HURRICANE IRMA damage has closed the Seminole Wekiva Trail between Montgomery Road and the Softball Complex. Plan accordingly.
Two years ago, I rode the length of the Seminole Wekiva Trail from Markham Trailhead to San Sebastian Trailhead with my friend Billy. Today would be a shorter route, the portion used by the Coast to Coast Connector (C2C).
On my last C2C ride, I followed the Rinehart Trail from Sanford to Lake Mary. I crossed Interstate 4 on the bike/pedestrian bridge as part of the Cross Seminole Trail. The Cross Seminole and Florida National Scenic Trail share this route over I-4. Once you are over the bridge, you meet the Seminole Wekiva Trail. The Florida Trail turns north towards the Markham Trailhead. Turning south, you are on the C2C route.
Today’s ride begins at this intersection. This paved bike path runs parallel to International Blvd through a huge office park, which includes the national headquarters of AAA. If you are a member, maybe you could stop by and see if they have a complete map showing the route of the C2C.
Even though the trail runs through this busy office complex, it is often covered by shade under the planted trees. Enjoy the shade, but be prepared for many driveway crossings. If you happen to ride through at lunch time, be careful. There are many bistros and little places for lunch along the route. Many of the office workers run out for a quick lunch. Even though this is a well-traveled bike path, sometimes being hungry and in a hurry can turn a bicycle invisible to these motorists.
Past the buildings, the trees become bigger, and you could see ducks swimming in the retention pond between the bike path and I-4. Luckily, not much farther along the trees begin to obscure the highway view. There are even a few shaded benches to rest and prepare yourself for the next busy section of the route.
At the bustling intersection of Lake Mary Blvd, you reach the Seminole Wekiva Trail underpass. Thank you to the bike-friendly folks who incorporated it. Ride slowly through the turns into and out of the underpass. The turns are tight, and there could be cyclists coming from the other direction.
There are two of these underpasses along this route. Take note that there is a sign directing you to an “after hours crossing.” Heavy gates are closed and locked at the underpasses every night.
Once through the underpass, the trail makes a quick right turn and takes you past the Shops of Oakmont, which has a bakery and a few places to stop for a nice lunch. Need a spa, a salon, or florist? How about a gallon of house paint? You can get it there. Look closely, there is even a bike shop.
Just past the Panera Bread sign, the trail makes a hard 90 degree turn. Just past the turn there are a few bike racks and rear access to a couple of the eateries. There are even some trailview tables on patios outdoors.
On my last ride through this piece of the trail there was a herd of cows watching me go by. Now like most of the other old agriculture land near here, it has given way for “progress.” Dozens of new luxury homes are under construction behind the two fences. At least the trail is still green on both sides and lined with oak trees.
Jones Trailhead is just past Long Pond Rd. There are few trailheads along this route. This one will provide a shorter ride for those wanting to visit the trailside art gallery known as Paint the Trail.
Get ready, because along this route you are about to joined by Honest Abe, the Simpsons, Captain Kirk, Snoopy, Chuck Norris, Herman Munster, Dave Letterman, and so many more. If you are a Doctor Who fan, he might not be far away. Watch for a blue Tardis.
What began as an artist with some free time on his hands has become a large open art gallery under the trees, painted on dozens and dozens of fence sections. It is a wonderful surprise and a great place to give your bottom a break from the bike seat and stretch your legs for a stroll along the paintings. These are a small sample of the many you will see here.
Back on the bike, you cross EE Williamson before arriving at the historic marker for “The Springs,” Hoosier/Sanlando, Palm, and Shepherds/Starbuck. These three springs, located near here, were developed in the late 1800s.
In 1926, Hoosier Spring was purchased and the name was changed to Sanlando Spring before it was enlarged and surrounded by a concrete wall. It became a year round destination. The tall slide, bath house and outdoor terrazzo dance floor are long gone, nothing more than a memory. The springs are now part of a subdivision, and no longer are available to the public.
As you approach the underpass at SR 434 watch for the huge ‘SWT’ in the retaining wall as you ride by. Riding through another tight tunnel, be prepared for another short pass through an urban area. Buildings and traffic surround you. Both Markham Woods and Douglas Avenue are busy roads. Luckily there is an electronic trail crossing. Make sure to push the button. The only safe way across is when the signal stops all lanes of traffic and flashes for you to cross. A short ride and it is back to green.
Another trailhead is up next, at the Seminole County Softball Complex. The trailhead offers a covered picnic area and water fountains. Walk up the two flights of stairs to learn about the Orange Belt Railway. At one time it was the longest narrow gauge railroad in the country, and it was owned by a Russian immigrant, Peter Demens.
The C2C connects two places where Peter Demens was instrumental to Florida’s history. He lived in Longwood in the 1880s, and made railroad ties for the Orange Belt Railroad, which ran from Apopka to the Tampa Bay area. When the railroad couldn’t afford to pay him, they gave him the railroad charter. He named the other end of the line for one of the places he lived in Russia, St. Peterburg. And that is where the Coast to Coast Connector ends. So the route roughly follows his railroad. It also starts following the Little Wekiva River upstream from here.
If you did not stop at the ballfield trailhead, Sanlando Park is just down the trail. With restrooms, tennis courts, racquetball, a playground, and basketball. There is always something going on. Past these parks, it is back to more houses, traffic and another busy road crossing. Again, at Montgomery Rd make sure to push the “cross the road” button, and wait for the signal to stop all traffic to safely cross.
Next stop is the San Sebastian Trailhead, the end of today’s ride at SR 436. Unfortunately, it is also the end of the completed sections of the C2C until it starts up again on the West Orange Trail near Apopka.
As a linear ride, it’s 9.8 miles from the junction of the Cross Seminole Trail with the Seminole Wekiva Trail to San Sebastian Trailhead. I did it as a round-trip of 20.4 miles, parking with permission at a business up the road from the trail junction.