***UPDATE***
There seemed to be a problem getting this to Post properly over the weekend. Part of the post didn’t upload and I am amending the original post to include the missing material. It also appears that, in some instances, the map graphic is not including the information from the GPX file. I continue to work on that issue. If I find I cannot resolve the issue, I will discontinue the use of the plug-in until I can find an alternative method of posting the map with route information. Thank you for your patience!

With this post and going forward, I will be posting a link to MapMyRide giving details of the ride. In addition, I will start embedding a map of the ride within the post to give the user the ability to zoom in and out of the ride to gather details and so that any potential riders can get their bearings. I hope you enjoy these small improvements to my posts. My hope is to make the posts a little more interactive and informative. Enjoy and read on! :-)

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/42273796

Before You Go:

Water is scarce along this trail. There is only a water station at the Mabel Trailhead. The trail is approximately 18.1 mile long (out and back). Depending on your tolerance for exhertion and doing without food, you might want to bring along a snack. In the early morning (before 10am), you can get by without a pair of sunglasses and sunscreen. Once the sun clears the tree canopy, the trail heats up quickly. Finally, this is a rural trail and, therefore, you might want to consider insect repellant; especially if you are, like me, prone to dismounting your bike and exploring your surroundings or taking pictures.

Getting There:

The easiest trailhead to reach is the Mable Trailhead. There is signage along State Highway 50 that will direct you to the Trailhead. Venture either east or west along Highway 50 toward Mabel, Florida.

Van Fleet Trail-Mabel Trailhead

If coming from the west along Hwy 50, make a right onto County Road 773. Make a left at the T-Intersection and head east. The trailhead is on your left.

Van Fleet Trail-Mabel Trailhead

If coming from the east, same directions except making a left onto County Road 773.

Van Fleet Trail-Mabel Trailhead

Van Fleet Trail-Mabel Trailhead

The Trail:

This is the third and final leg for the General James A. Van Fleet Trail. Like the other two sections I reviewed, the trail is relatively flat and fast. There is nice morning and late afternoon shade but, during the summer, the trail is very hot and very humid.

Van Fleet Trail-Flowers for the Trees

Traveling through some heavily forested areas, the cicada’s are almost deafening with their buzzing chorus. But, in breaks, you can hear quite a bit of birdsong. Cardinals abound as well as scrub jays, crows, mockingbirds and, in the wetter areas, egrets, great blue heron and wood storks. I did happen to chance upon a gaggle of turkey vultures (guessing their names – if anyone has a better idea of what bird appears in this picture, post a comment and I will correct). I’m not sure why they were gathered in this area. I did not see any dead animals near where they were congregated and, on my way back, they were gone from the area.

Van Fleet Trail-Turkey Vultures

Van Fleet Trail-Turkey Vultures

I did find the weight limit sign on the bridge humorous (this is the only bridge along the trail with a posted weight limit). That would be one seriously large biker! :-) I think, however, it probably has something to do with the nearby proximity of the high tension power lines not far from the bridge. Perhaps the power company uses the trail to access the power lines.

Van Fleet Trail-Weight Limit

Van Fleet Trail-Bridge Weight Limit

Van Fleet Trail-Power Lines

The turnaround point was the Bay Lake Road Trailhead. It is no more than a parking area with a signboard. There is no water or restrooms at this trailhead.

Van Fleet Trail-Bay Lake Road Trailhead

Van Fleet Trail-Bay Lake Road Trailhead

While biking north, I noticed a curious feature as I plodded along. What started as a small rise turned into a climbable ridge approximately 12 feet high. Curious creature that I am, I decided to stop at a small pavilion and climb to the top. Reaching the top, I found myself atop a plateau running to the west of the trail.

Van Fleet Trail-Plateau

Van Fleet Trail-Ridge

This completes the General James A. Van Fleet Trail. Overall, it is a fine trail. Some reviews I have read speak about the monotous nature of the trail. I think, rather, that those individuals failed to see the richness and variety that exists along the trail. During my ride, which I did in a single ride rather than drive 3 times out from Pinellas Park, I saw cardinals, mockingbirds and scrub jays flitting between the trees. I saw a small alligator sunning itself on the blacktop not far from a bridge crossing. Tortoise burrows lined both sids of the trail in spots. Many types of trees lined both sides of the trail – Oak, Palm, Cypress just to name a few. I passed hardwood hammocks, pastures and swamps. All in all, the Van Fleet is a fine example of a Florida that is quickly vanishing. Rather than bent over the handlebars and pumping furiously along this arrow straight trail, sit up and take notice of the array that nature puts forth across and along both sides of this wonderful trail. Happy Trails!

Van Fleet Trail-Horses

Van Fleet Trail-Gopher Tortoise

Van Fleet Trail-Wild Flowers

Van Fleet Trail-Little Turtle