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A leisurely walk along the Pinellas Trail

Looking east on the Poinsettia Road side, one sees mobile homes on concrete-block foundations. A view westward would show sprawling houses and townhomes with large, well-groomed yards.

PIPER CASTILLO | Times

Looking east on the Poinsettia Road side, one sees mobile homes on concrete-block foundations. A view westward would show sprawling houses and townhomes with large, well-groomed yards.

Last weekend, I persuaded my family to walk the short stretch of trail between Rosery Road and 16th Avenue SW. "Let's walk. We won't miss the little things if we take a hike,'' I said. "As long as we stop somewhere to watch the start of the Bucs game,'' my husband said.

We parked the car near the Belleair Forest apartments, and headed toward the trail. We picked up a conversation with Marcie Hale as she walked her poodle, Popeye.

"I like to call the trail a place with hundreds of microworlds,'' said Hale, 57. "You're going to see a hundred different worlds out there.''

Although the differing "microworlds" on the trail are not always in such stark contrast as the spot at the east-west border of Belleair and Largo, I understood what she meant as soon as we started the trek at the Rosery-Poinsettia intersection.

When I looked west toward the Poinsettia side, behind the stone Belleair sign, sprawling houses and townhomes with well-groomed yards dotted the landscape. When I turned and looked east past the Largo sign, mobile homes atop concrete blocks lined Rosery.

We headed southward. I reminded the kids how the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail used to be railroad tracks. In the late 1800s and the early 1900s, snowbirds would venture down to Florida's Gulf Coast via the Orange Belt and the Seaboard Airline railroads.

I asked them to count the different styles of houses they spotted and point out favorite sights.

At the American Way Mobile Home Estates, off 14th Street SW, my son loved the Airstream perched next to the trail. The trailer's shiny, silver exterior, with an old-fashioned TV antenna next to it, had a vintage flair.

"It's almost like going back in time in an old movie,'' he said.

He also discovered a wild bamboo garden. If you're lucky enough to be on the trail on a breezy day near Mehlenbacher Road and Eighth Avenue NW, keep both your ears and eyes open. On the west side of the trail is a wide patch of mature bamboo. It has grown so high that it stretches over the trail. My kids called the bamboo "wind drums."

On the south side of the West Bay overpass, my daughter loved the old-Florida-style bungalows. It was hard to keep her from running up into one yard in particular where a homeowner was raking leaves under her big oak tree. I hollered out to my 6-year-old that lunch, pizza and soda were dead ahead.

Five minutes before the start of the Bucs-Saints game, we turned off the trail and headed to Your Pizza Shop on the Pinecrest Golf Course.

The restaurant at 1200 Eighth Ave. SW has arguably the best view in Largo, including the golf course and the northeast section of Taylor Lake. If you go on a Sunday, grab the corner table.

You can alternate between the Bucs game on the flat-screen TV inside and the golfers on the 10th hole, as well as the passers-by on foot and golf carts.

The menu isn't bad, either. The Castillo clan wolfed down a pizza and a family-size fried chicken salad before the first half was over.

It is true that zooming down the Pinellas Trail, letting the landscape blur as you pedal your bike, is a tough act to beat. However, take a slow, Sunday walk once in a while. And besides, it's a chance to not only explore your back yard, but lots of other people's, too.

About this story

Back on Dec. 1, 1990, thousands of people turned out to walk, run, skate and bike the Fred E. Marquis Pinellas Trail's first 5-mile piece, from Taylor Park to Seminole City Park. For the past two weeks, we have explored the Largo area of the trail. Today, we head southward, from Rosery Road to Taylor Park at Eighth Avenue SW. Last week, we went northward from 102nd Avenue to 16th Avenue SW.

Missed last week's installment? Go to links.tampabay.com.

Where: Rosery Road to Taylor Park at Eighth Avenue SW • Hours: During daylight hours • Price: Free.

A leisurely walk along the Pinellas Trail 09/13/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 3:34pm]

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