Thursday, August 25, 2016

MetroBikeLink Trail

St. Clair County in Illinois is home to this rail-with-trail as it travels from Belleville to Swansea. Though only 7 miles in length now, there are plans to extend in each direction to the next train station thus making it accessible to six stations. The southern end runs briefly through a sub-division, but construction is underway to move it alongside the track and build an overpass to avoid  a busy street. The train travels all the way to St. Louis' Lambert Field airport.

The trail is mainly flat with some rises and a few overpasses and underpasses to negotiate. Currently it ends at Memorial Hospital in Belleville on the north and South Western Illinois College on the south. Below you see the train passing as it speeds by. The trains are electric and quite quiet as they speed past, and they allow you to ride the trail with your bike if the need arises.

The trail is equipped with these emergency call towers at regular intervals.

The Richland Creek Greenway Trail travels along the creek and takes you though seven Belleville city parks. Currently it is in two un-connected sections and the trail totals about 4 miles. This bridge is just past the water treatment facility.

Here's the map for the trail.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lake County Removing Dams from the Des Plaines River

The Des Plaines River in Lake County was interrupted by three old low-head dams that had been built back in the 1930s or earlier by farmers to create pools for fishing or watering crops or for farm vehicles to cross the river to reach fields on the other side. Below you see the dam that is visible from the bike trail bridge in Dan Wright Woods. Four times I paddled the Des Plaines River Canoe Marathon and had to negotiate the dam with canoes and kayaks. If you look closely, you can see a "V" notch cut in the concrete which I used uneventfully each time, but craft that missed the notch had problems.The dam is 140 feet long, two to three feet high, and 25 feet wide.

Since the dams are no longer necessary and in fact disrupt river travel by fish and invertebrates, they are being removed. The Ryerson Dam was removed in 2013 and ecological improvements are already being seen, such as small bass sightings upriver. Also, silt will no longer accumulate behind the dams.

Below is a photo I took on 9/24/14 from the same bike trail bridge, after work had begun on the removal process. But pilings were discovered under the water and the projected had to be re-engineered and bids re-let. Then with Illinois' financial difficulties, the funding was cancelled and work halted.

Kudos to Lake County! Realizing the state may never again fund the removal of the remaining two dams, Lake County has decided to foot the bill ($690,000) even though they may not be repaid eventually by the state. 

So here's the work resuming. I took this photo from the same bridge yesterday. The concrete that had been on the right side of the photo (eastern half of the river) is gone and work is proceeding on the west side now.

The Illinois EPA and Illinois DNR will work with the forest preserve district to sample the river for three to five years after the removal. It will be interesting to see how Mother Nature reclaims her own along the waterway!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Rafting Wyoming's Snake River

Just found these photos from my first-ever whitewater rafting trip. In 1982, our family was vacationing out west, including a visit to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. While in Jackson, Wyoming, we investigated the possibility of rafting. Our youngest, Steve (age 5), was too young for the trip but there was nowhere to leave him if we went without him, so we turned around and began leaving the rafting company's office when the clerk told us to hang on a minute. After a brief consultation with someone else in the office, she told us Steve could go on the trip, but we'd have to keep him sitting on the bottom of the raft and hold onto him. We agreed!

The scenery was drop-dead gorgeous for the eight mile trip through the Bridger National Forest. The river is rated at class II and III rapids, with the largest two rapids called Lunchcounter and Kahuna.

At Lunchcounter Rapid we knew why they had told us to hang onto the boys -- this fellow was  thrown out and quickly retrieved.

Here's the photo taken by the professional photographer just as we were about to hit the six-foot-tall standing wave of Big Kahuna Rapid.

You can see young Steve next to me in the bottom of the raft between the two girls who are in front. I enjoyed the whitewater experience so much that I've done whitewater rafting and canoeing over 20 times since then, including a number of multi-day expeditions where we camped each night on beaches.

When the trip was over, Steve was shaking from sitting in the cold water at the bottom of the raft for a couple hours. I asked if he had enjoyed the ride and he shivered,  "Yeah."  Then I asked if he'd like to do it again and he shivered, "Not right now."

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Des Plaines River Trail is Complete!

Last year, the Lake County Forest Preserve District acquired the final piece of land and constructed the last missing segment of their premier trail to finish the 31+ mile Des Plaines River Trail, which passes through 12 forest preserves on its way.  The vision of the trail began in 1961, construction was begun in 1981, and it required 34 years to acquire the land and construct the trail. And it is a job very well done! One of the reasons it took so long to complete is the fact that the preserve board refused to ever use eminent domain to acquire property. In fact, the LCFPD owns over 85% of the land abutting the two sides of the river, a testament to their perseverance and dedication to conservation.

