One of my favorite things to say to Google is “find a park near me.” Since Chris and I move a lot, Google has given us some pretty good answers. So, just before the holiday season kicked into full gear, we decided to get outside and see what the Riverview, Florida area had to offer. We came across the interestingly-named Alafia Scrub Nature Preserve, a tiny plot of land tucked away just off one of the busiest intersections in our town just off Gibsonton Road near the I-75 ramp. We turned and followed our directions for less than two miles, driving through an area that was sparsely populated despite its location next to a bustling Florida town.

We definitely wondered what we were getting into.

And, when we saw the tiny, EMPTY parking lot rimmed with a chicken-wire fence, we wondered some more. (We’re both fiction writers; it comes with the territory.) Why was no one there? Is there something about this place that we didn’t know? Is there something we should know?

Alafia Scrub Nature Preserve map

“Screw it!” said Chris. And we relaxed when we found a little trail map showing a path to a river overlook and a sign that said “Alafia Scrub Nature Preserve.” The path, while not well-worn, was obvious and showed us a definitive place to start.

The map included six markers with multiple paths we could follow. <Insert “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” reference here.> We decided to take the outer loop and head toward the river overlook. Along our way, we saw a bunch of different types of palms and some really beautiful angles through the dense flora. We also heard the skittering of animals and saw their wake in the waist-level canopy of huge palm fronds.

The river overlook is pretty neat, and you can see I-75 from the overlook dock. But, you’re surrounded by marsh grasses and vibrant tropical trees. It’s a beautiful place to contemplate the intertwining of our lives with the world Mother Nature creates.

I recently learned that Tampa is a humid subtropical climate and one of the farthest north places you can encounter royal palms and coconut palms. How lucky we are to be in a place with such an interesting (and welcoming) climate!

A vast view of Alafia Scrub Nature Preserve

Taking a hike through a forested area in Florida is always interesting because you can forget just how hot the rest of the day is outside of the permanently shaded area. On the day we hiked Alafia Scrub Nature Preserve, we only broke a sweat toward the end when we walked into an open area.

All in all, we enjoyed our hike in the Alafia Scrub Nature Preserve, and when we left, we were happy to see that the tiny parking lot was full.

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