By Lindsay Luberecki
Looking for some solitude these days? In a time of widespread anxiety and constantly-evolving news, it a luxury to be able to spend time outdoors. Sarasota County is home to many parks, reserves, and preserves inhabited by diverse wildlife and perfect for a quiet, serene stroll, where one won’t encounter much of anyone. These three parks are fit for everyone, whether it be the hard-core hiker who is taking on the entire set of trails for a day’s adventure, the family who came for a short stroll down a scenic, calm trail, or the couple who packed books and a picnic.
Sleeping Turtles Preserve North
Located off Border Road in Venice, Sleeping Turtles Preserve North has a meandering trail that forks, splits, and intersects, so one can easily customize how long of a hike he or she takes (and if one wants to do even more hiking, the south side of the preserve is located across Border Rd.). This preserve borders the Myakka River, and the trail allows for many points to enjoy the view and look for wildlife near the surface. The trails are firmly packed dirt that is easy to walk on and are relatively shady, with a pretty tree cover. Lots of wildlife can be spotted here, such as birds, alligators, turtles, and fish, and plants include oak trees, palms, and scattered flowers. The preserve is quiet and serene and large enough that hikers are spread out and dispersed around the area. In addition to hiking options, ample picnic tables nestled into the greenery serve as great places for a quiet lunch. Benches have been placed around the park for a place to rest and look around. Easy-to-spot trail markers and a well-done map at the beginning help hikers easily find their way around this gorgeous nature spot.
Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve
At Carlton Reserve, hikers will find different-length trails that spread out around the center of the reserve, a wet prairie. In the summer, or the wet season, this prairie area can flood, making the trails harder to walk, so the drier season is the best time to visit this park. Trail lengths vary from 0.8 to three miles, with a bike trail that 9.1 miles long. A hike can be very personalized to a chosen length. Birds frequent this park, and there is plentiful wildlife, along with towering slash pines. The reserve undergoes frequent controlled or prescribed burns to help get rid of dead debris that would act as quick kindling in the event of an unplanned, uncontrolled fire. In the reserve, there are both a multi-table picnic area and individual tables dispersed around on the trails. Hikers can find educational signs throughout the trail circling the wet prairie and benches to enjoy the nature and take a rest. The numerous trails and combinations one could take ensure for a quiet hike where one can enjoy observing sprouting grasses, young pines, and bird calls.
Located on River Road, Jelks Preserve is another good place for a quiet hike. The preserve has more than eight miles of trails, with numbered markers for easy navigation. This preserve is a bit “wilder” than the others, with taller grasses on the trails and uneven areas in the sand. At night, wild hogs may wander the trail in the park, and the visible aftermath is dug-up, rough areas from the hogs’ search for food. The Myakka River also runs through this preserve, so visitors can take advantage of scenic viewpoints along the trail. Tree canopies formed from oaks, the main type of tree at Jelks, provide shade during a hike, are good subjects for nature photographs, and serve as landing points for birds. Wildlife such as birds, insects, snakes, and gopher tortoises can be spotted along the trail, and alligators can sometimes be seen in or on the banks of the river. Palms, wild grasses, and wildflowers also line the trails through Jelks, in addition to the towering oaks. This preserve is not the best to visit in the summer rainy season because the trails can get overgrown. But if you visit at other times of the year, Jelks Preserve can be a great place for some scenic hikes and alone time.
Featured image provided by alltrails.com