So many trails, so little time

Notes on some recent trail rides with bicycling friends:

The Neal Smith Trail

We’ve ridden along Saylorville Lake several times in the past, from the Big Creek Lake beach area at the north end to the visitor center near the dam. Just recently, Mrs. Smith and I started at the marina on Saylorville and pedaled south past the Butterfly Garden and visitor center, crossed the dam and spillway from east to west and cut through the campgrounds below the dam. The rest was new bicycling territory for us.

From below the dam, we rode a reasonably well maintained asphalt trail all the way to downtown Des Moines and found ourselves on Court Street just as the farmer’s market was wrapping up on a Saturday at noon. Good time for an outdoor lunch of sandwiches and Bloody Marys at Legends American Grill.

From below the Saylorville Dam to downtown, the ride is flat and mostly through woodlands until you get near the Birdland marina. A few blocks farther on, you’re in a residential neighborhood and on the sidewalk for a short distance before dropping down on the trail again past Des Moines Lutheran Hospital and emerging along the river by the Botanical Center.

Back up at the lake, the trail meanders through woods, campgrounds and open prairie with some undulating hills and occasionally more strenuous climbs. From the marina to downtown and back is about 40 miles.

Cannon Valley Trail

We visited this one for at least the fourth time, which should tell you something. It’s one of our favorite rides, starting in Red Wing, MN, and following the Cannon River to Cannon Falls, about 20 miles west. There are some fun, friendly saloons and a winery to visit in Cannon Falls before pedaling back to Red Wing. The trail is an abandoned rail line featuring gentle grades.

Red Cedar State Trail / Chippewa River State Trail

Chippewa State Trail

Chippewa River State Trail

We sampled both of these Wisconsin trails for the first time on Sunday. The Red Cedar runs from Menomonie to the Chippewa River, where it intersects with the Chippewa. We started seven miles from Menomonie in Downsville, halfway to the scenic bridge over the Chippewa River. The Red Cedar trail is hard-packed but a little rougher than those of us on road bikes would have liked. It rattled my cyclocomputer senseless at points. Across the river, the trail turned to asphalt and met up with the hard-surface Chippewa trail. We turned south and rode another seven miles to the riverside town of Durand. At one of many bars in town, we snacked on chicken fingers and deep-friend cheese curds chased down with some cold beer.

If we’d turned north, we eventually would have reached Eau Claire about 26 miles away.

Back at Downsville, of course it was time to eat again, which is why we chose that as our starting point. We just missed the Sunday brunch at The Creamery, but still had some of the tastiest appetizers ever. Not being a food critic, I won’t try to describe it. If you’re in the area, go there.

You will call me up and thank me.

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1 Response to “So many trails, so little time”

  1. 1 VidsPimp » Blog Archive » Last Of The Summer Wine - Series 5 And 6 Review Trackback on October 14, 2008 at 5:08 am
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