The LCFPD section of the trail ends at Lake-Cook Road, the diving line between Lake and Cook Counties, but the trail continues another 27 miles through Cook County, making a 58 mile trail and connecting over 30 forest preserves.

Of the 220 trails across the country that I've ridden, I consider it one of the top trails I've biked.  Here are photos of this newest 1500 foot section:

The Des Plaines River is on the left, and since this is flood plain, pilings had to be driven to stabilize the trail. The black fencing on the right separates the trail from the land owner who after 20 years of overtures, finally relented and sold the property to the forest preserve district.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Biking Nashville's Shelby Bottoms Greenway

This park and Greenway are in the East Hill section of Nashville, across the river and a bit south of Opryland Hotel. Numerous grass hiking trails bisect the park and the paved bikeway runs for nearly 5 miles, with another mile and a half or so of spur trails connected to it. The trail is in good repair and is mostly level.

The scenery is as seen below -- lush green on both sides but with very few views of the Cumberland River which it parallels.

Near the northern end of the trail you'll find this bridge with spiraling ramp to access the Pedestrian Bridge which takes you over the Cumberland River. The trail then takes you below Briley Road (route 159) via underpasses to Two Rivers Park (and The Wave aquatic park) and to the start of the Stones River Greenway.

Here's a view of the Cumberland River from the Pedestrian Bridge.

The trail is flat and this is a very popular trail so expect company while biking here.

Trailheads and parking are available at 1900 Davidson Street, 2032 Forrest Green Drive, and 2544 McGinnis Drive.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Biking Nashville's Cumberland River Greenway

Nashville's Cumberland River Greenway runs 7.5 miles along the namesake river. I parked at Morgan Park (411 Hume Street, just off Rosa Parks St.) and biked the short access trail to the Greenway. Turning right, the trail passes behind some commercial properties and along a railroad spur and eventually takes you to the waterfront. Nissan Stadium is across the river.

Here's a photo of the downtown from atop the Ascend Amphitheater hillside. Most of the trail is on the downtown side of the river, though it does cross over the Shelby Street bridge and continues to LP Field.

If you turn left off the access trail from Morgan park, you pass the cement company and soon climb atop the levee, with the river 20 feet or so below you on your right and commercial enterprises on the left. The trail is eight or so feet wide and paved, but don't lose your concentration -- it's a long way down and there are no guard rails.

In the photo below, you see a rest area on the levee. The levee segment of the trail runs about three miles.

In the photo below, the Greenway is the green line seen just below the blue river.

Other access points to the trail are at Riverfront Park (100 First Avenue North), Freehand Station (766 Freehand Road), 231 Great Circle Road, and 50 Titans Way near LP Field.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Biking Tennessee's Maryville-Alcoa Greenway

This trail runs from Sandy Springs Park in Maryville to the Bicentennial Greenway in Alcoa, nine miles in length, with loops in the parks at each end. You can also access the trail at Pearsons Spring Park, Founders park, and Greenbelt Park in Maryville, as well as Alcoa's Richard Williams Park and Hall Park. 

I parked at Bicentennial Park in maryville because it was easy to find as I drove in on Highway 411(East Broadway Avenue.)

My favorite section runs from Maryville to Alcoa along Pistol Creek, on an easement granted by Alcoa Company. The trail features lovely woods on both sides and the pavement is in pretty good repair. At the western end, you briefly run along Edison Street, turn left along Springbrook, pass the aptly named Duck Pond, and reach and circle Springbrook Park. Signage is minimal if at all in many places, so just enjoy riding the paved trails and relish the lovely park scenery as you traverse the parks, and don't be concerned that you somehow missed a sign post.

Parts of the trail have lighting for evening use as seen below.

Bicentennial Park in Maryville has Greenbelt Lake with a pond and waterfall to enjoy.

Biking the Cumberland River Bicentennial Trail

Also known as Ashland City Rail Trail and located just 20 minutes from Nashville, this trail runs nearly seven miles to the Cheatham Lock and Dam Campground. The trail is level and gives occasional views of the Cumberland River which it parallels. The eastern 4 miles is asphalt in fairly good condition except for numerous root heaves (or frost heaves -- in Tennessee?) The last 3 miles are gravel, mostly hard-packed but some loose and sometimes with larger gravel too.  Around the first mile mark is the Turkey Junction Comfort Station and Native Garden along a creek if you need a break while traveling in either direction. I've biked over 200 trail across America and never seen so many picnic benches along a trail!  They must have been located every couple hundred yards. The first mile or so has numerous signs telling you the name of the varieties of flora decorating the trail.

