Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ross Prairie State Forest - Ocala, Florida

Some of you know that in June, I took on a new assignment that involves traveling to the east coast every other week. It's been a lot of fun so far, but one thing I've struggled with since taking on the new position is keeping my weekly running miles up when I'm on the road. So one of my resolutions for 2013 is to be sure that I get those miles in -- even if, on very busy travel days, I have to resort to the "dreadmill."

So this week, as I'm traveling along the Gulf Coast of Florida, I managed to squeeze in a trail run just outside Ocala. It was just before sundown, a quick run squeezed in before a late-afternoon meeting and a dinner engagement, but it was something, and it was, happily, not on a treadmill.

I found the Ross Prairie State Forest, a slip of green just outside Ocala, on a map and enjoyed running through the dense forest. I knew I was not in Colorado anymore when I saw all the moss hanging from the tree branches, and all the white sand below my feet. Ocala is about fifty miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, but you'd never know it by the white sand trails here.

Not far from the trailhead, the white sand trail invites me into the forest.

These blue blazes on trees marked the trail where it became narrower and less easy to follow.

One interesting feature of the trail was the freshwater depression marsh I came upon about a mile in. I learned from the signage at the trailhead that these marshes are full of water in the wet season, but become completely dry in the dry season -- and that's how I found the one I came upon. Apparently they're hubs of bird activity when full of water, too.

The freshwater depression marsh (the low-lying grassy ground toward the right of the photo), dry at this point in the year.

I have a lot of travel left to do in 2013, but I'm hoping that at least once on each trip I'll be able to get in a trail run -- not only for my own physical and mental health, but also to connect better with each place I visit.

See you on the trail!
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