Miami-to-Everglades … and Back Again: 2016 Florida Sojourn Recap

Posted 03/31/16 by Mark Battista in Building Trails, Trail Use

2016 RTC Florida Sojourn riders on the Black Creek Trail in Clay County, Florida | Photo by Mark Battista

Special thanks to Mark Battista for sending us this great wrap-up of RTC's 2016 Florida Sojourn.

Like birds winging south for the winter, more than 70 riders flocked to the sunny climate and balmy breeze of southern Florida to bike RTC’s inaugural Florida Sojourn, Feb. 29-March 3, 2016.

View of Biscayne Bay in Florida | Photo by Mark Battista

The four-day, 120-mile bike trek—which started on Biscayne Bay, moved through southern Miami-Dade County and rolled south to Everglades National Park—was more than a bike trip; it was a trip to envision the potential of trails and the challenges to building them.

“It's a way for folks to get out and experience trails, and a way for us to share updates and information on individual trail projects that RTC supports,” explained Ken Bryan, RTC’s Florida state director. “In the case of Miami, we have invested a lot of time and resources … and we want folks to understand the regional vision for a useful and convenient trail system that serves all environments—urban, suburban and rural.”

Day 1 – Kick Off from Key Biscayne

Surrounded by the turquoise water of Biscayne Bay and enveloped by the sounds of terns and gulls, we started our journey along the curving and gentle path in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, located on the southern tip of the key.

Rickenbacker Trail connecting Miami and Key Biscayne in Florida | Mark Battista

We then pedaled onto the Rickenbacker Trail, which runs along shorelines and palm tree-lined streets and over a causeway to the mainland with sweeping views of the bay and the Miami skyline. In addition to serving as a physical connection between Miami and Biscayne Key, the Rickenbacker Trail connects Miami residents to key resources such as the Virginia Beach County Park and the Miami Seaquarium.

“The Rickenbacker Causeway is the most popular cycling venue in all of Miami-Dade County,” said Sue Kawalerski, president of the Everglades Bicycle Club. “There is no other cycling venue in South Florida … where you get the view, the challenge and the feeling of paradise rolled into one.”

After rolling into Miami, we picked up the M-Path (also known locally as The Underline) and South Dade Trail—utilitarian trails that provide access between southern Miami and Florida City. The M-Path runs along the right-of-way underneath the elevated Metrorail, and the South Dade Trail capitalizes on the right-of-way paralleling the South Miami-Dade Busway. (FYI: Both public transportation systems accommodates bicycles.)

And after a long 39-mile day, we made camp at Larry and Penny Thompson Park next to Zoo Miami.

Day 2 – The Marine Life!

On the second day, we followed the multi-use trail through Larry and Penny Thompson Park and connected to the Black Creek Trail. The 9-mile-long Black Creek Trail was created along the canal managed by the South Florida Water Management District and demonstrates how open space along the canals can be used for multi-use trails.

View from Black Point Park and Marina off the Black Creek Trail | Photo by Mark Battista

Along the trail, we were greeted by ducklings, iguanas, cattle egret and a variety of basking turtles. We were delivered to Black Point Park and Marina where we continued on a 1.5-mile jetty into Biscayne Bay. The view was breathtaking—and made all the better by four manatees bobbing just 30 feet off shore.

We pedaled another 18 miles of interconnected trails to Florida City and made camp at the Southern Comfort RV Resort. Camp rumor had it that many cyclists were seen singing karaoke at the resort’s Tiki Bar.

Day 3 – Beauty and Wildness

Next day, we ventured out onto rural roads and then on to the in-progress Southern Glades Trail (SGT), which penetrates 5 miles into the state-managed Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area.

An alligator spotting along the Southern Glades Trail | Photo by Mark Battista

There was a beauty and wildness to the SGT. Here, we saw tree-filled hummocks rising from the expansive, grassy glades and alligators floating motionless in the canal before dissolving beneath the waters. Some riders even got to see a lone anhinga perched atop a tree.

In the afternoon, we journeyed on the Biscayne-Everglades Greenway (BEG). Like the SGT, this trail is just in its infancy, but in time, it will form a vital link between Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park.

Day 4 – Victory Lap

On the final day, we followed a bike path to the Homestead-Miami Speedway—and we were invited to bike the 1.5-mile track. It was a great culminating event for our final day. (For Roy Bayne, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, it was the ideal way to celebrate his 79th birthday!)

Victory lap on the Homestead-Miami Speedway to end the 2016 Florida Sojourn | Mark Battista

After the victory lap, we returned to the Biscayne-Everglades Greenway and headed to Biscayne National Park, spying alligators and manatees along the way. At the park, we hiked a short trail along the edge of the bay where mangroves and seagrapes flourished. We took in the views and enjoyed watching the brown pelicans and even a great white heron.

Over four days and 120 miles, we pedaled developed trails and unfinished pathways that hold promise for a trail system that will connect locals and visitors to communities, cultural centers and the area’s natural resources.

The riders who participated in the Florida Sojourn came from across the nation; 19 states were represented. They came for the ride and also for the camaraderie.

Chicago resident John Hales sums it up succinctly: “It was my toughest trip, but I really enjoyed it. It’s always good because of the fellowship of the other riders.”

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