Views of the river and its tributaries occasionally present themselves for your enjoyment. All the tree foliage probably shields riders from the heat of hot summer days.

Around the 3.5 mile mark you reach this lengthy trestle with long boardwalk approaches on each end.

Below is the gravel section. I was traveling with my road bike, not my mountain bike, and I had no problem with the trail except one section where there was no trestle, just a downhill-then-uphill section crossing a drainage. I walked the bike down and up both directions to play it safe. If I'd had my Trek mountain bike, I would have just blasted down and up the loose gravel grades.

This photo displays the magnificent limestone cliffs that border much of the trail.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Biking Chattanooga's Riverwalk Trail

I began the ride from the north side of the Tennessee River in Coolidge Park, and after working my way from the parking lot (parking fee is $2 per 2 hours, pay at machine) I crossed the river on the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge seen in the first two photos below.

Turn left over the bridge, walk your bike over the glass-bottom bridge and past the museum buildings, and follow the road down the hill and to the right. I had to ask a local resident for directions as none of this is marked. Then look for the blue paint as seen below -- on bridges, light poles, garbage cans, rest benches, and railings -- and you'll know you're on the trail.

Wet and low areas are bridged as seen below...

Eventually and occasionally you'll get good views of the Tennessee River as you head the seven miles to the Chickamauga Dam (TVA) where the trail ends.

The trail is paved, wide, and in extremely well maintained. This Riverpark greenway is the pride of Chattanooga, is well used, and is well cared for.

Every mile or so you'll come to parks with rest rooms, benches, picnic tables, grass lawns, etc. These are all accessible from Amnicola Road, and if you drive the road and park in one of these parks, you'll have free parking and amenities, and enter the trail at the well-marked segment of the trail.

The Chickamauga Dam signals the end of the Riverwalk Trail.

Tennessee Riverpark website

Biking the Louisville Loop

The Louisville Loop is an estimated 100-mile trail system that will eventually encircle the city. The imagine below provides a rough overview of all the parts of the Loop that have been constructed, designed, and planned (click to enlarge.)

We biked in "The Parklands of Floyds Creek" through The Strand, Pope Lick Park, Beckley Creek Park, Trestle Point, Distillery Bend, and Grand Allee, a 14 mile round-trip. At the seven mile mark we hit a section of trail that is closed area due to a landslide that blocks the trail. 

The Parklands spread over nearly 4000 acres, almost five times the size of New York City's Central Park, and a scenic park drive traverses the four parks.

The Floyds Fork watershed is in the far eastern part of the county, stretching from Shelbyville Road on the north to Bardstown Road on the south. It is characterized by its many creeks, and it features the oldest exposed bedrock in the county, Waynesville Limestone, which is as much as 500 million years old. Moving from west to east in this region, the landscape drops from 700-foot elevations to 440 feet in the Fork Creek bed.

As seen below, the trail is paved with concrete in areas that might flood and asphalt elsewhere. 

Mountain bikes have an extensive system of unpaved trails branching off the paved trail, and hiking trails also abound through the woods. Floyds creek also offers good paddling and several access points are available for paddlers.

Trestle Point features an active railine high above the bike trail and creek.

Road crossings are safe thanks to underpasses. Be aware that the trail has several big hills to get your heart rate up, though switchbacks help ease the burden a bit.

The Parklands of Floyds Fork website

Biking Nashville's Stones River Trail

Nashville's Stones River Greenway travels about seven miles from the Cumberland River to the J. Percy Priest Reservoir, parallel to and occasionally within sight of Stones River. The trail connects a number of communities and parks including the skate park at Two Rivers Park where I began. This trailhead is adjacent to The Wave Country waterpark, just off Route 155 (Briley Parkway) and about a half mile south of the Grand Old Opry, Opry Mills, and Opryland Hotel complex.

The trail is paved and in very good repair. It was April and foliage was nearly in full bloom, making for a very scenic ride. The trail is not a former rail line so steep grades and a one-half mile long uphill will get your heart pumping.

Boardwalks and bridges protect fragile environmental areas and drainages.

Here's a photo of the namesake Stones River.

If you head left onto the trail from Two Rivers park, the trail takes you below the freeway and its ramps and then over the adjacent Cumberland River on the Pedestrian Bridge and gets you to Shelby Bottoms Greenway and another five miles of paved trails.