ADVENTURE: defined

Merriam-Webster defines adventure as:

  1. an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks
  2. the encountering of risk

Heading off into the woods solo–as I often do–comes with its own risks (and rewards). So most people will ask, “Why add to the risk? Why add to the adventure?” I won’t say it’s a question that doesn’t cross my mind when I’m in the woods alone, but I can say that’s not one I always try and answer.

This morning’s mountain bike ride at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park  started with a similar plan to last week’s–hitting the trails before the sunrise and sticking to the paved trail and then the north power line road until I had better visibility.

IMG_5522Something about the morning–maybe the mysterious, misty fog–made me want to do more exploring–so I set off down one of the grassy dirt roads on the east side of the power lines. I had some thoughts on a new plan in my mind: try to find another route out to the paved Suncoast Trail; try to find a dirt road south to the paved trail in Starkey Park. 

Finding a connection to the Suncoast Trail wasn’t too difficult–in fact, it was much easier than on my last exploration. I managed to not only find an opening in the barbed wire fence (no fence -climbing this time), but after riding a short distance south on the pavement I found a nice gate to hop to get back into the dirt road world of the woods. I was happy that I had found those connections and the potential for future long distance rides on mixed surfaces.


The exploration from that point on was a little more adventurous. This is a network of “trails” that is mapped for multiuse–bikes, foot travel and horses–but that is rarely used. I can’t say I’ve seen another person out there (a nice thing about weekday adventuring) using any of hose modes of transportation. Of course, I didn’t have the trail map with me. I have taken it with me on previous trips but after getting a basic imprint in my brain and realizing that it wasn’t entirely accurate I decided to stop carrying it. IMG_5523Now I rely a little more on my natural sense of direction, intuition, an occasional glance at my compass and my years of experience in the wild lands of Florida.

Once you get your feet wet the first time everything changes as far as the level of adventure you are willing to accept. Once, I made my first creek crossing and felt a little thrill, I didn’t hesitate to start down a road that obviously was headed into a wetland or that seemed to be overgrown and even less-used than the others.

IMG_5529Eventually, the spirit of adventure had me following a “road” that slowly morphed into more of a fire-break cut–a path hacked through saw palmettos to help keep forest fires contained. The width of the cut narrowed and the gnarliness of the ground increased–with more exposed roots, more rough ruts and more soft spots. I kept at it–such a long cut surely connected to another road somewhere. And, the fire-break was heading generally in the correct direction–south.

IMG_5535As I continued to churn through the roots and runts I noticed what looked like a pile of logs and debris ahead–it was not a good sign. It was the end of the fire-break. It was the end of the line–there were no connecting roads. The work crew obviously had backtracked their way all the way out. Disappointed, I stopped, looked at my compass, had a Hammer Gel and a drink.

One of the things I’ve learned to recognize after all of my years wondering in Florida woods either competing in or planning adventure races is old roads–particularly old berm roads. Much of the woodlands in Florida are lowlands, seasonal or permanent wetlands or outright cypress swamp. In order to traverse these low, wet areas (sometimes for logging, sometimes just for transportation) raised road beds are built. The simple ones have bases of logs placed like railroad ties on which mounds of dirt are piled. The dirt typically comes from the sides–creating a little ditch on each side of the raised road.

Well, during my evaluation and refueling break I noticed what looked like an old berm road. It wasn’t quite heading in the correct direction and that’s when my sense of nostalgia took over–to augment the adventure. It’s been some time since I participated in an adventure race and had the chance to explore like this–I think I wanted to recapture a little of that thrill. I decided to follow it. It’s got to lead somewhere, I thought. At the very least it might lead to higher ground and another road.

It was an old berm road–with full-sized trees, debris and shrubs making it impossible to ride. But, it was a dry course to follow through the surrounding cypress swamp and tangle of small creeks and I loved it. After crossing the second of two obvious cuts (where there were probably bridges at one time) the berm progressed to higher ground and petered out–no other road was in sight. Damn.

IMG_5537At least the berm ended in an area that had been burned recently–which would make for relatively easy hike-a-bike travel through what could have been thick saw palmettos. My compass told me which way was south and I headed in that direction carrying my bike on my shoulder. About 50 yards into my trek I noticed what looked like a dry creek bed off to the right and made my way over to it–following it sort-of-south for a good distance. I even managed to ride brief sections. Every few minutes I would pause–surveying the area for signs of roads and at the same time just taking in the majesty of the woods and the tonic of the isolation.

During one pause, I spotted suspiciously aligned trees in the distance–their orientation to each other seemed to indicate that they were along the side of a linear feature. Road.

Another 50 yards of bike-whacking and I emerged on a large linear swath cut through the woods. It held a good bit of water and had obviously had some serious flow at some point in time (during Hurricane Irma perhaps?) as there were obvious washes and sandbars. But, it wasn’t completely submerged and went on for a quite a distance–I felt strongly that it was the northern boundary of Starkey Wilderness Park. That would be a good thing as it supposedly intersected a few of the old forest roads I hoped would get me back to the paved trail.

IMG_5551It did intersect roads that eventually lead me south and to the park’s paved bike trail–a good thing as my adventure was seriously starting to impede my chances of making it to the 10:30am meeting I had scheduled. Luckily, the adrenaline from my adventure allowed me to push through the straight forward navigation back to the van–and I ended the workout with burning quads, a couple of scrapes, wet shoes and a huge smile.






~ by kipwkoelsch on January 23, 2018.

One Response to “ADVENTURE: defined”

  1. Interesting that you write this now, Kip. Using Google Earth and a bit more research on the ‘net I have been ‘discovering’ new trails down here in Bonita/Naples. The last two weekends I have been doing my share of bushwhacking and path-finding….re-igniting my desire for trail running and adventure.

    CHEERS brother….keep up the good work.

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