On January 1, 2020 I officially became a minimalist. I’m collecting experiences now, not stuff. I also figured, the less I own the more I can travel, only there’s no traveling this year. I still need my dose of traveling though. Travel is ESSENTIAL.
While international traveling is suspended, people came up with these virtual traveling ideas. The Vatican Museum, The Great Wall of China, The Taj Mahal, are all in virtual tours that can be done from home. Cool, but my idea of traveling involves getting up from the couch, so I embarked on a new kind of journey. I researched the Miami Trails and its history, picked up my water bottle and started out into new explorations of a very familiar place: home. Since I enjoy the writing as much as I enjoy the hiking, here is my little contribution to encourage you to enjoy and learn more about our own community. My passion for traveling has led me home, in this pandemic.
Coco Plum Circle marks the junction of Commodore Trail and Old Cutler Trail, in Coral Gables. Old Cutler Trail goes south Old Cutler Road through beautiful neighborhoods and historic houses. Old Cutler Road is historic itself, being one of the first roads in Dade County connecting Coconut Grove with Cutler, an old farming community. The trail follows a natural limestone ridge along Biscayne Bay and was referred to by the pioneers settlers as “The Reef”. Then it was widened to become a wagon trail and declared public road in 1895. I can almost see myself on top of those wagons wearing a flower hat. Florida Legislature declared Old Cutler Road a Historic Road in 1974.
Walking down Old Cutler Road is a delight. It is shaded all the way to Matheson Park/Fairchild Tropical Garden by beautiful old banyan trees and charming Floridian style houses. The trail is also a bike trail so watch out for silent bikes coming from behind. Right across Fairchild Tropical Garden there’s a parking lot that leads to a Forest Protection Area as part of Matheson Park, it’s not part of the Trail but it’s worth the exploration. Birdwatching, photography and nature appreciation are the activities permitted here. It is truly a forest within the neighborhood, in the middle there’s an open space where other paths meet. We took the one going south and eventually found the Old Cutler Trail again.
A little south of Fairchild Tropical Garden, the trail actually goes through a gated community. To follow the Trail you have to cross the street and go into Snapper Creek Road, it’s ok to stop and enjoy the houses. At the other end of Snapper Creek Road, you leave the community and cross the footbridge into Red Road to continue on Old Cutler Trail. Not far from there, at SW 110 Street, you will find the old entrance to the old Parrot Jungle. It opened in 1936 and quickly became a tourist attraction and a signature building structure. The Village of Pinecrest purchased and restored the building after Parrot Jungle moved to Miami Beach, and is now a park, with a Farmer’s Market, children’s activities, and hosts events year round. It is now called Pinecrest Gardens.
Since Old Cutler Road follows the coastline, after Pinecrest Gardens, it curves from 57th Avenue to 67th Avenue and in the Y junction in 135th Street you have to go left to continue in Old Cutler Trail on Deering Bay Drive. One block after the Y junction it’s Chapman Field Park. You don’t have to enter the park to continue on the trail, but we did. There’s a trail within the park with a big loop that starts and ends in the canoe dock. Fishers canoe through the canal into open sea while dog walkers let their dogs run without leash in the trail.
There’s less shaded areas from Chapman Field to Deering Estate, it is very important to wear a hat, sunglasses and don’t forget the water! Deering Estate on 168th Street in Palmetto Bay, is an ocean front historic site and museum with beautiful grounds to enjoy nature. It is paid admission and part of the Miami Dade Parks, as well as the Chinese Bridge and People’s dock, where you can kayak or canoe in the Atlantic Ocean.
Just across the bridge, on 173rd Street, you will find Thalatta Estate. I can’t describe how lovely this place is. It was purchased by the Village of Palmetto Bay and it’s also part of the Miami Dade Parks, admission free. Its charming Spanish architecture, turquoise water pool, perfect maintained grounds with Palm trees and all kinds of flora, and the breathtaking view of Biscayne Bay, makes it perfect to host the most romantic wedding. Thalatta Estate is my favorite site along Old Cutler Trail.
The Palmetto Bay Public Library on 176th Street at Ludovici Park is worth mentioning. With an amphitheater, a two story community center and a bike path loop, must be the highlight of this community. I will certainly be in the lookout of events at this location when this pandemic permits it. Next to the Library there’s a stable, most likely private. Horses are such beautiful animals.
Cutler Bay starts on 184th Street and it was designated as Tree City USA in 2009 by the Arbor Day Foundation. Although beautiful and shaded with trees, you can notice the change in the neighborhood. It’s newer, not historic and not grand. Old Cutler Trail ends in the Circle that converges 216th Street, 87th Ave, and Old Cutler Road
From Coco Plum Circle in SW 72nd Street to the South end of the trail in 216th Street there’s 13.5 miles of asphalt trail that waits to be conquered, and it’s at this point where Biscayne Trail starts, which I will cover in a future post. Eat seasonally, love locally… or love your local trails.