Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

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Biking the Withlacoochee

Thursday March 13, 2014
Rainbow Springs State Park
Dunnellon, Florida



We wanted to bike the Withlacoochee trail again and thought we would go this time from the starting in Citrus Springs just south of  Dunnellon.  But again everyone said no, the best parts are from Inverness or Floral City.   So today we drive 28 miles south on Route 41 to Floral City, Florida to pick up the Withlacoochee and ride it further south for 10 or so miles and then back.





It’s a good thing we pick Floral City because it has a great trail side bike shop where I can find out why my odometer sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.   Hampton’s Edge bike shop really is trail side.  Your literally  ride right by it as you pass through the little cross roads known as Floral City.   In no time, my contacts get cleaned and I’m set to go, David buys a new rear view mirror to replace the broken one and we both have golf balls put on the bottom of our kick stands.







We haven’t ridden 200 feet I swear before David spots this sign and peddles down the hill to this any time magnet for him.





The bakery is in the front of the house with the kitchen open to view directly behind it.  .






I’m outside talking with the bakery kitty when David calls me in to pick out my two of the four treats he is buying.









I think we’re finally on the trail but it’s nearly an hour after we pulled into the public parking spot.



The Withlacoochee State Trail is a 46-mile stretch of railroad track that was converted to a paved recreational trail suitable for hiking, biking, and skating. Horseback riding is available on a separate trail along side the paved trail. The North end of the trail is located in Citrus Springs, south of Dunnellon, Florida and extends 46 miles to the south ending at the trailhead parking lot at Highway 301 in Dade City, Florida.  An expansion to Dunnellon and over the river is expected to open within the month.


All along the section of the trail we rode, we saw two things recurring.   There was a bluebird trail with the boxes number up over 100.  





And there were many gopher tortoise holes some with the tortoise right there.








It’s an easy flat ride through wooded property much of it state owned.




But from the trail you can see some interesting things like this forlorn Class A with a pretty serious sign on the front.








About half way to our turn around we stop at the same spot as last time for lunch, the little crossing of Istachatta where everything is right here on the main corner.  Store, post office, church and town hall. 


It’s too cold for ice cream from the store this afternoon but we enjoy their bi-centennial park complete with shuffleboard court.  The plaque on the building says it too is a Bicentennial project.  It appears to be a town hall with a very small library in the back.










In 2010 when we were here, we mailed Carrie a post card from this very post office.





Can you see this sign in the above picture just to the right of the right side door?



Isn’t it wonderful that this little spot has its own library even if it is only open a few hours one day a week.  One of my fondest childhood memories is riding to the library once a week to get and return books.  I know the children in this town must love not having to drive to the library.






After lunch on the park bench we head on.  Along the way we find the blue bird house and the tortoise  right next to each other.









This sign pointing to the path is our half way point.  We ride down to the river.  This is the main place we wanted to revisit from our first time on the trail.  It is just outstandingly beautiful.








Here is what you find at the end of the path,  the beautiful Withlacoochee River for whom the bike trail is named.  We’ve been told the name means little great water and it is just that.  Big and wide in some places and small and intimate in others, like here.   Boy would I like to paddle through here.










We are enjoying the serenity and beauty of this magnificent place when we see a limpkin fishing just across the water on the island.







In 2011 the river was way down and we were able to walk across to the little island where today this limpkin has found himself an apple snail.  The ground then was littered with the empty snail shells.  That year we saw the shells but not the birds.  This year with the water up, the snails and the birds have the island all to themselves.






Soon he is joined by two white ibis.   I know lots of people find them so common here that they refer to ibis as Florida chickens but we really enjoy silently watching the limpkin and the ibis going about their day.











Then I hear voices, loud voices and I think someone else must be coming down the trail.  I confess to being disappointed.  Not in having to share this spot but in having to share it with those who are so noisy.  The birds disappear of course.  And then around the corner come two canoes with people just talking as if they were in a crowded bar.   I think to myself that they may not even understand what they are missing by making so much noise.


