Tag Archives: Alafia River State Park

Alafia State Park week recap

I’m a little slow getting to this, because we’ve been busy!

Our week at Alafia State park was spent in glorious weather – cool nights and warm, dry days. The park itself was absolutely beautiful, and mostly un-crowded. The parking lot at the bike trailhead got busy on weekends, but the campground was never full.

We spent quite a bit of our time simply staying and playing in the park. Jeff romped on the bike trails and I explored most of the 20 miles of equestrian/hiking trails. Stepping outside my door onto hiking trails was a true pleasure. As hiking trails go, they were pleasant, but not spectacular – mostly flat, some parts wooded, some parts grassy field.

lithia springsWe did explore areas outside the park as well. One day we hopped on the motorcycle and drove to St. Petersburg beach for lunch. On the way there, we swung into Lithia Springs Park, an out of the way gem that boasts a swimming area filled by a crystal-clear flowing spring welling up from the ground. At a constant 72 degrees year round, I can see how this swimming hole would be a popular place in the summer! The park also had a campground which was beautiful, but probably a bit tight for our big rig.

Our good friend Jose drove up from Miami on Friday night to join us for the weekend.  After romping on the trails Saturday morning, the boys kicked back and watched the many college football games on the big screen TVs – first inside and then transitioned to the outside TV as the sun set. A campfire behind you, big screen football in front of you plus a beer in your hand = big boy heaven!

Columbia-Ybor-City-la-fonda-dining-room-2On Sunday, the three of us traveled over to historic Ybor City, just northeast of downtown Tampa. It was founded in the 1880s by Vicente Martinez-Ybor and other cigar manufacturers and was populated by thousands of immigrants, mainly from Cuba, Spain, and Italy. Today Ybor City is a shopping and entertainment district that retains much of its old-world architecture and charm. After wandering through a local cigar festival and stopping for a quick beer at a nearby Irish pub, we ate dinner at the Columbia Restaurant. Founded in 1905, the Columbia is Florida’s oldest restaurant and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. The photo shows the dining room we ate in – one of 5 that are each distinctly different in décor. My Basque-style grouper was tasty and the sangria hit the spot!

Before leaving Ybor City, we made a quick stop at the Coppertail Brewing Company. Jeff had discovered their beer at the local Publix grocery store, and picked up a six-pack of their “Unholy” brew.  He bought it because he liked the name, but we both liked the beer! You have to be careful though, because at a 9.2% alcohol content, it can quickly make its unholy effects felt! We had the opportunity to taste some of Coppertail’s different offerings, which were widely varied and creative.

The next morning (Monday), we packed up and headed to Orlando, where we are currently parked at a KOA. The next two weeks are devoted to theme parks!!

Bike Trail Review: Alafia River State Park

This is a guest post by Jeff!

IMG_3291If you look up flow in a modern dictionary, Alafia River Mountain Bike Trail would come up as a synonym. Resist the temptation of applying the brakes and you will be rewarded with seemingly effortless transitions from peak to peak as you navigate the plethora of drops and climbs throughout the trail. From the campground, travel east to access the trail, and if your skills allow it, my recommendation would be to take the first left off the fire road into North Creek Trail (intermediate) toward Twisted Sister. However, be advised that you will need your game face on immediately upon entering Twisted Sister, which can be seen at the trail junction on the right.  If leaving from the trail head parking lot, head east from there, then take the first trail to the right into North Creek Trail.

IMG_3302If you are out on a leisurely Sunday drive, then take the first right from the fire road onto the River Loop (easy), followed by Rock Garden and Sand Pine. The end of Sand Pine gets a little sandy during the dry season (generally winter in Florida), but all of it is rideable. This trail has it all, including a great balance of easy, intermediate, difficult, and double-black runs. Spending a week out here just leaves you wanting more. The mountain bike trail was a gift from the Phosphate mining industry who piled up overburden in their quest to access the deeper phosphate minerals to later sell as fertilizer, after processing. This overburden was then crafted and shaped by trail artisans, and the trail was born.

IMG_3366After finishing Twisted Sister, follow it up with Magic Island, and Buzzard Bay, and by the time you exit North Creek you should be fully warmed up for the remaining adventure. After that take a left off the North Creek exit and finish out your run with Gator Back (Double Black!), Bridges, Rabbit Ears, Roller Coaster, and if you are not too tired, give Moonscape a go. After completing all of these intermediate, black, and double-black trails, 14.5 miles were logged.

This trail definitely ranks as one of the top trails in Florida, and the SWAMP club should be proud of this masterpiece.