Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pedal, Jog, Roll or Trot: Happy Rail Trails to You

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pedal, Jog, Roll or Trot: Happy Rail Trails to You

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Capitano

Reason No. 42 to love Jacksonville: Even during the coldest months, we still get mild, sunny days ideal for a romp in the great outdoors. And because I know there's a post-holiday influx of shiny, new bikes out there, why not strap a couple to the back of your car and head to the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail Trail for a dose of fresh air and exercise?

Or you can bring your Rollerblades, skateboard or just your jogging shoes - any mobility enhancer will do. You can even bring your horse to explore the equestrian path. Now, where did I leave that darn pony?

I chose to pedal along this smooth, 14.5-mile asphalt path that winds through the pines and palmettos where a CSX railway line used to run. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is the organization behind paths like these. They work with communities nationwide to transform defunct rail lines into pedestrian trails.

Taking off from the Imeson Road Trailhead on the Jacksonville end of the path, the initial scenery is fairly residential. The path is tree-lined but the foliage is thin early on, and the sizzle of the power lines and distant traffic whoosh is more audible. You pass suburban homes with Georgia Bulldogs flags flapping, and children playing in backyards call out their hellos and wave to passers-by.

You see less and less brick and concrete as you ease on down the trail. Farm country rolls in. You notice pine tree and subtle barnyard smells. Cows and horses lounge in their pastures, roosters crow, and you even pass the sharp barks and whipping tails of a greyhound farm.

Other than animal chatter, you don't hear much else at the heart of the trail. It's a kind of peace we just don't get in the city, and the ride is ideal for clear thought and personal reflection. Consider leaving your iPod at home at least once. Have yourself a "silence is golden" moment. …

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