Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Flor'Easter: Day 5- Graham Swamp Trail(s)

FOMBA with palm trees.
Today promised to be one of those epic days.  Clear skies and highs in the sixties were forecast after yesterday's rain.  With all day to explore Graham Swamp and the Palm Coast area trails, anticipation levels were high.

I'm happy to say that the day did not disappoint.  It was epic.

I set out in the chilly morning air for Graham Swamp.  I had already scoped out a route to the trailhead with my brother-in-law a few days earlier.  I cruised along the intercoastal waterway following the paved multi-use trail, and eventually branched off and to reach Colbert Road on the eastern side of the park.  The path, which included a long set of bridges, crossed the swamp on its northern end eventually reaching the King's Road trailhead.

Thinking that this was the trailhead for the established trail system, I set out on the doubletrack ready to explore the swamp.  However, each time I jumped onto what looked like a singetrack it petered out into the thick palmetto undergrowth.  Half expecting to come across a gator, I was on high alert.  After an hour of fighting through underbrush, spiderwebs, and chasing disappearing trails, my front tire blew out.

Dead end.  Again.
I changed the tire and headed back to the trailhead, where I resolved to go into Palm Coast to get a new spare and some lunch.  Unfortunately the shortest line back to the strip-mall hell that is the center of Palm Coast didn't have any bikepaths or breakdown lanes.  Faced with a detour of several miles, I did the only reasonable thing: I rode five feet to the side of the road through an open field into town.  Although the sheriff slowed down when he passed me, he didn't stop, so I took that as a sign of approval at my makeshift bike lane.  The folks at P.C. Bike hooked me up with the spares and I found a bite to eat at the convenience store (a snickers bar and some sour patch kids), and headed back to Colbert Road.

I fought a stiff southerly headwind down to the Graham Swamp trail head on Colbert Road.  After finally reaching the trailhead I downed a couple handfuls of sour patch kids and set out on the one-way trail.  Not even a hundred yards onto the trail I spotted my favorite Florida backcountry mascot: a wild pig.  About twenty yards from the trail, I could smell it as well as I could see it.  Instead of putting my tail between my legs and retreating to civilization, this time I gave him the best "Sueee-ey" I could muster as he scrambled off into the brush.

The seven miles of trail were well marked and resembled the bastard love child of "Tap & Die" and FOMBA. Short climbs and steep drops alternate with switchbacks through mostly pine glens.  While there were some deep sandy spots, most of the trail consists of hard packed dirt with rock challenges, drops and jumps sprinkled in.  The most intimidating drops incorporate easier alternate line choices which allow beginners (and us cowardly intermediates) to work up the courage for the hero jumps.  There are so many, however, that you're bound to try a couple just by mistake.

The headless horeseman jumped out of this tree...or
maybe the lack of water was getting to me.
I finished the seven miles of trail in just under an hour and headed back toward the bridge over the intercoastal.  The stiff southerly wind had now become a fierce northerly wind, and I again battled to make headway.

By the end of the day I had been biking for almost four hours, covered nearly 35 miles, consumed two snickers bars and a few dozen sour patch kids....and won a staring contest with a wild pig.

Now that's a pretty good day.

Here's the video:

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