Friday the 13th four of us rendezvoused at Potts Preserve on the southern Withlacoochee and set up camp at a riverside pavilion. Surprisingly, we had the campground to ourselves the whole weekend despite temps in the 55F – 80F range under nearly cloudless skies. Hauling canoes and bikes around meant we arrived a little late in the afternoon, but still got in a good little 5-mile bike ride on a trail at Potts. The property was acquired as a groundwater protection measure, with habitat protection an added benefit. The Lake Tsala Apopka must have once been a fantastic complex of ponds, lakes and all kinds of wetlands, plus innumerable upland peninsulas and islands of sandhill and flatwoods habitats. It now is a mess of pea green water and cattails, old trailers and lawns.
But Potts Preserve is different. It’s nice. We had time late Friday to bike a 5-mile loop trail northward from our campsite, getting back to camp after dark. Not a moon in the sky, but stars aplenty to see by even along the forested riverside trails. The path closest to the river is in good to excellent shape. It is a mowed trail road for the most part with limestone rocks paving low spots. The rocks are, as I remember, in the 2” – 3” size range rather than the usual mealy limerock that one normally encounters. Only in a spot or two are they liable to roll your wheels, because they have been smushed down into the soft hydric soil by heavy equipment. Overall, it is a fine trail to take a leisurely bike ride. We heard tree crickets, leopard frogs, barn owls and possibly a great horned owl.
Discarding fanny packs and cameras back at our vehicles, we hopped back on our rusty steeds and pedaled south and back out the preserve’s entrance a half-mile to Turner’s Fish Camp. On the river, Turner’s has outdoor and indoor seating, a juke box and a bar and a grill, and karaoke on Friday night! Yeehah! A local fellow named Marvin (stitched on his work uniform) kicked it off and sang several more times during the evening. Our expedition photographer, Eric, sang A Boy named Sue, and Eric’s buddy Rodolfo sang something from Stevie Ray Vaughn that sounded gravelly, like BB King. Another fellow sounded I swear just like Johnny Cash, and a young woman did Coal Miner’s Daughter and some others. You can laugh at karaoke if you want, but it is real people singing from their hearts. Bruce kept buying, well, ordering pitchers, so after all that and a smoky fish camp jook dinner we were quite properly prepared to get up before the crack of dawn for Saturday’s real, planned adventure.