, good restaurant is always an ideal way to end a bike ride.



Flat, Straight, and Shady!

I’d never heard of Mable, Florida until last week, but that’s the location of the northern most trail head of the General James A. Van Fleet Trail. Located on Hwy 50 west of Clermont, Mabel marks the 29 mile mark of the trail which travels through the Green Swamp to Polk City.


Many of the reviews of cyclists complain the trail is boring due to the fact that it is so flat and straight, however those qualities along with the shade make it nearly perfect. In fact, these conditions made it possible for me to take my longest ride of the post-50 period, completing a ride of just over 22 miles.

With trailheads located at Bay Lake Road and Green Pond Road in addition to Mabel and Polk City, the trail provides restroom and picnic facilities for cyclists, hikers, and equestrians. And despite complaints about the trail being too straight, it’s a favorite of speedsters looking for a trail for a time-trial.

The area’s recognized for the abundance of wildlife including feral pigs, snakes, turtles, alligators, and birds. While most of the wildlife we encountered was camera shy, a gopher tortoise and a pygmy rattler posed so John could take plenty of pictures.

Flat, straight, shady…that’s my kind of trail. Next time, we’ll start farther south at Green Pond Road so we can ride through the Green Swamp portion of the Captain James A. Van Fleet Trail.