After six weeks of light duty (and no bicycling, doctor’s orders) came to a close, I was ready to get back on the bike.
Sandy suggested that I ride the levees of Orlando Wetland Park. I’ve hiked on the Florida Trail side of the park, but had never ventured past the picnic area on the levee side. With a nice map mounted in my bike in my old map case, I began my exploration of the park.
At the first intersection, I joined several fellow birdwatchers snapping photos of a flock of roseate spoonbills.
I hadn’t ridden much farther when it became very apparent why Sandy suggested I take my good camera that takes panoramic shots: Lake Searcy and its wetlands met the sky. As I rode the loop, the wide open spaces were beautiful, with blue sky reflecting in the marshes.
Birds and birdwatchers were everywhere. I saw limpkins, blue herons, kingfishers, wood storks, and great egrets. Across one stretch of open water, I could see a dozen or so wood storks in the trees on its edge. As I rode closer, I noticed that they were all flying away from the trees, carrying nesting materials.
I first saw alligators out in the marshes, then along the shoreline. The farther from trailhead, the larger and the closer to where I was riding they seemed to be. Keeping a watchful eye to my route, I spotted an eight- or nine-footer walking out of the water and heading across the trail about ten feet from me.
We saw each other about the same time. I hit the brakes, and he slid backwards, half in the water. After a short wait I could see that he wasn’t going anywhere, so I quickly passed by on the far side of the levee. I was thinking of the great story that could have happened. I’d be bragging about it for years. “Yeah, those are the teeth marks where the gator grabbed the bike as I went by.”
Thankfully, there was no need for such a story.
Stopping at an observation deck, I joined a few fellow cyclists who had already spotted all the wildlife before I arrived. A young four-foot gator looked like he was posing for photos.
A banded water snake and a red rat snake swam in the man-made boils along with a crawfish. A ribbon snake was draped through a nearby tree.
In 11 miles of levee riding I took some beautiful panoramic photos, saw a lot of birds and felt good about riding again.