A pocket of old Florida can be found in the middle of some Sarasota suburbs.
Sarasota is busy right now.
It’s been so for a while, but tourism and winter visitors have flocked back to the area this year it seems. Traffic on the roads, lines at the restaurants, crowds of people at local hotspots.
Maybe it’s just me. (Probably not).
One place not always so mobbed sits in the middle of the tumult as a place to get away from the madness.
The 72-acre Red Bug Slough Preserve purchased in the early 2000s sits at 5200 Beneva Road and offers a curious mix of nature and suburbia where hiking trails and fishing piers are juxtaposed with nearby houses.
Here’s what you can find.
The Red Bug Slough is quiet, and that’s a relief. Wooded paths quickly open up to the slough water area, which is where many walkers and families stop to admire the view. It has a fishing pier as well for those who want to really feel settled.
You can carry on through the trail for a while — eventually having to cross into the second segment of the preserve — before hitting a relatively secluded water area with some photogenic bridges. It’s a nice way to cap off the walk.
The slough, by the way, is defined as a broad, shallow channel with flowing water. The titular Red Bug Slough flows northwest to Phillippi Creek about 1.5 miles southwest. The more you know.
You’ll see many types of wildlife at the preserve — turtles, squirrels, grumpy Floridians — but the most noticeable segment are the many birds that rest, clean themselves and soar through the area. Ospreys, storks, ibises — it’s hard to walk a few feet without noticing another striking bird.
There were a few warning signs for alligators, but I can’t say I caught any on the trip. Probably best for people walking their dogs anyway.
You’ll catch all sorts of people walking the area, especially after work. Joggers and bird watchers are common, but it’s also a good place for moms pushing their kids in strollers for some resourceful exercise.
Sometimes, though, you’ll find a more intimidating crowd. During my travels I fell across a small group of teenagers clad in black with excessive eyelines, who bandied about the woods swinging sticks and hitting vape pens.
I understood the most important rule of engaging with teens — don’t make eye contact, don’t let them make fun of your shoes — and let them pass.
Much later in my trek, those same teens came across me again near the exit, which put me in a contemplative state as I left to my car to drive home.
Had they been following me? Were our fates intertwined? Or were they simply fellow travelers in this small, quiet slice of the world?
Such are the mysteries of the Red Bug Slough.
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