Thursday, March 22, 2012

Trail Running O'Leno State Park: A Pleasant Surprise

We are on the move again, heading to South Florida for Dances With Dirt Green Swamp. We stopped at one of the lesser known state parks along the way for an overnight, and I found some fun trails.

The park was O'Leno State Park, which is not too far off the 75, just north of Gainesville. We chose this park, not for its amenities but because it was halfway between where we were and where we needed to be. Our expectations were not high. We were just looking for a place to pull in for the night. It turns out that it was a really serendipitous choice, as it was a beautiful park with a system of easily accessible trails that made it perfect for a little run to shake out the kinks in my pre-DWD taper.

The trail system includes hiking and mountain bike trails. There is a river, the Sante Fe, in the park, with a suspension bridge built by the CCC in 1938. The trails are typical Florida, packed sand with stubborn grass poking through in spots, nice and soft to trot along on. The trails were wide and well cleared, which is great because I am still having allergic reactions to the things I got into on my first ill-fated trail run in North Florida.

There are several trails in the park, all of which begin just east of the suspension bridge, which is a major landmark. The one I did today was the green one, called the Parener's Branch, which is listed as 3.69 mi. The green loop allows both mountain bike and hiking, but connects into the yellow trail to complete the loop back to the bridge, which is hiking only, so I am not sure if that mileage is for only the green portion or whether it also includes the yellow section that competes the loop. I also ran the entire yellow loop (video coming) which is 1.44 mi  and is for hiking only. There are additional trails in the system, Sweetwater (1.87 mi) and River Rise (4.25 mi), so one could put together a decently long run if connecting trails. I did not see a lot of wildlife, but there were a few extremely skittish deer, some baby alligators, and many butterflies.

In talking to some wonderful ladies on the camp staff (one of whom was from Ann Arbor), I found out that I had just missed their annual Race The Tortoise 5k held in the park on March 3 this year. I was kind of bummed about that. I mean who doesn't need a race shirt with a tortoise running across a suspension bridge?

Anyway, I thought I would share the experience with you all just to put you in a Green Swamp state of mind:

1 comment:

  1. Lori,
    What a great park. Thanks for sharing your photos. I can just imagine plodding along with you among the palmettos. Any alligators in those "swimming holes"? Have a great DWD!


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