Downtown Winter Garden was blocked for the event so the city was providing free parking at a nearby park with a free shuttle. However, I decided to incorporate some exercise into our outing and proposed to Greg that we park in Oakland and walk on the West Orange Trail to downtown Winter Garden and he agreed.
The drive to Oakland took us about 25-30 minutes. Oakland is a tiny town that sticks to the west side of Winter Garden, FL. The West Orange trail goes right through it. Oakland has been a favorite of ours for years and we longed to buy a home there when we first got married, but it's very expensive. It was then and it is now. Most side streets are still dirt roads, which is actually quite charming. We used to take the kids to their park very often when they were little because it's large and not busy at all, and there are 2 playgrounds, a gazebo and tennis court (but no bathrooms which is challenging when you go to a park with 6 little kids!). So I suggested to Greg that we park there and walk on the trail to Winter Garden. I had no idea of how far it was, but Greg thinks it was 2 to 2.5 miles. The area has been developed quite a bit since we last were there but not for the worst, quite the contrary! Subdivisions have sprouted on the sides of the trail but the developers did a marvelous job ensuring that they didn't disturb the charm of it and the amenities (such as parks and landscaping) actually enhance it. The only things that I found sorely lacking were a restrooms (none to be found), water fountains, benches (there as one bench) and trash cans. But the trail was nicely kept and very clean. Still, they needed to add a bathroom or two!
|The park in Oakland. There was no one there!|
|Another view of the park. Our dream had been to purchase a home bordering this park so the kids could use it as their backyard. Sigh... I still wish we had been able to!|
We had a leisurely walk to Winter Garden, reminiscing of past walks and admiring all the improvements. It helped that we didn't really know how far it was, lol. What I love best about that part of the trail is that it's very shady due to all the trees. We passed one person walking a dog and one person on rollerskates (the old fashioned kind!) pushing a stroller but otherwise everybody else was biking. I'm going to go back and ride my bike there too!
|Wildflowers on the side of the trail.|
|Darn, the camera didn't focus. There were too far on the other side of a ditch so I had to use the zoom.|
|Another view of this lovely park|
|Of course. we saw some wildlife too... here is a Florida gator...|
|LOL. At second glance, someone carved it from the stump of this oak tree that apparently had to be cut down. Clever!|
|We didn't stop by the butterfly garden. I'm definitely going to have to revisit this trail!|
|This is the road where I'll have to turn to get to it.|
|Look at those huge leaves!|
|I'll bet they're remnants from prehistoric times :)|
|As you can see, we pretty much had the trail to ourselves... although there were quite a few people biking. Isn't the shade lovely?|
|Greg exclaimed "a rhinoceros!" and I thought he was kidding, but no, there was a large statue of a rhinoceros in this backyard bordering the trail. LOL. My camera focused on the chainlink fence though.|
|Years ago someone painted the FSU logo on the roof of this building. You can see the Seminole lances to the right of the building and there's a gator and a Gators fan that look dead. Ha. Very funny, FSU fans!|
|Approaching downtown Winter Garden, finally! The tents were erected on each side of the trail so the trail was closed to cyclists today and there was a trail detour.|
Even though I expected to see a lot of visitors, both Greg and I were amazed at the size of the festival and the sheer number of exhibitors! It was kind of hard navigating from booth to booth and he's not really into the kind of things they were selling (plants, garden impediments, etc.) and I couldn't buy anything since we had another 45 minute walk ahead of us and all I had brought was a small string bag with a bottle of water, cash and sunscreen in it! So we ended up doing just superficial "window shopping", which was enough.
|There didn't used to be trees planted alongside the trail but what a difference it makes! It really dresses up the whole landscape.|
|There was a sidewalk chalk drawing competition going on. My pictures didn't turn out very well.|
|A singer was set up in front of city hall and was belting lovely tunes... You can't really see her, I took most pictures while walking because it was busy and Greg isn't the kind to stop and listen to music.|
|More chalk art|
|The Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center was there and showing a couple of owls. However, they were snubbing us (I mean, the owls were)|
|I think this is the store that Jodie and I had visited and enjoyed before my son's concert and where she had gifted me a sign that made fun of my housekeeping skills. One of my favorite decor items in my house :)|
|Beautiful whose roses (and other white flowers) being grown on the side of the trail. Sigh. It's all so lovely down there!|
|This large building, The Plant Street Market, is new to me. We didn't go inside because it looked busy but I imagine there are several counter-style restaurants indoors and then people can eat outside too. We'll have to check it out another time.|
|Hmm, and there seems to be a brewery on the far left side.|
|The farmers' market was going on. It takes place every Saturday morning. This is the only picture that I took but it's much larger than this and there are lots of prepared food vendors as well.|
|So many lovely plants everywhere!|
|Look at how huge those were! As it turns out, the kale and the collards next to them were each growing in a separate bin.|
|As a matter of fact, here it is, in situ.|
Greg was worried that maybe we hadn't seen everything that I wanted to see since we only spent about 45 minutes there so he encouraged me to stay longer but it was so crowded and I couldn't buy anything and really, I mostly enjoyed the sights and walking with him, so we decided to head back to the car.
We were mulling over having lunch downtown Winter Garden instead of going to Four Rivers, but Greg claimed that he actually wasn't very hungry yet and I knew he had his heart set on Four Rivers so we agreed it might be a good idea to just get a snack. I bought a small bag of kettle corn for $3 and we shared my bottle of water. It was such good kettle corn and we managed to only eat half of it between the two of us because we wanted to keep room for lunch.
|Well, this didn't turn out either! A red vine.|
|Pretty clover flowers|
|My dream home in Oakland. Our house is also yellow, white and green but this one is much more beautiful! I love the white picket fence. I have got to win that darn lottery!|
We ended our field trip with a visit to Four Rivers in Winter Garden for a well-earned lunch. We had a great time and I hope that you enjoyed our field trip as well.