Luckily they are soon gone on down the river.   The birds and the silence return.









I know, I know, enough all ready.  But isn’t that a “fetching” pose?








Signs of spring even in the cypress swamp.







We have stayed a seriously LONG time but eventually we do have to be on our way.  I could for sure stay here for hours and hours, just like at the beach.   If I only had a chair.  :-)





Turns out that based on time, this has become our turn around point.  We’ve peddled about 10.5 miles.  On the way back, I see more little signs of spring.













Our last stop is at a river overlook that we passed on the way initially but skipped in favor of making sure we could get to the quiet swampy spot.

This path leads to a local park where there are beautiful live oak trees shading picnic tables and a fishing pier out over a much bigger Withlacoochee River.






All along the river are cypress swamps which are among our favorite places.  They are here behind the pier and were at our last stop on our side of the water and over on the little island as well.










The path in is through some deep sand and as we don’t have mountain bikes, it is a test for our hybrids especially coming up the hill away from the river.  David is out first and gets this picture of me pulling up just out of the sand.





The trail crosses county roads all along its way.   Every once in a while we have to actually stop for cars but seldom.  Usually a slow look both ways shows nothing in sight.



Back into “town” we roll  an hour before dark now that they have pushed sundown back an hour.  20.8 is the official mileage for the day.  The sun was bright and you probably noticed that I adopted David’s hat design for the day.  I’ve been having a little trouble with the increasing sunshine and my eyes so the brim really helped.  Even with the bright sunshine, the high temperature was only 62, perfect for riding.  




I wonder how many other states have state bike trails.  Florida also has state hiking trails and canoe/kayaking trails.   It might make you think they really wanted the fans of these silent sports to spend some time here.


  1. Great bird sighting. I too have had my run ins with talking people who wonder where the birds are. Enjoyed the post.

  2. What a great area to bike through. So, what were the treats you picked out at the bakery?

  3. David must have been a Bloodhound in a previous life by the way he can sniff out those bakery treats...

    Love the Rails to Trails bike paths, a great re"cycled" treasure. Rode the trail alongside the Potomac into DC many times over the years. :c)

  4. I must remember next time we meet that you are bakery fiends! When we get in better shape, and have bikes :-), we'll have to try this. I really like the limpkins I think they are very pretty birds.

  5. I wondered about the treat choices too. Love to find a bakery in an old house out in the country like this.

    The trail ride looks grand. I would love the 62 degree day for such a ride. We will be in that area in April and will have to check out doing a similar ride or kayaking the Withlacoochee.

    Never too many bird photos for me. . . .

  6. I would be all for stopping at every bakery I come to! I wish there was a way to do a longer trail without having to cover the same ground coming back. I tried to hike the C&O Canal trail, but could only go 5 or 6 mile stretches and then turn around and walk back. Just recently I came across my C&O book with all my sections marked. I soon got more into backpacking and never did accomplish much of the C&O Canal.

  7. We have some 'rails to trails' here in Oregon....

  8. Wow long bike ride but sure looks interesting. Love the photos! When you were in Floral City you were about 25 minutes from us! If you go into Dunnellon on hwy 41 (south side of town) is a restaurant called The Front Porch - great desserts-pies- my Dads favorite restaurant. Sometimes we take Kens bike and ride up there. I'm sure the pies aren't as good as Dave's cherry but they are good.

    1. Goodness, we should have met for pie. I had no idea we were so close & I do love pie, even if it isn't one I made. I remember passing that place and wondering about a stop there, but that was after our stop at the bakery in the morning so I didn't even float that idea. We will be back next year though, so maybe then.

  9. ohhhhhhhh the kitty AND the bakery … this is my kind of stuff! Has to be a lot of Maine Coon in him.

    That was quite a bike ride! beautiful....

  10. Some areas have found a way to make a buck. Companies ferry bikers, tubers and kayakers so they can make there trip a one way trip...if they want to part with the cash. One I have used in North Idaho is the Hiawatha trail. A bus took us up the trail and we rode down....a beautiful trail through the mountain with lots of historical points along the way.

