Wednesday, March 6, 2013
West Orange Trail: Mile 5-15
The West Orange Trail is a 22 mile paved trail just south of Lake Apopka, west of Orlando, FL. It starts off near the southwest corner of the lake at the Killarney Station and makes it's way up to the town of Apopka. Most of the trail runs alongside what was formerly the Orange Belt Railway, winding around and through neighborhoods and communities. I had previously biked the first 5 miles of the trail on a WDW trip with Denise a few years back, and loved it.
That first trip had us turning around at downtown Winter Garden. It's a really cute, quaint little cobble-stoned town that's been around since the late 1800s (thanks to a train depot built there near the start of the citrus boom). This time though, my trip started AT Winter Garden. I stopped off at the Moon Cricket Grille for a burger and some homemade chips. Unfortunately the burger was boring and the chips were cold. Alas...but adventure awaited!
I rented a bike at a little shop near the east end of the downtown. $6 an hour. I was intending to only do about 10-12 miles roundtrip and thought I'd be back in an hour and a half. That did not work out as planned, as I will explain later on. I hopped on the bike and went on my way.
Whereas the first 5 miles of the West Orange Trail are non stop beauty, miles 5-15 have long stretches of not-so-beautiful surroundings in between the beauty. The first mile or so after the Winter Garden Station runs alongside what feels like a never-ending sea of boring white fences that allow nary a peek at the potentially nice houses behind them. There's a few times the path just runs alongside a road with not much to look at, most notably when it runs alongside Clarcona Ocoee Rd. There's zero tree cover there, and the path has a very slow going but noticeable grade which is a bit of a pain on the way back west, especially mixed with the sun beating on your face.
For the fact that it wasn't as "nonstop beautiful" as the first 5 miles, I will say that there was a lot of great riding and scenery to be found within the Mile 5-15 section. Right after the path curves away from Plant St there are some really cool houses on the left, paired with a really tall collection of bamboo trees on the right. There's a nice long dip in the grade as you get close to Ocoee High School, allowing for a long leisurely cruise in either direction, surrounded by tall evergreens. Shortly after that the path hunches along on the shoulders of a golf course (but no worries, there are tall fences with awnings to catch any stray balls - what's even better, is the green vine life growing on large sections of the fence) with a white sand shoulder on the north side of the trail to give a nice visual counterpoint to the dark colors of the fence and the plants. There was also another beautiful stretch under a tree canopy, with the dead orange leaves lining the shoulders of the path.
Around mile 14, the trail splits. The right path continues along up to the town of Apopka, and the 22 mile endpoint of the trail. I took the left path which ends at the Clarcona Horse Park (which is, as the name states, just a park for horses). This was the 11 mile point for me in my ride. I was only halfway, and managed to already eat up the miles I intended for the whole trip. I was getting tired and debated while I sat and rested: trudge on, probably not to the 22 mile point but at least another 6 or 7 miles to Apopka? Or turn back with some piece of mind that I could actually make it back in one piece?
After a half hour or so of recouping my energy, I decided to head back. The bicycle was not very good and I had been fighting it for most of the ride up until then. Not to mention the terrible seat was giving me a lot of trouble as well. The ride back was mostly smooth (with the exception of that incline at Clarcona Ocoee Rd), albeit with a LOT of stops. My total trip time was about 2.5 hours total, for a total of 22 miles biked. Prior to this the most I had biked was 16 miles and that was at night! Thankfully even though the sun was brutal, there was a nice breeze out.
My next adventure on the West Orange Trail will probably start AT Apopka, and I will bike from the 22 mile marker back down as far as I can that. Once I get my endurance up though, I'd really love to get those 44 round trip miles under my belt. Most likely during February when it's not too cold and not too hot!