…..NO, no, not that kind of biker! Bicycler.
Our area of Florida has some real nice biking trails; paved, no hills to speak of, not overly crowded. But my favourite trail is an unpaved seven mile loop through Crystal River State Park. I always see critters there – wild turkeys, wild hog, armadillos, raccoons. Thankfully no bears. Well it used to be my favourite trail but not so much this week as you shall see. Here’s how it played out.
It was in late March. I arrived relatively early to beat the heat and was greeted by this sign:
I was rotted but also pleased to think that they were finally doing some trail maintenance. It was badly torn up in one section from service vehicles. I figured I would go as far as the blockade and come back and fill in my time on the paved road in the park. Off I go. And go. And go. No barricade, no caution tape, surely I am more than two miles in. Then I noticed the trees on my right were charred. This was new since last ride but they frequently do patches of controlled burn to keep down the noxious invasives. No, that’s not a Trump initiative, I mean the invasive plants.
He: “it’s all fine, Ma’am. We are looking after it”
I wished I’d asked him how long the park was to be closed. I wished I’d asked him if it was indeed a controlled fire or a wild fire. It has been really dry and there were as many as seven recent brush fires in our area. But I was pretty sure by his tone that I was becoming a nuisance so I hung up. In the span of two minutes I had gone from an intrepid junior forest ranger who was out to save the park from total destruction, to errant trespassing criminal. (Indeed, on the way out I passed a sheriff coming in but I doubt if he was looking for me)
Anyhow, what exercise I missed out on in distance I made up in speed. I wished I had taken some photos but was too concerned about being deep fried. So Sunday past I went back only to find the park had reopened. I got my pic of the sign (the photos used above were from my second trip in) and then decided to do the loop. Not pretty. Not pretty at all, but I determined that it must have been a controlled burn because it definitely followed the trail edge on one side only and never crossed over, nor did it go deep into the brush.
It didn’t seem to have scared the critters off either. I saw lots hoof prints in the sandy parts of the road, and one wild turkey who, when she saw me, took off into the charred woods. “Mmmm” I thought “roast turkey.”
The fire was still smouldering and for some of the trail it made for some pretty smoky breathing. I wondered how sensible I was being by biking along a smouldering trail (that’s progress, for many years I never stopped to wonder which can get you into all kinds of situations) and whether I should turn back. Maybe someone just took down the sign and the park was still closed. Maybe it flared up again over-night and no one knew yet. I have to admit to being nervous but I thought, it’s like falling off a horse right? You have to get right back on. So, there being no wind, I completed the seven miles, but the ugly charred landscape sucked the fun out of a good portion of the trek.
So just a reminder to all you woodsy folk: make sure your campfire is out before you go to sleep and don’t smoke. Period. Intrepid aging bikers and Smoky the Bear will thank you.