Currently our outside temperature is 81 degrees with a partly cloudy sky. Here in North Central Florida we've been moving from summer weather to about as wintry as it gets around here with lows in the 30s, and then back to the warmth again. Although the majority of residents around here enjoy the balmy temps, some of us are grateful for the occasional cool, cloudy days requiring sweaters.
|Walmart purchase a few years ago
I'm one of those. When I left Colorado, I disposed of most of my winter wardrobe, keeping the favorites. I have family in cold country. The sweaters, socks, long jeans and coats come in handy if a trip up north or out west is necessary.
|Gary unloads our bicycles
Last Friday we went on another adventure. This time the mode of travel was our bikes. The Outdoor Adventure Club made a trip to the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail a few weeks ago on a day when we could not join them. The leader of the club is one of our nearby neighbors; her descriptions of the trail appealed to us.
|a view from the handlebars
The multi-purpose trail used to be a railroad track. Paved with smooth asphalt for fifteen miles from start to finish, the road was a delight to ride although we couldn't go to the very end on that day. (we are senior citizens, after all!)
|Gary said we were lost
We examined the map (no, we weren't lost!!) and decided to turn around at the 9-mile marker. By the end of this day's adventure, we had traveled 18.6 miles. We want to return another time to ride the remainder.
The ride was beautiful with dense forests of tall pines, oaks draped generously with Spanish moss, swampy ponds alongside the trail, and we even saw a deer. Evidence of autumn with colorful orange and red leaves were occasional, but certainly not as profuse as our northern neighbors.
The air was quiet with an occasional car moving past along a highway that ran parallel with us much of the way. One particular stretch of the path near the start had some hills (seeming to all go UP! of course). That was when I learned how to use my gears. My default setting for all these months of riding has been on 4, but Gary taught me how to shift up or down, depending on the need and that was, indeed, a help. We don't have serious hills in our neighborhood route, so that's why I've been riding my bike for some 20 months without knowing about gears.
We didn't talk to each other a lot while biking since we both have some hearing loss and there was some distance between us as we rode along.
One more adventure awaited us before getting back to the car and our sack lunches. Not to worry, the above snapshot was taken with the zoom feature on my iPhone camera. We were nowhere as close to him as this looks.
About a mile into the start of our bike ride, there was a walking trail we could take to see wildlife. Only pedestrians were allowed, so we left our bikes in a rack at the entrance to this narrower trail. Walking about a mile, we eventually reached a very long boardwalk atop swamp land and sightings of gators.
|me with a reptile on my arm
Gary took several pictures of me with this gator, which was probably 8-10 feet long (nose to tail tip), really zooming in close to get the shot right.
|gators behind Gary
From that wood boardwalk across the wetland, I took this shot of Gary with gators sunning themselves on a beach. There are at least a dozen of them in this picture, hardly moving as they soaked in the sun's warmth. Our cooler weather slows them down considerably.
As we entered the hiking trail to get us to this point, we passed a park ranger's kiosk with a white board sign indicating how many wildlife sightings had been reported that day, thus far. It said 126 alligators were in view. I found that hard to believe until we began to see them ourselves. There was a large swath of beach on the far side of the lake from where we were allowed to stand. We zoomed in as best we could with our cameras, but this is the best we could do. You get the idea, but at the same time, you sorta have to see this in person to really believe it.
This info-sign was along the boardwalk. I am a Creationist (believing in a young earth created by God in 6 days, not millions of years ago). I do, however, readily agree where the sign says we as humans, when in alligator habitat, are not at the top of the food chain... in other words, don't get too close and don't feed them!!!
|as close as I got (with a zoom lens)
With that venture behind us, we climbed onto our bikes and completed the one-mile distance back to our car where an over-due lunch awaited us. We had been gone 2 1/2 hours.
This chicken salad is carried by our Walmart deli all the time and I buy it often. Sandwiches, potato chips, homemade chocolate chip cookies and bottled water made up our feast while we sat on a concrete bench near the parking lot.
We change when we are challenged. There was a sign along the trail stating something to that effect. I pondered this thought as I pedaled along, concluding it is definitely true. The past three years have challenged me in a more concentrated way than any other time in my life.
Well, I take that back. Becoming a mother for the first time was also a big challenge for me as I was forced to rise to the responsibilities of keeping a tiny little person alive. 🙄😆
I'll close with my usual, but nonetheless sincere, prayer for your grace and peace as you face your individual challenges.