On March 15, we embarked on our third annual birthday ride. This was by far our longest ride exceeding our previous 40 mile record by about 20 miles. Our route was fairly simple. We just followed the West Orange Trail until it blended into the South Lake Trail, which took us from Apopka Middle School to Lake Minneola. You can get the general gist of our route from Google Maps.
We started at Apopka Middle because it provided us with public parking, since it was a Sunday, and allowed us to avoid some of the sketchy areas on the northern part of the trail. Once we were out of the Apopka area, the trail started to become rather scenic with overarching trees offering shade from the mid afternoon sun.
The trail goes on like this for some time, passing through subdivisions, golf courses, forests, and what seemed to be like a good deal of partially developed land. It generally stayed away from large roads, making for a rather peaceful ride.
After about 15 miles we came to Winter Garden, a nice bike friendly town with plenty of bike racks and an extra wide sidewalk running right through the middle of main street.
We stopped shortly for a light snack before getting back on the trail, heading toward Oakland.
Oakland is about 5 miles outside of Winter Garden, and if signs didn’t say otherwise, I would have thought it was just an outlying part of Winter Garden. The part that we passed through was mostly made up of houses, except for a small community center and brick road that wound around a small fountain.
After that, the trail goes back into the woods, passing by several unfinished developments all advertising how nice it would be to have the West Orange Trail right in your back yard.
The next time we stopped it was because we felt that we had officially reached Clermont, one of the not so flat places in Florida. We attempted to show the relative altitude change in this picture:
Besides the fact that my legs hurt when climbing the hills, Clermont really was gorgeous. The hills allowed for nice views, over the somewhat secluded orange groves and scrub. We stopped on one hill that overlooked a small pond and orange grove, partially for a break and partially because it simply offered nice scenery.
At that point it was about 3:30, so we figured we should probably get moving if we were going to make it to Lake Minneola and back by sunset. Therefore, we didn’t stop for any scenic breaks after this and — with Bo’s inspiration — made it to Lake Minneola by about 4:00. Over the weekend, the city was hosting something called Pig on the Pond, which was a sort of festival hosted right along the trail by the lake. We stopped for about five minutes and looked around, but with a 28.5 mile ride back we didn’t take our time.
On the whole the trail was very nice passing through some cute towns, and generally upscale areas. Something that we particularly enjoyed was the fact that there were several train-stationed-themed trailheads along the trail that had bikes shops, water fountains, bathrooms, and bike rentals, as well as other biking accessories that we didn’t further investigate. However, at the end of the day, we decided that 60 miles was a bit too far to fully enjoy the trail and towns along the way, so we are hoping to plan a shorter route that will allow us to spend more time in Winter Garden, and a little less time with sore legs.