Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Its here in our backyard - Cycling on the levees of the Florida Everglades, by Eric Barton, special to the Globe and Mail

Cycling on the levees of the Florida Everglades
Eric Barton, Special to the Globe and Mail
Published May 22, 2024

We came to a crossroads about an hour into our Florida Everglades bike trip. Tracks made of crushed seashells drifted off to the horizon, so straight they looked planned with a giant level. Around us, on every side for as far as we could see, the sea of grass waved lazily, as flat as a calm morning ocean.

“Last time I was out here, somebody had put up a huge American flag in the middle of nowhere,” one of my companions said.

So we sped off, taking the right fork instead of our planned left, in search of this mysterious flag.

Our ride that morning took us on top of the levees that hold back the Florida Everglades, a 1.5-million-acre swampland sandwiched between Miami on the east coast and Naples on the west. The levees are nothing more than earthen berms, looking like massive speed bumps. They create a grid system that spans 3,427 kilometres, farther than a drive from Toronto to Calgary. Like the best off-road cycling adventures, there’s a sense of the unknown, even a bit of danger, because alligators as long as a Volkswagen could be waiting just up ahead.

For tourists coming to South Florida, riding the levees isn’t as simple as, say, renting a city bike on South Beach or a mountain bike at Miami’s Virginia Key Beach Park. But for the adventurous, the levees rise a couple meters above the swamp, offering undisturbed views of Florida in its original form.

CLICK HERE to read more, the full article Cycling on the levees of the Florida Everglades, by Eric Barton, special to the Globe and Mail

Special mention Dora & The Graveling Explorers (CLICK HERE) to view some of my prior blog posts relating to gravel riding with the Dora & The Graveling Explorers group - this article and my prior blog posts provide some real insight as to what to expect - the fun of biking the levees.

Cycling on the levees of the Florida Everglades, by Eric Barton, is a travel article - and one for those who want to staycation here at home and enjoy a view of the Everglades via bikes. I offer this article as a great read for anyone still on the fence as to riding the levels (AKA gravel riding South Florida style). The article covers a ride that sets off from Everglades Holiday Park, west of Ft Lauderdale - but I ride (when I ride gravel) usually out of the Tamiami Trail near the Miccosukee Casino & Resort, the Trail Glades Range or Dade Corners, which ever landmark you prefer.  The rides have even gathered as far east as 137th and 8th Street (where we have seen deer just across the Tamiami Canal from civilization). 

Levee riders can travel as far south as the Everglades Nation Pak, south of Homestead Florida or as far north as you want to go - many traveling up to West Palm Beach and back.  You can decide.  Groups such as the aforementioned Dora & The Graveling Explorers group ride all these routes and distances, but include many opportunities for training rides that take you no further than between SW 137th Street to the Miami-Dade County Trail Glades Range area. 

I have seen single riders, pairs, families and even moderately seized groups taking park in these gravel rides. 

From the Article:

If You Go

Riding the Everglades levees isn’t as easy as more tourist-friendly biking destinations, like Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, with its paved trail and bike rental right at the entrance. But the payout is unobstructed views and a ride where you’ll likely not see another person.

Bike rentals

Several bike shops in South Florida rent bikes that can be ridden on the levees, including Mack Cycle and Brickell Bikes. Hybrid bikes would work, but better are mountain bikes for a smoother ride or gravel bikes for those who want to travel faster.

What to bring

Once out on the levees, there are no facilities and little shade, so bring several water bottles and backup sunscreen. Patch kits are recommended since a walk back with a flat is a monotonous trek. Mosquitoes and horseflies can be fierce, so bug spray is also smart if you plan on stopping.

How to plan

The levee trails can be found on cycling apps like Strava and even running along the Everglades canals on Google maps. But for first timers, joining a group ride is better. Find them on Facebook on pages including Florida Gravel Biking and Dora & The Graveling Explorers.

Dinosaur encounters

Wildlife is common on the levees, with everything from skinny deer to vultures the size of labradors. Alligators are the most treacherous among them, but attacks are unheard of if you stay on the trails and don’t approach too closely.

No comments:

Post a Comment