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Our own hidden treasure

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Henry David Thoreau said, “In wilderness is the preservation of the world.”

We are so lucky and I am so grateful to have in our midst the Nature Coast State Trail. It is truly a part of the preservation of Florida’s Nature Coast.

Like the springs throughout this area, the trail is one of the best kept secrets for easy and close contact with nature. It is a valuable asset for recreation and eco-friendly transportation, and I along with my better half and our two dogs use it every day as part of our exercise routine.

The trail is a long skinny extension of the state park system that connects Trenton, Chiefland and Cross City. It offers a peaceful break from the hectic pace of life where you can walk, skate, ride your bicycle, horse or skateboard without the danger of highway traffic as motorized vehicles are strictly prohibited along the well maintained and paved reclaimed railway bed.

You will be amazed by the natural beauty and wildlife that reside along the trail from the often shaded and sometimes canopied tree line to the wildlife that scurries from sight as you slip silently by on horseback, walking or motorless machines.

During our daily walks, we have seen hawks, owls, tortoise, pleated woodpeckers, armadillos, rabbits, green, black and coral snakes (yes, coral, ... red touches yellow kill a fellow), deer and groups of wild pigs.

Occasionally you will see and need to evade four wheelers, go carts and mopeds driven by those who either can’t read the well-marked trail or are unwilling to follow the rules. Unfortunately, I have even been required to jump off the trail to avoid a full-sized pickup that was not part of the state park maintenance fleet.

You will need to keep your pets safely on a leash. You will also find thoughtfully placed covered benches with trash cans for your convenience where you can rest your thoughts or your behind as needed. The trail is well marked by mile markers and directional signs. Manatee Springs State Park and Fanning Springs State Park Manager Mark Abrizenski and his staff of professionals and volunteers work hard to keep it that way. I would be remiss if I did not offer a belated but heart felt thank you to the government and private organizations who worked hard to repurpose an old railroad bed into such a high value asset for the area.

When you use the trail, you will see a colorful cast of characters on all sorts of human powered vehicles from fat tired single speed cruisers to tricked out high-end racing bikes with riders sporting their favorite team jerseys. My personal favorite is the gang of older veterans who ride well-appointed recumbent three wheelers complete with flags a flutter.

The trail is not just a great asset to the natural world but is also a viable eco-friendly highway to and from work or shopping.

One of my favorite rides is to the bridge over the Suwannee River to watch sturgeons jump high out of the water and slap hard to impress prospective mates or maybe release parasites. I don’t think anyone really knows for certain.

What I do know for certain is that the Nature Coast State Trail is a wonderful asset to our area and is something that has to be used to be really appreciated.

Mr. Thoreau also said, “An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”

I believe him and encourage everyone to get out there whenever you can, see it for yourself and enjoy a little moving meditation.

Peace to all.