Friday, June 20, 2014

Bicycling a missing link

Volusia County just completed a 2.5 mile, mostly sidewalk connection between the Spring to Spring Trail and the East Central Florida Regional Rail Trail.  This short section connects Gemini Springs with Green Springs, and gives bicyclists about a 20 mile out and back ride to where the Osteen Bridge is currently under construction over highway 415.
A trail bicyclist used to have to ride in sometimes heavy traffic with no bike lanes to pedal this busy section, so the sidewalk is very welcome!  This road is named Dirksen Avenue west of the Interstate and is called Debary Avenue on the east side.  Building a trail along this missing link is awesome!
Trailhead, just off 17/92
I bicycled this new section today, and despite the heat, it was a pleasant bike ride.  I parked at the gravel trailhead just off highway 17/92 in the shade.  The first section along Gemini Springs Park is well shaded.  The path splits directions around rocks a couple of times and it curves a bit, keeping your speed low around park entrance and exit crossings.
Beware the mileage markers along the trail may be confusing.  I never saw the 0 mile, and somehow gained half a mile between both trails.  The miles count down from 4 out of Gemini Springs and then count up from Green Springs.
Trail splits in Gemini Springs
Where the trail previously dead-ended and turned left to climb to historic Debary Hall, the new section continues ahead, built as a wide sidewalk along the busy street.  There are some restaurants and convenience stores located across the street.  It soon comes to where the Interstate bridge crossed the road and the railroad line.  The sidewalk is paved under here, just a little away from the traffic.  It then passes by a Park-and-Ride lot, and continues along, next to the street for about a mile and a half, until the trail turns into the trees.
Where the trail used to end, new trail continues ahead

Under the I-4 bridge where the railroad used to run
About a block after the trees, Green Springs is on the right.  The trail then climbs a bit and continues along until it dead ends in about 5 miles.  I have written about this trail here before, so I won't repeat all of that.  It does dead end at the base of the new bridge construction which will cross the recently widened highway 415 in Osteen, just north of the almost famous Osteen Diner.  From there it will continue to the next stop about 5 miles away.  Plans call for the next 50 miles of this trail to become a major portion of the cross Florida bicycle trail.  I understand funding is approved and construction on that section will begin next year.
Where I used to begin the trail
While hot, today's ride was pleasant because of the clouds and light breezes.  I saw an eagle in its nest and a turtle crossed the trail in front of me.  Where the trail has shade it was nice, but the last couple of miles near Osteen are wide open and the heat was increasing.  It is also very hot when crossing the boardwalks along the trail.
In total the trail ride was 19.72 miles long.  The trail gained 482 feet (surprising) riding out and back.  I didn't ride very fast and stopped every 10 minutes or so for a drink or to take a photo, so it took me over a couple hours to complete it on my mountain bike.  I used an app called MapMyHike on my iPhone for the first time, and I liked how it worked.
To get here, take I-4 East from Orlando.  Cross the St. John River and take the next exit, 108.  At Debary Drive turn right (west) and drive just under 4 miles.  Turn left into the trailhead just before you reach the stoplight at 17/92.
When the Osteen bridge is finished in August, I'll bicycle over that part of the trail (on a cloudy day).
Osteen Bridge construction, maybe finished in August

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