A Rare Chance to Run Our Canopy Roads
By Sheryl Rosen,
The first time I drove down a canopy road, I was in 12th grade and traveling to my first cross country race at the Miccosukee Greenway. One minute I was clearly in Tallahassee, on Capital Circle to be exact. The next minute, I was in some ether. The city suddenly felt behind me. Street signs and stores gave way to the towering live oak canopy. I felt as if the trees were swallowing my car. I fell in love with Miccosukee Road.
To this day, when the sun is shining through the branches just right, I’ve been known to drive up and down Miccosukee from Fleischmann Road to Crump Road and back a few times. I find something mesmerizing in the way the road feels like a tunnel, as if I’m sitting stationary in my car while gravity pulls the scenery past me.
Thankfully, Miccosukee isn’t the area’s only unmistakably charming canopy road. Leon County has officially designated eight others, enforcing tree protections and limiting building and signage to preserve their beauty.
Leon County’s canopy roads:
• Centerville Road
• Old Centerville Road
• Sunny Hill Road
• Pigsah Church Road
• N. Meridian Road
• Miccosukee Road
• Old Saint Augustine Road
• Old Bainbridge Road
• Moccasin Gap Road
In all, the county has 78 miles of canopy roads. The paths originated as trails used by Native Americans and were later traveled by Spanish explorers, then settlers, and later by cotton farmers bringing their crop to market in Tallahassee or to ports along the Gulf of Mexico.
Luckily these roads aren’t just for transportation any longer. While most of the canopy roads lack sidewalks and are therefore not too safe for runners, race directors Jackie and Jerry McDaniel give us the rare opportunity to experience two canopy roads by foot at the Gulf Winds Track Club 15K/30K January 12. This club tradition takes entrants along the gorgeous red clay and quiet plantations of Old Centerville and Sunny Hill roads. No race in this area has its mix of peaceful scenery and rolling hills.
The morning begins and ends close to Centerville Road at The Retreat at Bradley’s Pond, which is located across the street from Bradley’s Country Store – a piece of Tallahassee charm in its own right established in 1927. The race begins and ends with 2.25 miles of asphalt along Old Centerville before continuing along unpaved for several miles farther. The 30K runners then turn left onto aptly named Sunny Hill for the course’s most challenging climbs before doing an about face for the return trip.
Whatever your distance, at this race you’re sure to see unique scenery steeped in North Florida’s past and still perfect for a Saturday morning run.