Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Biking the Des Plaines River Trail

I've biked over 160 trails across the country, and one day as I tried to rank the top 10 of these trails, I realized one of them is right here in Lake County Illinois -- the Des  Plaines River Trail.  Thank you, Forest Preserve District of Lake County for the DRT (and also the Millennium/Fort Hill complex.)  These are 2 world class trails in our own backyard, AND WE OWN THEM!

And what better to place to stop for a drink or bite to eat and a wonderful view, right at our very own Cafe in Independence Grove!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Biking Wisconsin's Burlington- Waterford-Norway Trail

This trail is composed of three segments developed by the local communities of Burlington, Waterford-Wind Lake, and Norway, which were then combined under the name and auspices of Racine County Bikepath. I parked at Richard Meyer Park in Norway and biked the four miles north to the end of the Norway segment, and the description and photos that follow proceed from north to south.

Meyer Park is reached by taking Milwaukee (Route 36) to Route 164 (west), then right turn onto S. Loomis to the park.  Park by the baseball field and bike the path around the outfield fence to find the access to the trail.

The trail is distinctly seen on Google Maps, on which they refer to the trail by its town names and also as Seven Waters Trail, apparently its previous name.  Here's a map under the old name.

And here's a photo of the trail map posted often along the trail by the county (click to enlarge)...

If you want to park on the north end, the Wind Lake Public Access lot is on the south side of Route 36/Milwaukee Avenue about a half-mile before Muskego Dam Road.

The Norway segment is only a few miles in length, and the gravel trail ends at the electric substation at Loomis and 36.  TakeLoomis right across Route 36 at the traffic light and follow South Loomis as it turns left and goes for about a mile. At one point you'll get a look at Waubeesee Lake on your right.

Watch for the traditional green "Bike Route" signs with arrows pointing the route to make your way south to the next trail segment at South Wind Lake Road where you turn left back towards Milwaukee Avenue. Now the trail  parallels Route 36 but mostly with a dense treeline between you and the road as seen below.  Though you can't see the traffic, you will still hear it.  You are now on the Waterford-Wind Lake section, and you will see a trail going off to the right to Meyer Park where I had parked.

At Waterford you veer from the road and traverse a residential area and the outskirts of the town, not realizing the Fox River is but a short distance to your west.  

When you reach Beck Road (83/20) and you'll be by The Bunker, a biker bar with military weaponry in the yard (tank, jet, helicopter, etc.)  Check it out, and then you'll jog on June Lane/Buck Road briefly before hitting the three mile paved section of trail which takes you over a small tributary of the Fox River on this bridge...

...onto the nicest section of the trail as you enter the large Case Eagle Park which offers air-conditioned washroom facilities, ballfields, basketball courts, playground, and lots of green lawn. You'll be riding the park roads briefly, so watch for the green Bike Trail signs for the turns to where the trail resumes, which then takes you across the picturesque Fox River seen below...

The paved trail continues up a lovely forested hill and deposits you briefly on North Browns Lake Drive.  Turn left, pedal a quarter mile, and then you'll turn left back into the forest, but this time on a gravel trail.  You'll pedal down and around and through the lovely Saller Woods, and when you reach Milwaukee Avenue you'll be in a small parking lot and will see a plaque explaining that the Sallers donated these woods to Racine County in 1996 in memory of their son, Frank.

The trail then crosses the 4-lane Milwaukee and runs south on the other side, crosses Browns Lake Drive,  continues along Milwaukee Avenue until ending in Burlington's Riverside Park which offers washrooms, picnic pavilions, and parking.

The total mileage is more than published at close to 30 miles round trip.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Biking Racine's Lake Michigan Pathway

This trail is advertised as 10 miles in length along Lake Michigan, but only a few of those miles are actually on trail along the lakefront.  I parked at the North Beach Park and headed west past the beach...

...and I was enjoying the lakefront scenery, but after a mile I was on a local street, passing lovely residences, and after another half mile, I wound up on two cul-de-sac dead ends.

So I headed back south, passed the beach again, the sand volleyball area, the wonderful Kids Cove playground, then wound around a marina building, and finally back to the shoreline and harbor areas.

At the confluence of the Root River and Lake Michigan, after passing several condo buildings, you'll find this monument honoring the Underground Railroad of the Civil War.  Slaves would be secretly brought north, and Racine was a location where they were put on ships for the final leg of their freedom journey -- Canada.

The pathway then headed along the lake through General Pershing Park and up the hill to the Gateway Technical College campus where the dedicated bike trail ends.  After that, the Pathway simply follows streets.  Disappointed that the rest of the ride was going to be on roads, I returned to my vehicle and drove to the Muskego-Franklin Trail northwest of here.

Biking Wisconsin's Muskego-Franklin Trail

This 7 mile gravel trail is a cooperative venture between two towns, Muskego and Franklin, two counties, Waukesha and Milwaukee, and the Wisconsin Electric Power Company, under whose power lines the trail runs. The trail traces the route of the 1904 Milwaukee Light, Heat, and Traction Electric Railway interurban rail line.

I parked at Ken Windl Park at the intersection of Rawson Avenue and North Cape Road (County J) at the City of Franklin Bike and Hiking Trail's starting point.  After about 1 mile, the trail crosses North Cape Road and there is space there to park, too.  It then continues another half mile, paralleling Forest Home Avenue which it then crosses (parking available) and then continues on to meet the Muskego Recreational Trail which runs another 5 miles.  

