by Mike Miller
(Mount Dora, Florida)
Lake Apopka Loop Trail
Not long ago I took a nice day trip to Magnolia Park on County Road 437 south of Apopka. The park straddles the highway; on the west side it fronts on Lake Apopka.
The east side of the park has camping and picnicking spots and lots of beautiful old spreading oak trees. There is also a family of peacocks wandering around and making loud catlike sounds.
The lakeside part of the park is also a trailhead for the Lake Apopka Loop Trail. This trail runs along the northern shoreline of Lake Apopka for more than 14 miles. It forms the southern boundary of the Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area.
Lake Apopka was originally a beautiful clear fishing lake noted for its world famous bass population. Years of agricultural runoff all but killed the lake; the government is in the process now of trying to restore the lake to its original pristine beauty.
The bike trail is on top of an earthen berm about 3 feet above the water level of the lake. It is unpaved, with most of the trail being surfaced with limerock. It's a bit rough riding, somewhat like riding your bike on a cobblestone road or the many brick streets in Orlando, Winter Park and other Central and North Florida towns.
I rode the trail from Magnolia Park to a historic pump house 4 miles down the trail. I then turned back because I wanted to visit the bluegrass festival that was underway at Magnolia Park. The festival took place on the east side of the park and featured a lot of good local bluegrass groups.
I saw a lot of birds on my trip, but only one alligator. He was sunning on the bank by the side of the bike trail. When I unzipped my camera case to get a photo of him, he spooked and jumped into the lake and disappeared in the blink of an eye.
It's well for us all to remember that Mr. Gator can move very very fast. I was glad he jumped away from me and not at me.
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