Saturday, November 26, 2011

St. Francis Trail

I have known about this trail for years and never seemed to be able to make  the time to check it out.  St. Francis was a booming town at the turn of the 20th Century serving steam boat traffic on the St. Johns River.  When the railroads civilized Florida the town vanished along with the riverboats.  That's right!  I'm talking about a honest to goodness Ghost Town!

This seven mile loop trail just west of Deland leads to the remains of the town.  I’ve read that there are no structures remaining, but some of the foundations are still visible.

I drive past this trail every time I make that “over the river and through the woods” trek to grandmother’s house.  Today I decided to stop off and check it out on my way home after Thanksgiving.  It would also give me a chance to try out the 4mm Invisible Shoes Connect soles that I got a deal on last week.

The trail run went something like this – ouch . . . . dammit . . . .ooomph . . . . crap . . . . cough thgthhttgggg (spits out spider web) . . . . ouch . . . . You get the idea.

This was a challenging trail to run.  It was a little overgrown and had some deadfall obstacles.  It doesn’t look like it has had much traffic lately – at least not by anyone tall enough to clear the spider webs at the height of my face.  The ground was a tangle of tree roots and cypress knees that would test the limits of any shoe, and the mere 4mm of rubber I had laced to the soles of my feet didn’t offer much protection.  When I landed wrong on a cypress knee I definitely felt it.   Fortunately there were some stretches of boardwalk to provide relief.

It required diligent attention to the ground ahead of me while I was running so keeping a lookout for trail blazes wasn’t easy and it was hard to enjoy the surroundings while I was so focused on the ground.  It was also late in the day so the setting sun would occasionally blind me when it shone through the canopy.  I did manage to spot some wild turkeys just off the trail.

And the mosquitos!  It’s almost December!  We’re not supposed to be having a mosquito problem this time of year.  I would get swarmed every time I stopped moving.

This seems like a lot of bitching which isn’t fair because I still managed to have a lot of fun on the run.  I even took time to shoot some video of me running in the Invisible Shoes.


A mere two miles from the trailhead the light was already starting to dim and I knew I wouldn’t have time to make it the entire 7 miles around the loop.  The exact same time I that I came to that realization, the ecosystem changed in the blink of an eye to a dryer pine forest, so I decided to press on just a little bit further.  I’m glad I did because I came across this foot bridge:

I shot a few videos crossing the bridge and I think they capture one of the advantages of running in these sandals – check out how my foot is able to grip the logs.

Even with bruising the soles of my feet and the involuntary blood donations to the mosquitoes, I had a ton of fun and I didn’t even make it to the St. Francis site.  The shoes performed well, but weren’t up to the task of saving my feet from the obstacles on this particular trail so I can’t wait to try them out under better conditions.

I will have to reprise this run very soon.

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