Auburndale TECO Trail Extension (FL)
35.6 miles total* (12' wide asphalt)
14 Road/Driveway Crossings (1-way)
35 People Encountered (Both Ways)
Pros: When the brochure claims the Van Fleet is a rural trail they are not kidding. It was almost 20 miles before coming to the first serious road crossing. On average there is only one crossing every five miles along the Van Fleet route which is wonderfully low. The Auburndale TECO section had five times as many crossings per mile on average and even that was low. The number of people encountered on this trail was low. Even so, I felt very safe along the entire trail. There was a covered bench or covered picnic table every 1 to 2 miles. One covered bench on a deck overlook was completely enclosed by screen. Not sure if it was the winds blowing toward the swamp or what, but I never saw a mosquito. This trail should be called Tortoise Trail because I have never seen so many gopher tortoises in my life. Also saw deer, turkey, snakes, herons, sandhill cranes, and a host of other insects and birds. Maintenance came through blowing the leaves and twigs off the rail so the trail was in great condition. The right-of-way was well maintained and mowed. No car barrier posts were at intersections to dodge. Water and restrooms were available at trailheads. The few bridges, both asphalt and wood, were pretty smooth. Mile locations were marked along the trail on the asphalt.
Cons: You will not find many stores to get a cold drink along this trail.There was some serious asphalt cracking in the first two miles of trail north of the Polk City trailhead. There were quite a number of small several inch deep asphalt sink holes along the edge of the trail. If you go rolling over one of those sink holes it will certainly jar you awake if not cause you to wreck. A little bit of rooting problem in a few areas but nothing too serious. There could be biting bug problems but no flies or mosquitoes tried to bite me. It is said there may be no cell phone coverage along some of the trail. This is not a trail you want to break down on. The trail goes through the Richloam Wildlife Management Area meaning there is risk of being shot by hunters "managing" the area. Wear Orange. The Auburndale TECO extension on the south side had gates blocking as much as 2/3rds of the asphalt at every one of the seven intersections. The extension also followed a high voltage line.
Viewpoint: In a nutshell, Yes, I would definitely ride the James Van Fleet trail again. Even though the scenery does not change very much along the mostly elevated railroad bed causeway through the edge of a swamp and there is little in way of help if needed, there is real potential to see all kinds of wildlife. However, because of multiple asphalt sinkholes along the edge, some root bumps, and asphalt cracking on the lower Van Fleet trail, I only rate the Van Fleet trail 8 (out of 10). On the other hand, No, I would not ride the Auburndale TECO extension next time because I dislike riding under high voltage power lines and having to deal with obstacles on an asphalt trail like partially closed gates at every intersection which is why I give it a rating of 5 (out of 10).
The downloadable GPS track of the James Van Fleet and Auburndale TECO Trails can be found here:
*Note: The Auburndale TECO Trail is a 6.6 mile extension to the south of the 29 mile long Van Fleet Trail. I'm lumping both these trails together in this Review since they are connected to each other.
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