While casually driving around northern Florida in an RV, I decided to stay at Hanna Park in Jacksonville, FL. The really cool thing about this park/campground, aside from the fact that it is right on the beach, is that it is surrounded by single-track. The park is run by the city of Jacksonville and is only 450 acres. Considering the limitations of its size, they really maximized the use of the land for trails with a pretty nice design.
Since we had some down time, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get out and ride. I tooled around the parking lots warming up and noticed a few people either heading out or returning from riding near the entrance of the park. I decided to take one of the trail heads there to see where it went. I soon caught up with another rider on the trail, Joe, who was keeping a reasonable pace. I followed his line and generally took in the trail. We talked a little while we rode, and he was kind enough to act somewhat as a guide for me. He gave me a tour of the “South Loop” and “E-Line” trails.
I rode the South Loop first. This trail meanders around outside of the southern part of the park circling the campground and lake. The trail winds all over itself and had a great flow to it. There were lots of sandy banked turns, tree roots and the occasional small limestone ledge. There were enough big tree roots to keep things technically interesting.
On the north side of the park was the E-Line trail. This trail likewise had a great flow to it. The major difference was that it had a few more up and downs and was slightly more technical than the South Loop. This loop officially changes direction every other day by park policy. Very cool idea to keep accidents to a minimum and provide some variety.
It felt and looked like I was riding under the canopy of a deep jungle – something like you’d see on Gilligan’s Island. These trails twisted around on themselves repeatedly but really seemed to encourage speed. Unfortunately, tropical storm Beryl had gone through Jacksonville just a few days prior making a mess of the woods. There were numerous trees down across the trails, and everywhere the ground was littered with small branches from the winds. The downed trees really broke up the rhythm of the trail in numerous places.
Elevation change throughout the park was pretty much non-existent. This wasn’t particularly shocking since we’re talking about Florida. Any vertical changes were brief and didn’t gain an elevation much greater than the height of my handlebars. They were more rollers than climbs but definitely added some technical fun to the terrain. The few people I encountered were all riding in their big chain ring. I was thinking I could have comfortably used a 34 or 36 tooth ring up front to go with my 18 tooth cog. I needed to work on my spinning anyway.
I hoped that I might have time to get back out on the trails before we left in the morning. Thankfully, Joe warned me that the spiders will build webs across the trails in the night. He said they’re small this time of year, but get about “this big” (he said circling his hand into a much too large of a representation of their size). Some people hate snakes and others hate spiders; I fall into the spider category – even small ones.
After a day behind the wheel in crazy traffic, this was a perfect mental recovery. Altogether, I put in around 13 miles on the trails in about an hour. After riding, I spun down the road about half a mile and joined my family on the beach. I was able to ride on the beach too but decided that cooling off in the water would be better than slogging around on the beach sand. This is Florida after all.