by Chris Wiggins, Owner, the Psychic Derailleur
With Michelle Avola-Brown, Executive Director, Naples Pathways Coalition
One of the perks of riding a bicycle is tuning out all the noise of everyday life. At least, that used to be the case. Increased traffic and distracted drivers have made finding your two-wheeled zen more challenging. Solitude is out there. It just takes a bit of looking.
When the Lee-Tidewater Cypress company started logging the Fakahatchee Strand in 1944, they needed to cut paths through the forest. These trams allowed them to transport the freshly felled ancient trees. Logging changed the strand forever, but every dark cloud has a silver lining. Today, the Fakahatchee is a protected preserve, and that main tram has become Janes Scenic Drive. This road will transport you into the world’s largest strand swamp.
The drive is what I would call a “minimally maintained” road. If I were still in Indiana, I would swear it was limestone. As you get deeper into the strand, you’ll notice the forest has started to reclaim the center section of the once well-traveled road.
I was expecting to see wildlife, but I never imagined seeing so much! The number of large birds was incredible, but the quiet was what struck me most during the ride. At one point, I stopped and just listened. Other than those birds, there was no sound. No cars, no people talking, no cell phones ringing. Just nature.
Janes Scenic Drive is a little over 11 miles long, or 22 miles round trip. If you don’t want to ride the whole thing, you can drive in a ways and ride from there. I noted two places to park your car. Once you get 5 or 6 miles in, you can only walk or ride a bicycle. When the forest becomes more dense, you see the true Fakahatchee.
There was a surprising amount of shade during the ride, but I would still suggest taking more water than you think you’ll need. I always recommend having basic repair tools and the ability to use them. You may or may not have cell service as you go deeper into the strand. The ride is best done during the dry season for obvious reasons – it is a swamp, after all. The riding surface is firm, but I would suggest a tire at least 42mm wide for comfort.
Janes Scenic Drive starts just off Route 29 in Copeland, Florida, approximately 2 miles north of SR 41. Follow the road to the small parking lot and ranger’s station. There is a $3 fee to park your car. As a new Florida resident, I am astonished by the number of wild places there are to explore. Even more surprising is how few people take advantage of them. Peace, quiet, nature, and solitude are out there. I’m glad I took the time to look.
FEATURED PHOTO: Birds Everglades National Parks (US National Park Service)