The 23rd annual Bike Ride—Sunday, Oct. 1: We are currently working on getting the mailings out to our previous riders and securing our sponsors for this year.

A limited number of volunteers are needed, so if you are interested, please contact Karen Counts at ride-volunteer-coord@rttwst.org or she can be reached at 352-503-2881. At the present time, most jobs and hours are available.

This is our fundraiser to help with the upkeep of our beautiful Trail.

* A Snowbird’s View: Ann and Fred Abeles moved to Inverness years ago because of their love of the Withlacoochee State Trail. Now, when not in Inverness, they spend time in Maryland, as well as travel all over the world riding their bicycles. They have presented many lectures and shown slides of these trips to a standing-only crowd at the Rails to Trails meetings in the past, with more to come.

Here is what they wrote about the Trail — a portion will be given this month and the remaining portion will appear in my August column.

A FLORIDA JEWEL

The 46-mile, asphalt-paved Withlacoochee State Trail (WST) is a true jewel in west-

central Florida. The trail runs like a fascinating necklace from the Gulf Junction Trail Head in northern Citrus County, just a few miles south of the Withlacoochee River, through Citrus and Hernando counties to the intersection with U.S. 301 at Owensboro in Pasco County.

Along the way, a hiker or cyclist will pass through the communities of Holder, Hernando, Inverness, Floral City, Istachatta, Nobleton and Trilby, each with their own unique story. In addition, the trail passes near Fort Cooper State Park, Lake Towsen Community Park, the Croom Wildlife Management Area in the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and Silver Lake State Park. There are benches and picnic shelters at many locations along the trail, as well as inviting view of some of the “pools” on the Lake Tsala Apopka chain.

At the Lake Towsen Community Park, there is a short side trail down to a wide section of the Withlacoochee River with a boat launch and a fishing pier. Just a few miles further south, the trail passes several sections of cypress swamp.

However, just describing where the trail is located does not do justice to the beauty that one will find along the trail.

In the early spring, the trail sides are filled with varieties of flowers. I invite you to view my web album of photographs of many of these spring flowers at: https://goo.gl/photos/Qw4cLQQ4SZua6uQ5A

There are several species of flowering trees along the trail and frequent stands of the majestic long leaf pine. In the summer, the forest canopy offers welcome shade to trail users. Birds and other wildlife are abundant along the trail and include gopher tortoises, squirrels, rabbits, deer and the occasional wild pig.

When Fred and I retired in the winter of 1995, we knew we needed some form of physical activity to keep us healthy. We tried learning, but failed at golf. We tried taking long walks, but soon found walking the same route boring.

Finally, we tried cycling. We started with an old girl’s bike and a $99 Kmart Special. We drove down to the C&O Towpath, about 25 miles from our home in Frederick, Maryland and enjoyed a car-free place to begin riding. It was beautiful on the towpath, but hard work to cycle on the rough gravel and mud surface.

Fred decided it was because the bicycles we were riding must be junk, so we visited a real bicycle shop and bought two hybrid bicycles, suitable for comfortable riding. As we gained confidence, we looked for other car-free places to ride, especially in the winter.

To be continued ....

*Wednesday and Friday Work Crews: Most of this month is continuing with what they have been doing for the past several months. With this hot weather, a special “thank you” goes out to them!

Ride early and late, drink plenty of water and enjoy the Trail.

I can be reached at 352-527-3263.

Al Harnage writes publicity for Rails to Trails of the Withlacoochee.

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