9 January 2015

Cycling In The Naples Area and Beyond

Location: Rock Creek RV Resort, Naples, FL, USA
We stayed here for more than a month, and we rode most days, for groceries or other shopping. Additionally, we used the bikes for some sight-seeing trips and several training rides in excess of 20 kms.

Naples, Florida is a busy city and vehicle traffic flows along very quickly. It's also a city that provides numerous opportunities for cycling in wide bike lanes and on several bike paths. Unfortunately, the municipality has not compiled a definitive Bike Route Map and made it available to the cycling community.

The riding here is mostly urban ... there are few greenbelt or natural areas. Floridians rarely walk on their sidewalks, so cyclists have that surface mostly to themselves. Our campsite location, affords us some great advantages ... we have an approximate 6 km ride to the Naples Beaches access at 8th Avenue ... one way takes about a 1/2 hour. We have short rides, in all directions, to fresh, local, grocery and other shopping ... to garden walks, farmers markets and restaurants and we can do several fairly safe, quiet 'training rides' of 15 - 30 kms in length. The convenience of doing most things here, using our bikes, is probably the greatest advantage of this campground location. Be cautious though, vehicle drivers here are not that attentive, there is a high percentage of 'Olderlies' in Florida ... they sometimes move quickly or ... they sometimes move toooooo slowly, you'll just never know! We've had several situations, where, had we not been paying attention at intersection crossings or other locations, we could have easily had an accident. 

We always wear our helmets and bright clothing, we've installed front and rear flashing lights, bike reflectors and rear view handle bar mirrors and we still use hand signals whenever necessary. We watch out for each other enroute and we don't allow for much separation in our riding. 

Gordon River Trail                                                                                                                                    
Access is out of the campground to North Road, around the backside of the Naples Airport to a residential area that fringes the Gordon River. Where the homes end, this trail enters the river corridor and travels for several kilometres to the Naples Zoo. Apparently, a couple of million dollars was invested into the developemet of this multi-use trail system ... a large percentage is wooden boardwalk, there are bridges and lookouts, benches, lighting and the complete pathway is paved. Although not particularily long, it is one of the quieter rides we have found so far. Good views of the river as you ride along. A parking lot at the end provides a launch area for canoes, kayaks and SUP’s. 

Cycling the Gordon River Trail, Naples Florida
Very nice riding ...

Gordon River, Naples, Florida
Gordon River, Naples, Florida
Gordon River, Naples, Florida

The Rich King Memorial Greenway                                                                                                                                    
Not a long trail, for sure, but easily combined with other rides nearby. A paved, north-south route along the east side of Naples. It extends 3 miles through a powerline corridor with residential neighborhoods to either side and canal views on its southern end.

Cycling along the Rich King Memorial Greenway, Naples, Florida

Shark Valley, Everglades National Park 
We were here a few years ago, rode some of this trail and enjoyed it ... so, here we are again. 

It’s a 122 km drive from our campsite in Naples to the trail entrance for this 24km ride. Once you enter Big Cypress and Everglades National Park’s on the way here, a variety of birds take over the drainage ditches on either side of the highway for more than 80 kms. They’re in every tree, in flocks and singles ... all the egrets, all the herons, anhingas, storks, kingfisher, ducks, ibis. Shark Valley is a popular destination, so don’t be surprised if the parking lot is nearly full by mid-morning. The trail itself is easy to ride ... no grade change, wide, paved. The greatest hazard is the tourist conjestion at the beginning. Once you’re a km or 2 away from the trailhead, the birders, walkers and cyclists spread out considerably and after the observation tower at the half way point, you’ll hardly see anyone during the return ride. You can’t help but come to the conclusion after riding for 3 or 4 hours and stopping to observe frequently, that this is an interesting, healthy, rich and varied ecosystem.

Cycling Shark Valley, Everglades National Park
Birds in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park
Shark Valley scenery in Everglades National Park
Scenery in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park
A 350 metre walking trail near the beginning of the Shark Valley Multi-Use Trail features a unique, natural feature of the area ... and it's worth the short side trip.

The Otter Caves show below as small, shallow openings along the trail base ... they are easy to overlook and easy to stub a sneaker on!

Otter Caves (holes) in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

A Little Blue Heron searches for insects, minnows, frogs ... These guys seem to prefer the flat, open, marshy areas for their hunting ... where the Storks and Egrets are. You don't often see them where the other Herons, Ducks and Anhingas collect.

Little Blue Heron looking for insects in Shark Valley
Snout-Nosed Turtle. Saw a bunch ... just kinda lazin' around on logs and stumps ... like turtles seem to do.

Snout nosed turtle in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

Anhinga on the nest ... This gal wasn't too annoyed, but she did keep an eye on us as we snapped photos. Her head feathers 'bristled' a bit and she 'twitched' her tail!

Anhinga sitting on nest in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park
... and, in the bushes.

Anhingas roosting in the bushes in Shark Valley

Wood Stork in flight ... they 'G R O N K' as they fly!

Wood stork in flight, Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

... and gathering at the end of the day.

Wood storks resting in Shark Valley, Everglades national Park

Great Blue Heron ... preening. Luv the feather display! 

Great Blue Heron acting shy in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park
Turkey Vulture  ... preening.

Turkey Vulture in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

CONCENTRATING ... a Tri-Coloured and Little Green Heron.

Tri Colored and Little Green Heron, Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

Common Moorhen (immature)

Common Moorhen in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

A juvenile American Alligator - 5 or 6 feet.

American alligator in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

Young alligators congregate near their mother for up to 3 years. They hide in culverts that cross the trail between marshland. They stay there until they are about 2 feet or longer before venturing out into the everglades. The female protects ferociously.

Baby alligators in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

NEW SIGHTINGS: Snout-Nosed Turtle, Common Moorhen, baby Alligators and a Black Crowned Heron (couldn't get the photo)

We also saw Roseate Spoonbills, Belted Kingfishers, Northern Mockingbirds, Ibis, and all the Egrets.

Crusty ... sure was a nice day!

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TEAM: LOAF, Crumby, Wry & Crusty