“To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

The Ravine State Gardens is a special window into the Florida’s natural history. Originally created by the St. Johns River and established and maintained as a state park since 1933, the ravines are the 146-acre home to dogwoods, azaleas, alligators, fox, otters, and numerous bird species. The 1.8 miles of paved road that follow the ravine’s natural descent are gorgeous and peaceful. During a cool night in November and December, there is no better place in the area to view the stars. This unique path has been used for running before. The well-loved Floyd 4 used to incorporate the hilly terrain. Recently, the course was used for the Ravine Gardens 6K.

“The runners of these races would warn: don’t be completely taken by the beauty that surrounds you. This course is deceptive. Runners attempting to take the challenge of running either 12/24 hours or the 50m will get the opportunity to experience the 222-foot elevation change, to navigate the sudden twist of a curve at the bottom of the ravine (especially interesting after dark), and to keep pace in the pitch black area at around the 1 mile mark. Although the Ravine State Gardens loop is one of the most prized treasures of the runners in the area, it can be one of the most treacherous. While the descent can be seemingly easy, be careful of the sudden turns and your surroundings. The ascent to the top of the ravine is no easy feat either, and the incline can fool even the most seasoned runner. Doing this same climb several times during the same run can prove to be very challenging even to the most seasoned ultra-runner. Although the ravines are the spiritual sanctuary of most runners I know, they have humbled all of us at one point in our running adventures.

-Written by Dr. Jason Arnold (One of Palatka’s favorite runners)