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Driving the Cross Florida Greenway

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  • Driving the Cross Florida Greenway

    Met some riding and driving folks today over in Central Florida at the Santos Trail Head on the Cross Florida Greenways (formerly the Cross Florida Barge Canal project).

    I have ridden there several times but have held off driving due the number of gates and roads to be crossed.

    There are specific trails for wagons but they are used by riders as well. As there are not a lot of carts out there I have been unsure of how it would work with the carts crossing roads and going through gates.

    So today one of the drivers in a cart had a passenger whose sole purpose was to be the gate opener and closer. Such a luxury

    The Greenways has become a well developed series of trails and trailheads with camping facitilies both primitive and hookups in a few places., This series of trails connect from the west coast to almost the east coast of Florida. There are a few places where they stop due to rivers here and there. The trails are crossed by many busy roads. There is one place that has a tunnel under the road with talk of two more by end the of the year. There also is a landbridge (the first in the country) over Interstate 75,

    So you can drive or ride almost forever.

    We only did about 14 miles today--and in a rarity for Florida--we had little deep sand. What a luxury. Also this particular section of the Greenway seems to have no bugs---don;t ask me why when every where else is almost impossible to drive in the summer. I know it is not summer, but in Florida we are still at 90 degrees.

    After some research we found the office where to call to get thecombination to all the gates (same combo all gates on the entire place).

    To my great relief I found I can skip around all the gates except the one at the trail head where we actually trailered into. The other driver could get around some but mostly waited for the gate. Nice to have a very nimble litttle horse with CDE experience, he just thought it was another hazard--er excuse me, obstacle.!!!!

    But we park close enough to the first gate, that if I am by myself I will just pull the cart through, walk thehorse through , close the gate and put too on the trail head. Zanzer carries a lanyard leadrope like cavalry horses when we are out on the trails so it will be no big deal to tie him to a tree to close the gate.

    There are some cool places in the Greenway--one is huge picther pump where we can get water. Althoug someone keeps stealing the trough so there is only a 5 gallon bucket. The boy has not learned to drink from that yet. I* carry a huge syringe and will drench him if it is late in the ride.

    Another is a little cemetary, very old, so old in fact it is tree covered. There is a little girl's headstone at the foot of some adults. Every since I have been riding here (for over 15 years), someone has been putting a little doll out on the child;s grave every so often.

    The Florida Horse Park is on the greenway and a favorite place to drive/ride to. It was leased for many years by a Thoroughbred group in the 70s and 80s before the state dropped the barge canal project. There are 2 old barns that have been repaired and are used at horse shows or by campers. This is where the Sunshine State CAI is held as well as they have a huge cross country for 3 day eventers. Dressage rings and polo fields as well. They were actually playing polo today --not much of an audience. Some folks with us camped there a bit ago and were told to expect a bikini polo match??? Never did get to hear the whole story!!!!

    The trails were awesome all the way over to the Barns at the Horse Park. It was an incredibly hot morning--very humid. So hot in fact that as I sat waiting for the other cart to go through the open gate over the first road, Zanzer and Burr both were steaming.

    I am not sure if I had been driving a pair (and yes I am thinking about it) if I could have scoooted around those gates--caught my wheel once.

    Anywho, we pulled into the shady side of the barns, hosed them all off, and let them stand in the shade for a good while to cool off. We slowed down and took a shorter way back, All in all we were out about 3 hours.

    I do believe Zanzer will be ready for his first 25 in 4 weeks.

  • #2
    Thanks I enjoyed reading that. I've been in Ocala for almost 5 years and have yet to hit any of the trails except for the BIKE trails at Santos which we thoroughly enjoy.


    • #3
      Oooooh! That sounds like great fun.... as long as there are no alligators

      Glad you're considering the pair; I know you can do it and I know you will LOVE it!
      Pat Belskie - ASHEMONT Farm

      PnP Distributors - KUTZMANN Carriages


      • #4
        The more I hear about FL, the more progressive they seem to be with trails systems. Wish I could say the same up here.

        Keep bringing us along for the virtual ride Cartfall... its fun!


        • Original Poster

          The Santos Trailhead is just south of Ocala. It has full hookup camping, a mountain bike parking lot seperated from the horse area which also a seperate horse camping area.

          From there to the Horse Park is almost all shaded. It does cross three roads, one very busy. There is talk of building a tunnel under the very busy road at the Horse Park. There is also talk of overpasses.

          After the Horse Park, you contine west towards several distinct type of areas. Travelling maybe 3 or 4 miles along tree lines and open fields, you come to the Land Bridge, which is an overpass over I-75. This overpass is not your normal bridge. Envision the bridge being cut into thirds. The outside thirds are filled with or 5 feet of dirt. There is a stone wall holding the dirt in place with the middle third being a trail with natural footing for horses. There is landscaping to make it appear natural.

          On the other side of the LandBridge the terrain changes drastically. It become more hilly, very very deep sand, and scrub oak coutnry. This used to be called Christmas, but I hve not heard that name in a long time.

          At the end of the 6 or 7 mile trail system, there is a tunnel under a road to ride through. It actually is also a bear tunnell.

          This next area is what is referred to as Shangrila. It is an old quarry. Very unique area. There is a huge camping area that is being redone, but has been stopped due to lack of funding. Years ago before the campground was built, we used to go camp there somewhat illegally. There were trails that just dropped straight down the side of the quarry. We got caught in the dark one time out on those trails with no flash light. WE were on a ridge, and the gal who knew the trails was in the lead. She literally just disappeared from sight down this ravine. All we had was her disembodied voice!! Took a lot of trust for our horses on that one!!

          Continuing west is Utopia which is an very rugged, limestone area that is partially a quarry and a whole lot of ridges and places to play mountain goat.
          At this point my knowledge ends.

          I would not take my cart beyond the Land Bridge as it is simply not cart friendly and would not subject my horse to the hard conditions.


          • #6
            That sounds like a ton of fun! Thank you for giving us the guided tour.

            Now, where did you find that lanyard leadrope? I've been looking for one, but didn't know it was called a lanyard leadrope. Knowing the name makes a search a lot easier.

            "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx


            • #7
              Not sure they sell that kind of leadrope. I have always thought it was just a method of tying them up out of the way. I have used that type when doing wagon trains on my outrider horse. There is only just SO MUCH you can cram into the saddlebags!

              One thing I always carry is my folding bucket. I never let my horse "share" at troughs. Guess it was too many cases of sickness as a kid, when it was also common to use a water trough for the horse shows. Most folks did not wish to pump their own buckets of water, just used the trough.

              One of the first things I learned going to the show, was you NEVER let your horse use the common trough or you will have a sick one within 7 days. Happened regularly, show Sat., sick horse on Friday.

              The folding buckets were a great tool, hold couple gallons, big enough to get even a big muzzle into. Folds very flat, about salad plate size and flexible to cram into the saddlebags.

              Folding bucket might be an idea for your spares kit Sue! Maybe Zanzer would drink out of his OWN bucket, something he is used to, tastes familiar. You could haul some flavoring too, make all his water taste like home water.


              • Original Poster

                Yip--to my knowledge and my experience, I use any leadrope and tie it as a lanyard on the horse. It is something I used to do when I rode a lot more than I do now. Used a light rope (something the size of the Parelli lead rope but a lighter snap) clipped to the trail halter/bridle combo then rn it around the horse;s neck and made a sliding adjustable knot (called a hang man's knot) I use occasionally on my driving horses if we are out in the woods.

                I have or used to have a collapsible bucket. Will have to look for it and teach the boy to drink from it. Good idea.