When you see the tsunami of subdivisions and strip malls rolling over Florida it’s hard to believe that there are still places where nature has the upper hand. In fact, one of the reasons I was so anxious to become the Off the Beaten Path Insider is to steer you toward these places.

Whenever I get swamped by work, my escape is the Ocala National Forest. Or, to be exact, the roads that slice through it. These roads unlock a different world where I can ride to the shores of Beakman Lake and just watch the water and cypress trees on the far banks and where I can cool off in natural springs like Alexander Springs and Salt Springs and Juniper Springs. I’ll find old general stores and ride up to the St. Johns River and stop for awhile and realize how fortunate I am to be where I’m meant to be.

And that’s Florida.

If you think you’ve seen everything Florida has to offer, take a road trip and see the Ocala National Forest. With more than 600 natural lakes and ponds, its sand pine scrub ecosystem, camping and plenty of rooms for off-road vehicles, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.