Get yourself lost at the Maze in the Mangroves!
Glorious photographs of idealized scenery shot in HD, hyper-real, technicolor hues can inspire us on days of infinite boredom as we run the same old streets and over traipsed trails. This year I get to explore these phenomenal areas and see if they really live up to the hype or if the pictures are just a stolen moment never to be recreated again. Hopefully, my experiences will lead you to be able to create that magic moment for yourself.
This location was very important to me. In fact, the picture I had seen of this location was the inspiration for all of my beautiful run locations. I really wanted to get this right. Runner’s World publishes a feature called Rave Runs every month, and every month I would hungrily open the magazine to see what exotic locale was featured that month. March 2015 Rave Run was not in the middle of a desert, on top of mountain, or on some other continent, it is right on Tampa Bay. When this article came out, I was still in the planning stages of this trip and this photo made my trip seem real and doable.
So I set out for Weedon Island Preserve. I did not have high hopes for the day. Those of you who know my running quirks know that I enjoy launching my extravagant explorations before the sun comes up so that I can position myself in just the right spot for the perfect photography light the sunrise provides. This was thwarted by the fact that I was driving in fog so thick I couldn’t see two cars in front of me. I was further steamed to find that Google maps led me not to the correct park but a dead-end neighborhood across the bay. At the time of this publishing, Google has fixed this issue. You’re welcome.
After turning around and finding my way to the park proper, things started to look up. Firstly, there was no cost to get into the park (Yay!). Secondly, the fog lifted, leaving an overcast day which is still pretty good for photography. At least you’ll notice I’m not squinting in the most of the pictures. Thirdly, the boardwalk is easily found right by the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural & Natural History Center.
There are essentially two large loops that run through the mangroves. If you park at the visitor center that means that at some point you’re going to run back and forth over the connecting path from one loop to the other. I recommend looking at the boardwalk on Google Earth to get an idea of where the paths go. There is a map of the trails that is provided on site, but it is not particularly well detailed. I would recommend running the northern loop first then crossing down to the southern loop. It is on the southern loop that the second turn off leads you to an overlook tower. That is where the Runner’s World photo was taken and gives you a very dramatic photograph if you want your picture taken running through the mangroves. There are a great many varieties of wildlife all throughout the preserve. Do not be surprised if you startle a flock of birds and they stampede across your path.
This location was very easy to run and very accessible. You can easily have a photographer stationed at the top of the overlook tower. The boardwalks are impeccably maintained so you really shouldn’the need to worry about loose boards or splinters. Have a great time and if you get you photo taken here drop me a line!