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Over The Bars

Represent: Markham Park
by Mike Sullivan

Because Florida Is More Than Just Retirement Homes

Sweet singletrack.

If youíre like many people in the US, you have a grandmother or an ďAunt RuthĒ living in the Miami or Ft. Lauderdale area of Florida.

As we all know, visits to Aunt Ruthís house can be a bit of a drag especially when you are attacked with 70 year old lips with enough pink lipstick to pimp out a Mary Kay car as soon as you walk through the door.

The way to make the trips to Aunt Ruthís house a bit more bearable is to drag your bike with you and head over to Markham Park in Weston Florida. The park is located off of State Rd. 84 just a few miles away from the Sawgrass mills shopping center (only one of the largest malls in Florida) The park is a county owned and features Mountain biking, RC aircraft, jet ski lakes, swimming, playgrounds and even a gun range.

In order to ride the trails you have to sign in at the services building and watch a 5 minute video which is more painful than almost any injury you can sustain and then get an access card which along with the frozen stare on your face will indicate that you have in fact watched the video and signed a waiver. Luckily you only have to do this once, as the card is good for the life of the cardholder.

Markham Park is composed of a grouping of trails built over limestone beds that were most likely coral reefs prior to the last ice age. Now all that remains are rocks and dirt atop sweet trails. The dirt is almost always well packed and rides extremely fast while the rocks are sharp, scattered and indiscriminate. Most of the trails are intermediate or harder and are not recommended for novice riders. A majority of the terrain challenges are not crazy drops or stunts but rather simply holding your line through all the rocks! Just about any fall at Markham will result in blood loss but Iím pretty sure thatís what mountain biking is all about. If you plan on traveling in the summertime South Florida is hotter than the outer hinges of Hades so be sure to pack lots of water or sports drink and plan on taking frequent breaks.


Navigating Markham can be a little bit tricky especially if you are trying to follow verbal instructions without a map. There are only about 4 main trails at Markham totaling about 11 miles. However since thereís a signboard with a name about every 150 feet, trying to remember which trail you were on or even trying to get back to a spot that you like can be almost as challenging as riding the trails themselves. Unless youíre a regular, your best bet to make sense of the name-game is to hook up with someone in the parking lot and ask to tag along. There are usually no less than 50 people out riding the trails at any given moment so finding someone guide you around shouldnít be a problem. Another option is to check in with Club Mud and set up a tour: http://www.clubmud.com/

The main trails of note are titled Washing Machine, Gun Range, and Jet Ski (as well as a few loops named after Lord of the Rings stuff).

Washing Machine is a nice high-speed medium difficulty trail with enough steep descents and banked turns to give you motion sickness. The last time I rode there, my back seized up about halfway through, probably as a way of making me take a breakÖ

Gun Range and Jet Ski are probably the two most difficult loops in all of South Florida. They are packed full of short punishing climbs over roots and rock, steep tight terraced descents, narrow ridges and did I mention the rocks?

The LOTR trails are: Middle Earth, The Dark Forest and the Lost Ring. While their namesake may conjure up images of pale overweight pimply-faced teens with long unwashed hair, the trails themselves are really fun. These loops are mostly tight twisty single track with some nice ups and downs but no real serious climbs or descents. And did I mention the rocks? Yes theyíre here too and no, they arenít your ďpreciousĒ.

Scattered about most of the trails are man-made obstacles: ladder bridges and log-overs as well as a totally twisted DNA bridge that probably gets itís name more from all of the blood, tissue and tears that have stained itís twisted carcass rather than its helix shape!

There are also several alternate route loops (Crime Scene, Rattle Snake Ridge and Fredís Folly) that are loaded with structures and obstacles. These are particularly nice because they are optional and advanced riders donít have to worry about dodging newbie cadavers quite so frequently here. Like all of the trails, they are well-marked loops that usually reconnect with the main path about 15 feet from where you turned off. Itís the ľ mile of fun and danger that lies between that 15 feet that draws people in to take the challenge.

Markham Park also features a dirt jump area! No other public or legal trails south of Ocala, Florida offer dirt jumps so this is a unique opportunity to have a little fun to say the least. Not to worry if you find yourself afraid of a bad landing after launching yourself skyward, the trail managers have placed well marked and numbered med-evac points throughout the trail system so that the Medical Examiner can locate you among the scrub. The local bike club also has a trained volunteer trail patrol group with a few members usually on hand to help out with first aid as well.

So to wrap things up, head down to Aunt Ruthís and bring your bike along. Pack lots of bandages and a few spare tires and prepare to have the best Florida Vacation ever.

With technical contributions from Mike Cook

Get there, ride there.

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