Withlacoochee State Trail
Bushnell, FL - Events of Friday, January, 2013
We have been having some lovely weather in Florida. For the last week or so, it has been partly to mostly sunny with temperatures in the 70s and 80s. Therefore, on Friday afternoon we decided to drive a little south of Bushnell to check out part of the Withlacoochee State Trail. The Withlacoochee State Trail is a 46-mile stretch of former railroad bed that was converted to a trail for biking, hiking and skating. A separate equestrian trail parallels portions of the paved trail. The Withlacoochee State Trail is the longest paved trail in Florida. The trail starts in the north in Citrus Springs, FL just south of Dunnellon and runs almost all the way down to Dade City.
The Withlacoochee State Trail is named for the Withlacoochee River. Withalcoochee is a Native American name whose meaning isn't entirely clear. It most likely means "crooked river."
We have biked parts of the trail before, but we have always started in Floral City, which is to the northeast of Bushnell. We were curious to see another part of the trail a little farther south because some of the southern part of the trail passes through the Withlacoochee State Forest and parts of it parallel the Withlacoochee River. We decided to head to Townsen Lake Park, which is a county park that lies along the trail and which provides trailhead parking. Townsen Lake Park is located in Nobelton, FL.
Since dogs are permitted on the trail, we decided to take Freeway and walk the trail for a short distance rather than pack up the bikes, especially since Paul hasn't yet taken the time to experiment with how to best fit the bikes into the new car.
The Withlacoochee State Trail passes small towns, ranches, farms and forests. Many homes and buildings along the trail are reminiscent of Old Florida.
A few bikes passed us as we walked, but the trail was pretty quiet for the most part. We only walked up the trail about half an hour before we decided to turn around, but it was far enough to know we would like to come back with our bikes and go farther. At the turn around point, there was a beautiful redbud tree starting to bloom. We usually don't see that until early February.
To get to Townsen Lake Park, we had to cross over the Withlacoochee River, and we could catch glimpses of the river from the trail. On the banks of the Withlacoochee River in Nobelton is River Ratz Cafe, which is part of a canoe rental establishment called Nobelton Outpost. We had seen signs for River Ratz and heard about them from others
at Blueberry Hill, so we decided to stop for a late lunch. River Ratz is a popular hangout for bicyclists and motorcyclists, especially on weekends.
River Ratz has indoor seating, but we opted for a table on the deck overlooking the river since it was such a beautiful day.
The Withlacoochee River originates in central Florida's Green Swamp near Polk City about 40 miles southeast of Bushnell. It flows north and empties into the Gulf of Mexico just south of Crystal River, FL.
Sandwiches and burgers at River Ratz are about $4 to $6 and are available with one side for about $2 more. There is also a nice selection of appetizers like peel-and-eat shrimp that sounded delicious.
Margery ordered a Nobleton burger, which was one of the daily specials, with regular fries. The half-pound burger had melted pepper-jack cheese, bacon, lettuce, pickle and tomato. Paul chose the Philly beef sandwich with sweet potato fries. When our meals arrived, we decided to split the sandwiches and share them. Everything was delish!
With our bellies full, we headed back to the motor home for an evening of TV. We relaxed over the weekend and watched parts of the NFL playoff games, but our interest level was definitely low with the Steelers being long out of the race. We'll have another report on our activities soon. Stay tuned.