During Spring Break 2013, my family was excited to visit our best friends who recently moved south of Tampa, Florida.  I was very intentional on loading up the mountain bikes for the trip as I had heard that there area few trails in the area to ride.

First, we rode a trail called Balm Boyette which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere!  It was about a 30 minute drive but definitely the closest to my friends home.

It was neat to learn that Florida bike trails are often built on former phosphorus mines.  Building on these former mines allows the trail builders to incorporate changing elevations.  Since the trails can utilize the edges of these large mine craters, the end result are long flowy circular trail loops.

Also, as the vegetation has grown over these mines and rainwater fills the deepest part of the mine pits, many of the trails skirt along the edge of swampy water.  The end result is a beautiful scenery is several spots.

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Second, we traveled about 10 minutes past Balm Boyette to reach an excellent trail called Alafia.  Wow, these trails were excellent and it was obvious that lots of time and energy had been poured in to making these trails top notch.

Again, these trails were built around overgrown phosphorus mines, but Alafia had a large diversity of trail difficulties.  My favorite trail was the Roller Coaster which contained several high banking turns and lots of whoops to give you the roller coaster feel.

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20130508-111808.jpgWe did learn why one trail section was closed.  Being the adventurous bikers we are, we decided to ignore the “temporary closed” signs and venture through a section that was in deep need of upkeep and repair.  We paid the price for trailblazing this section and it seemed like nature kept reminding us why we needed to stay away by attaching mini sticker balls to our clothing and gloves.

Of course, you will notice from the pictures that the vegetation is very tropical and the sand is very white and powdery.  There had been some rain during the week, so this helped pack down the trail for fast riding.

I want to thank the SWAMP Mountain Bike Club for building and maintaining a great trail system.  I am even considering returning in 2014 to race a 6-Hour Duo race with my friend.

Finally, you will see from the pictures that we had a surprise pit stop at the mecca of mtbing in the Southeast better known as the Santos Trails.  I remember the IMBA Trail Crew team showing our bike club slides of the Santos Trails back in 2009 and wished to myself to visit these trails one day.20130508-112026.jpg

Unfortunately, visiting these trails was not on this trip’s agenda, but my family got stuck on I-95 and I pulled off on 301 to try and steer away from the congestion.  Low and behold, only a few miles on 301, we ran up to signage telling us turn left to get to Santos Trails.  My wife agreed to make it a potty-stop and I did not argue.

The parking lot was packed with a large diversity of riders unloading.  There was a awesome pump track at the trailhead and a skills park with large rocks to navigate.

I was able to get in a 3 mile ride just to say I had momentarily submitted to the Santos gods. This introduction only wet my appetite for more and I can’t wait for the next visit to ride this 70+ trail system!

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