  11. We've been on both ends of the Withlacoochee and have never seen a gopher tortoise;o(( Thought we might finally get to see the Iverness to Floral City section...but the section you road is a very pretty section!! We love the Rail Trails!!

  12. One of our goals is to ride a rail trail in every state. Florida is done, but not on this trail that we've heard so much about. Certainly no harm in riding more than one in every state, is there? Sadly, Tennessee is lacking in their commitment to the rail trail project, but they are making progress!

  13. Looks like a nice bike ride. You have ride at least 20 miles to get any exercise here in flat FL.

    It does annoy us when we are enjoying the quiet of nature on a trail or on the water and someone loud comes along. Sure does end seeing any wildlife.

  14. We used to ride the rails to trails in Pennsylvania when we lived there. There are some lovely 'back behind' areas to see! I've been good about riding my bike here at Pittman, even though there's nothing to see, I'm getting my exercise in :) We both love finding bakeries on our travels.

  15. I just love a good bike trail....wish I could have been there with you!

  16. The pictures look like the trail is flat and wide with the exception of the deep sandy area. Was that a side trail like the one down to the river? We are taking our recumbent trykes on the road with us so I'm compiling a list of friendly trails to enjoy. Maybe the rails to trails system would be good for us in several areas? David's wide shot of the river and island is really lovely. Tortoises and blue birds, what a great neighborhood :-).

    1. The trail itself is flat and wide and paved. All the little side trails are sandy and narrow. But you might be able to at least walk your bikes down them I think. If the Rails to Trails bike trails are paved they would all be great for recumbents.

  17. Ah, memories of our favorite bike trail in FL. We went to several recumbent rallies and stayed at a little motel right near the trail. Regis, the owner of Hampton's Edge, even rode with us. Fun times! Isn't it great to ride bikes without having to worry about traffic?

    1. Are your 'bents bike or trike? We are so looking forward to finding good trails for ours.

  18. And I would have liked watching that limpkin.

  19. That looked like a fun ride! Love the big tortoise and the limpkin has beautifully patterned feathers. I do love the bird posed with his head cocked sideways.

  20. Nice trail! I finally got my replacement bike and hope to be hitting the trails agian soon. I think I have given up on an odometer. They are just to much trouble to keep working.

  21. I love your bird photos and I too am interested in your bakery treats.The kitty in the photo reminded me of Jazzy,we miss her dearly.She,s been gone about a year and a half and she too had a lot of Maine Coon in her.

  22. My bakery treats were a coffee cake with cherry filling called "cherry pie treat" and a glazed pecan bar cut in a square, loaded with pecans held in place by the glaze. Sherry had an oatmeal bar loaded with chocolate chips and a blueberry scone. Yummy! The thing about this section of trail that brought us here is that it does not run parallel to a major road, a few minor country roads, every now and then but no traffic. Mostly wooded on both sides with some rural development in the form of older, smaller private homes along county roads. Nice ride.

  23. We were just there and we began our ride in Inverness and rode past Floral City. I wished I stopped at that bakery, now I know what I missed.

  24. Your limpkin photos are fantastic!! With all of the birding we do and all of the time we spend in nature, I've yet to see a limpkin. We also have been delighted with all of the biking trails in Florida. And I don't mind at all that they're flat. ;-)

  25. The Clean Air Ride to benefit the Key Training Center (a very good cause) is this Saturday on the Withlacoochee Trail. http://www.cleanairride.com/

    Rides vary from 14 to 100 miles, with SAG stops and lunch included in Inverness. All of this for $25 in advance, or $30 the day of the ride. A T-shirt is included.

    I ride with a group there every Saturday and love the trail. This Saturday I hope to do my first Century ride.

  26. Great ride! I think I remember the postcard from that tiny post-office. I probably still have it. Nice candid of that ibis with his head cocked - "what say you?" Love to see signs of spring - still waiting for blooms here in Maryland - they are coming though - I see the daffodils beginning to return. Nature is amazing!


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