I was up before sun up, and out the door by 07:30 a.m. It was a cool 54 degrees and overcast.
I loaded the handheld blower in the Gator and set out to blow the leaves off the 3 small bridges on Woodpecker Trail and the pavilion at Little Shoals. I had done all of this yesterday, but wanted to make sure it was clean before the Ididaride cyclist and organizers converged on the area. The organizers were planning to use the large pavilion at Little Shoals to host the lunch. As I expected the winds from the night before had made a mess of things.
After returning back to Big Shoals, I met up with Ranger Dylan Shoemaker. He had met with some of the Ididaride organizers and learned that the bulk of the riders would not be in the Big Shoals/ Little Shoals area till noon when they would serve lunch.
Later in the morning, Dylan and I then set out to check the Long Branch Trail. Yesterday one of the organizers had reported the 2nd bridge on the trail had been washed out in the last storm and part of the trail was under water. The trail passes by the canoe launch. We stopped to look at the river and called to get the latest river elevation report form the ranger station. The river had risen over a foot again since the previous day and was at 61.3 feet above mean sea level!
We continued our hike to the small bridge. It had been moved off its concrete blocks before we got here in November. Apparently organizers had moved it back several days ago in preparation for the event. However, the recent rain had swelled the creek, and knocked if off the foundation again this time washing away the ramps. You gotta marvel at the power of mother nature. There was nothing we could do to fix it today.
When we got back around 1030 a.m., Dylan offered to take us to the Stephan Foster Folk Culture Center and the Craft Rendezvous event. There was a small mix of craftsman doing pottery, painting, leather works etc. It was one of the smallest craft shows we had seen. Joyce and I are more familiar with the really large organized arts and crafts events that pop up all over the Tampa Bay area.
On the way back to Big Shoals, we stopped at a small swap meet at the local hardware store in White Springs. Some of the handful of venders that ringed the small parking lot were selling chickens, ducks, guns, hot dogs and miscellaneous stuff. Again, smaller than any swap meet/ flea market I had ever been too. However, I need to keep it in perspective as White Springs is a small town!
Around noon we stopped at the Little Shoals entrance and mingled with the cyclists and organizers of the Ididaride. Being amongst all those cyclists made me long for the days when Joyce and I would participate in long organized rides throughout Florida with our friends and fellow cyclists. I gave my road bike to my son in law when we went full time. Although we have our tandem road bike and our mountain bikes with us, we haven’t ridden them much. I have a lot of excuses as to why we haven’t been riding much, but they are just excuses! It’s something we keep telling ourselves we need to get back into. We miss our cycling friends from the The Suncoast Cycling Club. The organizers said that 350 cyclist signed up for the event. The cyclists were being served a spaghetti lunch.
Some of the cyclists were bailing out of the event after their lunch. They reported muddy conditions on the trails and most of them looked worn out! One of the cyclists noticed my UF Gator hat and wanted me to take a picture of his muddy gator socks!
Afterwards, the three of us stopped at Fat Belly’s one of the three restaurants in town,. Their pulled pork sandwich is one of the best I’ve had!
Once we got back to our rig at Big Shoals, it was evident that the number of cyclists completing the ride had dwindled substantially. We saw just a few at the Big Shoals loop which was the 35 mile mark of the 50 mile ride. I wanted to take pictures of cyclists on the Long Branch Trail. However, there were so few cyclists at that time, I grew impatient and gave up.
Later in the afternoon, Dylan and I did the 3 mile hike again to Big Shoals to retrieve the signs we had put out yesterday. On the way back we walked with a father and adult son from Alabama. We talked about kayaking as they were kayaking enthusiasts. They were on their way to Orlando and just took a short detour to see the Big Shoals class III rapids. I invited them back to our rig before they left to look at the pictures I had taken of the shoals at different stages.
By 6:00 p.m. I was inside for the night and looking forward to what tomorrow would bring.