Seminole State Forest – Urban Bikepacking

Central Florida offers more than beach access for urban adventure seekers. As the weather turns cooler in the fall/winter months, exploring the forests is the only place to be. Living east of Orlando there are a couple of options for a quick overnight trip. This weekend, I chose to pedal up the Cross Seminole Trail to the Seminole State Forest to rendezvous at an event hosted by JC’s Bike Shop and The SingleTrack Samurai.

Camp is set in the Seminole State Forest

Weather was perfect

The overnight weather forecast couldn’t have been more perfect. Highs were less than 90 degrees for a change, and the lows were in the lower 60s, upper 50s. Absolutely fantastic.

Overnight weather forecast

Planning for a fun trip

Rather than the usual bikepacking endurance grinds, this trip looked to meet new people and have a fun overnight at a group camp in the Seminole State Forest over Veterans Day weekend. This was going to be the first decent outdoor distance in a while to get the legs and equipment tested for the Cross Florida Individual Time Trial (CFITT) coming up in December.

As usual, I loaded up Dozer (my Surly Karate Monkey) with the following key items:

I left the house just before noon, and evaluated my options available along the Cross Seminole Trail for lunch. I ended up grabbing lunch at Duffy’s in Heathrow with my parents and family (unexpectedly). After leaving lunch, I met up with another rider who was heading for the same destination. So we got to conclude the journey together.

Crossing over I-4 on the Cross Seminole Trail

The worst part of the ride was the last 2 miles, riding down SR-46, currently under construction. The shoulder had some room between the barricades to navigate, and it wasn’t too bad crossing the bridge over the Wekiva River. From there we reached our destination at the Bear Pond Trailhead.

Arrived at Bear Pond Trailhead to the event sponsored by JC’s Bike Shop

JC’s Bike Shop Event

This was my first time attending a local get-together hosted by JC’s Bike Shop out of Deland, while the camping experience was brought to you by The SingleTrack Samurai. The Salsa tent was there, and setup for anyone that wanted to demo a Salsa Cutthroat. And of course, there was pizza and beer for all to partake. The Groad Less Graveled Overnight and Bike Demo was well put together, and an excellent break before setting up camp.

The Salsa Demo Tent was setup for anyone wanting to ride a Salsa Cutthroat

Onward to Shelter Camp

We made our way to the Shelter Camp in the southern end of the Seminole State Forest. It had a wide open area to setup tents, and even a couple of options to hang a hammock.

The amenities at Shelter Camp include a full weather shelter, 2 picnic tables, 2 benches and a fire ring. Our host utilized one of the two wooden cots inside the full weather shelter to avoid pitching a shelter of his own. This area would be an oasis on a long, endurance route, especially if it was raining.

Shelter Camp in the Seminole State Forest has quite a few amenities for the primitive camping scene

The night went on with a campfire, a few drinks, and a whole lot of story telling. We were even trying to disprove (or prove) myths about what happens in the woods. We didn’t quite get around to solving world hunger, but we were close.

Stories and discussions around the campfire are what its all about.

Departing Camp

It was a chilly Florida morning when we woke. For those of you northerners, this translates to less than 70 degrees. Coffee was flowing and the conversation picked up like it never stopped from the previous evening. Packing up went a little slower than normal due to the conversation. From there, the crew had a few other things planned, but I had to get home, so I said my goodbyes and made the trek back down the Cross Seminole Trail.

It was a little bit cold in the morning leaving camp, but that made coffee that much better.

Why do you do it?

There’s nothing like hopping on a bike in a garage in suburban Orlando and pedaling for a few hours to arrive at complete isolation from the city. Other than using a phone to take pictures, and calling the family to say goodnight, you can stay disconnected. I’ve found this to be the best reset button you can ask for. The only things you’re worried about are:

  • Do I have enough water (or whiskey) and food to get me through the trip?
  • Did I bring enough stuff to keep me warm through the night?
  • Where’s my pepper spray for the pack of coyotes that want to eat me while I sleep?
  • Did I check my shoes before I got out of my hammock to make sure there wasn’t a spider or snake in them?

Other than that, its just you and the company you find along the way to make it through the experience. Some say its practice for being homeless. I say its just pure insanity, but who’s to judge…and is there really a difference?