The ride was billed as a tribute to the pioneering spirit, a chance to make history while riding and do something that had never been done before: riding from one national park to another. I leapt at the chance to join the South Florida Trail Riders last January as they set out to accomplish this goal.
Miami-Dade is the only county in the state that boasts two national parks within a 30-mile radius: Everglades National Park on the west and Biscayne National Park on the east.
The ride was divided into a two-day event. The first day would take riders from the starting point at the Florida Greenway at the mouth of Everglades National Park to the Homestead Rodeo Grounds. The second day, we'd ride from the rodeo grounds to Biscayne Bay.
The ride began promptly at 9 a.m., with 45 horses and riders. We headed down the Greenway trail, which follows a canal, leaving behind ominous rain clouds that never caught up with us.
After a few quiet hours, we reached the City of Homestead. In the city, the Homestead Police Department helped us ride through neighborhoods. It felt like being in a parade, only quieter. It was truly something to see, 45 riders going two-by-two into Homestead's historic district. Then, with the help of the police, we crossed one of South Florida's major highways, US 1.
When we reached the Homestead Rodeo grounds, the Homestead Rodeo Association provided us with a delicious barbecue.
The next day, the police escorted us back to the canal trail that would eventually lead us to Biscayne Bay. Once we reached the trail, we were on our own, and we still had some busy streets to cross. Our trail boss had it covered. He lined up all the riders side-by-side on the sidewalk. Then, with the help of his outriders and on his signal, everyone crossed at the same time.
Little by little, the air began to change and smell salty. We were getting closer; the bay was in the distance. We had to cross just one more obstacle, a concrete bridge over the canal, where manatees swam.
We dismounted and crossed without incident. When we reached the bay, we headed into the water. Our horses danced and splashed in the beautiful bay waters. We lined up in the water for a photograph. A moment etched in time. We did it! We made history! A dream came true that day.
The South Florida Trail Riders are an amazing group of people, and I'm proud to call them friends. I was honored to be a part of this historic event. Not only did we make history, but maybe we started a new tradition of riding from Everglades National Park to Biscayne National Park!