Mountains provide challenges for outdoor enthusiasts
Hiking in the cool early fall Appalachian Mountain air was a real treat that my wife, Maria, and I were able to enjoy recently. We try to make it onto the Appalachian Trail once a year, usually near the southern terminus at Springer Mountain in North Georgia. This year, however, we got to mix brats, beer and the Chicken Dance with fantastic hiking (but never did get onto the AT).
We stayed in Helen, Ga., an Appalachian Mountain town that’s unique in that it took on the persona of an Alpine town a few decades ago as a way to attract people to live and visit. As a wanna-be German village, having an annual Oktoberfest is, of course, mandatory. So important is this festival to Helen’s economy that it even has its own municipal beer garden that’s operated by the chamber of commerce.
Thankfully, respite from the honkytonk atmosphere can be had at nearby Unicoi State Park, a beautiful place with miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails, conveniently connected to Helen by a 5-mile foot trail, a link we took advantage of more than once. As I mentioned, we never made it to the AT this time, but got plenty of quality miles in on very similar trails — and were able to sample a bit of Germany to boot.
Although we weren’t able to stay for the Fat Tire Mountain Bike Fest being held in Unicoi Park just as we were departing we did participate in a “mountain” cycling event closer to home. On our way back home, we spent the weekend at the annual Mount Dora Bicycle Fest (http://www.mountdora. com/bikefest). More than 600 cyclists rode the challenging hills of that region, including Florida’s highest point, Sugar Mountain. For flatlanders and those used to tackling hills on a regular basis, these rides are indeed demanding, especially when done in record-heat conditions.
A few weeks later, the Horrible Hundred rides (http://horrible-hundred. com) took place in Clermont and surrounding towns north and west of Orlando. Perfect weather blessed the 2,000-plus cyclists, many who tackled the century distance, a ride that nets more than 4,000 feet of climbs. Organizers did an excellent job ensuring everyone had a safe and enjoyable ride. The post-ride food and socializing were a real treat.
Between the Central Florida events a few local rides occurred. Everyone Rides took off from Buckingham Park and the Caloosahatchee River Ride left from Caloosahatchee Regional Park in Alva. Both were well attended, didn’t involve any “mountains,” and raised money for good causes. Everyone Rides (http:// everyonerides.org) proceeds purchase bikes for Boys and Girls Club kids and the River Ride benefits the nonprofit Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association (http://crca.caloosahatchee.org). It’s still a while until it happens, but don’t forget to mark your calendar for another annual ride that’s staged at Buckingham Park: Caloosa Riders’ Royal Palm Ride takes place on March 7, 2010.
On the heels of Dangerous by Design, a damning report for the entire state of Florida, BikeWalkLee sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist imploring him to deal with our persistent pedestrian (and bicycle) safety and access problem. Along with compelling data that confirms the findings, the letter states: “Once again, Florida is in the national spotlight — this time, as the most dangerous state in the country for pedestrians. A national report, Dangerous by Design, jointly produced by the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership and Transportation for America, found Florida to have a danger index for pedestrians that is three times the national average. There is substantial evidence that pedestrians and bicyclists are being put at risk across the state and we call upon you, as the leader of our state, to present a plan of action to the citizens of Florida….”
We’ll see if we get a response, and more importantly, a pledge of action.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails.
— Dan Moser is a league cycling instructor/trainer and program manager for the Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness.
He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334-6417.
.. Upcoming Events
>>River Run 10K Run & 2-Mile Walk*: Saturday,
Dec. 5, 8 a.m., Centennial Park, Fort Myers
>>Rotary Park 5K Run & Walk*: Saturday,
Dec. 12, 8 a.m., Cape Coral Rotary Park (www.
>>Cape Coral 10 Miler: Sunday, Dec.
13, 7:30 a.m., Oasis Charter Middle School
*Official Florida Senior Games Qualifiers
For info on running events, check with the Fort
Myers Track Club (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com) and
3-D Runners (www.3dracinginc.com). For Naples
running info, it’s the Gulf Coast Runners (www.
gcrunner.org). Charlotte County running information
is at www.zoomersrun.com. Walkers can visit www.
>>Florida Senior Games State Championships:
Dec. 8 & 10, Cape Coral (http://www.
>>Highland Bike Fest: Dec. 11-13,
Visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club at www.
caloosariders.com, Florida Mudcutters at www.
mudcutters.org; Naples Pathways Coalition at www.
naplespathways.org; and Naples Velo at www.
naplesvelo.com for more information on local bicycling
activities, including weekly rides. The Florida
Bicycle Association (www.floridabicycle.org) is your
source for statewide happenings.