Rock Springs Run State Reserve is part of a large swath of greenway designed to protect the Wekiva River, a designated National Wild & Scenic River, along with its primary tributary, Rock Springs Run. In fact, this green patch includes a portion of the St. Johns River, the longest river in Florida.
Kelly Park/Rock Springs, Wekiwa Springs State Park, Black Bear Wilderness Area, the Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park, Seminole State Forest, Blue Spring State Park, and Hontoon Island State Park are all part of this protected natural area. I’d explored all of these, except Rock Springs Run State Reserve, which is a very large piece of property, so I decided to cover as much as possible by utilizing the bike trails.
Much to my dismay, this was probably the toughest outing I’ve had to date, both physically and mentally. So much so that I have avoided writing this article for more than a year. Here’s my story, from the beginning.
The day before this excursion, I received my new Sony DSLR camera and I was anxious to try it out. We’d had some rain the night before, but chances of rain were predicted to be acceptably low for using my new non-waterproof camera…although I brought along a zip-lock baggie, just in case. While the skies were solid overcast as I left my house in the morning, I hoped it would soon burn off as the sun rose, revealing Florida’s deep blue skies and some puffy white clouds…exactly what I like for photography.
Right off the bat, I found that the bike trail was overgrown and all the vegetation was dripping wet. OK — so the camera went into the plastic baggie…a pain when I wanted to stop for pictures, but I proceeded undaunted. After pushing through some of this overgrown area, the trail opened up nicely, though the cloud cover still hadn’t lifted, which makes for lousy photos. Being the eternal optimist, I still held hope of a bright, sunshiny day.
Sections of the trail merged with service roads, all of which were comprised of sugar-sand. I did not have my fat tire bike at that time, so those stretches were miserable. I often had to walk my bike, the sand being the same as soft beach sand, where even your feet sink in nearly to the ankle with every step — unrideable on a regular mountain bike. But then I’d be back on a forest trail and life was good.
I had hoped to find my way to Rock Springs Run, but signage was lacking and I was wearing down from fighting the soft sand. Still, the sky remained overcast, which didn’t help my spirits. Nevertheless, I pressed on until I came to a service road section that stretched off as far as I could see — nothing but soft sand — and I was at my furthest point from the trailhead. So I hiked, pushing my bike along.
Tired and disgusted with the sugar sand and still overcast skies, I decided to head back, trying to complete a loop. I did, however, have 2 highlights near the end that made the struggles and frustration worthwhile. One was a field bursting with cactus flowers. If only there had been blue skies, this would have been absolutely gorgeous. Being overcast, it was a bit frustrating for pictures, but beautiful to experience first-hand. (The wildflowers in general were varied and very pretty.)
The second highlight was the horses. Not wild horses, but horses from the on-site riding vendor, Cactus Jack’s. It was such a relief when I finally reached hard-packed dirt roads near the stables. But the coolest part of the whole day was when they let the horses run free in the meadow to graze. Eight magnificent horses galloped across the field, sounding like rolling thunder, until they reached a favoured grazing spot. I only wished I could have video recorded it.
Next time out here will either be to hike or ride a horse. I wouldn’t even bring my fat tire bike out here, unless the bike trails were vastly improved. Maybe a mountain bike club will take this on (hint, hint). Still, you are welcome to check out the Photo Gallery, and the slideshow below. Unfortunately, Trimble Outdoors no longer supports the app I used to map my ride.