Enter Big Mamma’s House if you DARE!
Florida Mountain Biking has lots to offer that you would never expect. The riding at Loyce E. Harpe Park is nothing like most bikers have ever experienced. These 10 miles of trails built in an old phosphate mine are not for the faint of heart. The trails started out flat with a few tight tree constricted turns and some easy wooden features to get you warmed up. This quickly changed after we crossed the sandy field to the main portion of trials. The terrain changed as we rode into an extraordinary jungle of moss covered oaks that let the light shine beautifully through their edges as it hung from the trees. Great Blue Herons, colorful birds and wildlife scurrying through the bushes added to this magical place as the trails become harder and harder.
Our attention was quickly refocused as we summited a short but steep climb and stopped to take in the scenery. Below us next to the return trail we spotted a baby gator perched on a tree trunk that was growing sideways out the bank and over the water. My mood shifted from relaxed and confident to curiously apprehensive as we were squeezing between huge oaks and sharp drop-offs. The trails became narrower with steep technical ascents, large roots and sheer drop off that landed in alligator infested waters! These trails are home to Big Mamma a 14 foot alligator who is know to sun on the trail. Was that her baby we just saw?
The “Fingers”, which are the advanced trails, descended into a tight sand wash with a sudden drop hugging the surrounding swamp. I looked at hesitantly as my last wreck was in a rutted wash. I did not want to end up falling into the swamp if I messed up. I nervously pondered the trail. My husband yells from the bottom ‘ you don’t have to do anything you don’t feel like,” dam now I have to do it. It is like he was egging me on, reverse psychology and guilt consumed my thoughts. I got on my bike and let it rip. As I was finished my descent I heard a loud shuffle and splash that nearly caused me to crash. I came safely to a stop and looked at my husband questioningly, he said nonchalantly “it was an alligator jumping into the water.” OMG!
The trails here are tough, the red trials are tight with scary drops, lots of roots, rocks, and loose sand. The red trails offer some great views as they finger our into the water. Just make sure you look where you are going or you will end up in the swamp. The yellow (easy) and blue (intermediate) trails are relatively easy and straight forward. The only downside of this trail system was the signage. It was at times confusing or nonexistent. There are new trails here that are not on the map which add to the confusion.
If you are in Florida and in the area, jump on the trials and enjoy the exhilarating ride.
The Carter Road Swim Team
Carter road has it’s own exclusive Swim Team Club. Generally this is a funny term applied to rafters and kayakers when they fall out of their boats and end up swimming. Here it is taken to an all new level, enough bikers have fallen off the technical trails into the murky waters to warrant a T-shirt and a club. Alligators are more scared of you then you are of them….right?