The Southern Glades Trail is a great place to bike.
After riding the Overseas Heritage Trail up the length of the Florida Keys, I had one more item of study to do: connecting to the mainland.
When US 1 was enlarged between Key Largo and Florida City in the last decade, it was perplexing that no provision was made for an East Coast Greenway bike path to run alongside it.
Cyclists on the East Coast Greenway we knew would take the less-traveled Card Sound Road via northern Key Largo.
Hikers from the Florida Keys heading north did the exact reverse. They’d take US 1 as a lead.
It was less secluded and provided the ability to fill up on water at a campground or resort.
Hikers traveling the length of the Eastern Seaboard on the Eastern Continental Trail use the Overseas Heritage Trail (ECT).
One of our buddies, Nimblewill Nomad, popularised it over twenty years ago.
Sandy wanted me to ride down the C-111 canal from Key Largo to Everglades National Park for the sake of accuracy in the guidebook.
If you don’t want to walk up Krome Avenue via Florida City and Homestead, this is the diagonal that many ECT hikers take to get off US 1.
She had seen an old brochure online that described it as part of the Dade County Greenway system and referred to it as the Southern Glades Trail.
She didn’t want me to go alone because it was such a distant track. As a result, we enlisted the help of our buddy Bill Detzner, a lifelong biker who has cycled around the globe. Literally.
Bill prefers to ride on the road and does not possess a mountain bike. As a result, we allowed him to borrow Sandy’s.
The journey got off to a rough start as our planned starting point was blocked by a locked gate due to lock reconstruction. The usual crossing was shut down.
We devised a new strategy while standing in a gravel parking lot littered with broken glass and sand spurs.
We discovered a ramp enabling trucks to operate on and maintain the locks and levees as we rode up and over US 1 to the other side.
The ramp led directly to the path, despite the sign stating “official usage only.” We continued down to the levee since Bill, and I felt pretty “formal” that day.
To the north, there was a trail kiosk for Southern Glades WEA. We followed a crushed rock path on this side of the canal, then on the other.
We had to pass through two locks before arriving at CR 9336, the main entrance to Everglades National Park.
How difficult could a 13-mile ride be for an experienced long-distance biker like Bill?
I was feeling confident because I’d just completed the Overseas Heritage Trail the day before.
We hadn’t been riding for long when the blackflies discovered us, even though it was the end of November.
Without their constant onslaught, there was no pause for even a drink of water.
Worse, this would not be a peaceful, relaxing ride. To avoid the wind, the biting devils would land on the backside of our arms, legs, and necks if we slowed to less than 14 mph.
The critical number for avoiding the nasty biting creatures was 14 mph. They’re little, but they’re vicious!
14 mph is a great comfortable pace on a road cycle on a paved path. It was difficult to pedal a hefty mountain bike with wide off-road tires over a bumpy dirt and gravel route.
There was virtually little dialogue as we rode considerably faster than we had ever dreamed we’d need to go.
If you know Bill or me, you know this is an unusual occurrence. At that speed, I also shot significantly fewer images.
The only time we took a break was while we were crossing the concrete locks. They provided a small amount of protection.
We could have a quick sip from our water bottles while stopping in the middle of the canal on the lock before the blackflies found us again.
When we arrived at the paved road leading to Everglades National Park, there was a locked gate and a narrow slot through which we could squeeze our bikes after raising them to the other side.
A big diamondback rattlesnake greeted us as we approached the road.
It had been hit by a vehicle and died, but it served as a reminder of the types of animals that may be found where we were traveling. This WEA is rumored to be home to pythons and other dangerous creatures.
We were relieved to see nice tarmac on the county road after thirteen miles of rough, uneven road and biting insects, even if it was just a small bike lane.
To meet us, our wives had driven to Everglades National Park. Sandy texted me that she and Ginny were hiking the Anhinga Trail.
They had our park passes, so we planned our tragic narrative about how our wives were already inside and had our passes as we rode near the park entrance.
We hoped to avoid having to pay an admission fee.
The ranger waived us in as we approached the gate, saying, “You must be the guys meeting your wives.”
The park was crowded. People travel from all over the world to see an alligator up close.
Today, they had an added treat when they saw two wild guys dressed as bikers riding into the parking lot. “Momma, look! There’s some alligator food!”