The scenery is a mix of residences, foliage, farm fields, road crossings, and lots of power poles...

...and also several lovely wetlands...

At the Muskego (western) terminus at Janesville Road and Woods Road, the trail actually continues as a single-track trail that is open to horse, bike, and foot traffic.  The Muskego Park entrance is also here so parking is available, though there is an entrance fee to the park which also offers a beach, camping, and picnic areas.

Additional parking areas are at the trail crossing at Racine Road, and also at Horn Park Baseball field off Pioneer Road right where the trail crosses.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Biking Wisconsin's White River State Trail

The White River State Trail is another of Wisconsin's fine bike trails.  Being part of the state park system, there is a daily fee of $4 (or $20 annual pass) to use the trail, which is operated by Walworth County on an old Soo railroad line build from 1858 to 1875 as the first railroad to connect Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.  The trail opened in 2003, with much of its success due to the White River Cycle Club which supported its development.

The western terminus is at Highway H near Elkhorn, just 5 miles from Lake Geneva, and the eastern end is at Spring Valley Road just west of Burlington, for a total length of about 12 miles. Trail parking is also available at County Highway NN, route 120 in Springfield, and Mill Street in Lyons. ( Click on the map to enlarge.)

I began at Springfield in the lot alongside this restored train depot that was built in 1911.  Today it is Bike and Cup where you can take care of your refreshment needs or you bike's needs.  I headed east first, then returned and continued to the western end and then back again for a 24 mile ride.  Food and drink are also available as you ride through Lyons near the eastern end.

Much of the route traverses rural countryside with occasional views of lovely farms...

Most of the trail is lined by mature trees and shrubs, giving you a green tunnel to pass through and hence some protection from wind and hot sun, but there are also many open areas giving you opportunities to view vistas of lush surroundings.  The trail also crosses several creeks as well as the namesake White River seen here...

Just a mile from the eastern trailhead, a side trail takes you to this interesting old bridge...

Rest benches are located along the trail, many courtesy of the White River Cycle Club.  Between miles 3 and 5 from the western end, you pedal a long, gradual downhill, often with 30+ foot drop-offs on one or both sides.  Along this stretch are two benches, one facing north and one south, so you have your choice of scenery to admire.  Most of the trail undulates over gentle rolling slopes, and much of the trail is straight as an arrow.  Mile posts every mile and mileage signs at road crossings announce your progress as you proceed. The trail is crushed gravel and is mostly in good condition with only a few rough patches.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Biking South Elgin's River Bend Bike Trail

Kane County's John Duerr Forest Preserve (formerly Blackhawk Preserve)  is located on Rte. 31 in South Elgin, one mile north of McLean Boulevard. A large wood carved statue of Blackhawk is situated at this preserve's entrance.  The preserve follows the big bend of the Fox River as it turns west and then northwest before returning to its generally southern route.  The preserve is adjacent to and connects to the Fox River Trail just north of the double bridges over the river at the foot of the steep incline alongside Tekakwitha Woods FP.  The Fox River Trolley Museum's trolley line ends in the preserve.

The trail is mostly paved as it meanders through forest and over creeks...

...and ends several miles later at Silver Glen Road and Route 31 where it becomes the Silver Glen Trail. The trail follows its namesake road over hilly terrain to the massive bike/pedestrian bridge over Randall Road...

...where the trail continues east before turning north alongside a creek into a lovely area with ponds and wetlands and homes across the water.  The trail crosses McDonald Road and continues north, and just before reaching Hopps Road loops around the pond and returns you to McDonald Road. 

An interesting feature:  Where the trails crosses McDonald Road, there is an emergency bike repair facility seen below, with all manner of tools and even a bike pump available for your use.

This trail is only about 11 miles round trip, but with its connections to the Fox River Trail and the Great Western Trail (reached by biking south four miles on the paved trail alongside Randall Road) you can lengthen your ride to over 100 miles!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Biking the Millennium and Ft. Hill Trails in Lake County (Video)

The Lake County Forest Preserve District's planned 35-mile Millennium Trail will connect central, western, and northern Lake County communities and forest preserves as it eventually loops west from the Des Plaines River Trail, arcs north, and then back again east to the DRT.  Today, more than 20 miles are complete and open to hikers, bicyclists, and cross-country skiers, and a 9.25-mile section from Lakewood Forest Preserve north to Singing Hills Forest Preserve is open to equestrians in Wauconda.

Trail sections currently open include from Hawley and Route 176 in Mundelein west and north through Lakewood and Singing Hills to Marl Flat Forest Preserve in Volo; along the Round Lake Bike Path; from Hook Drive east through Rollins Savanna Forest Preserve in Grayslake; and from Bonner Heritage Farm to McDonald Woods Forest Preserve in Lindenhurst. 
A 4 mile stretch of gravel trail called "Fort Hill Trail" connects Ray Lake Preserve to the Millennium Trail/Lakewood trail systems with the imminent opening of an underpass at Gilmer Road. The Fort Hill Trail parking area is located on the west side of Gilmer Road, north of Route 176.  You can also park at Ray Lake Preserve on Erhart Road between Fremont Center and Gilmer Roads. A highlight of this trail is the side "Loop Trail" through the former Four Winds Golf Club on the old golf cart path.  (Click to enlarge maps.)

Ft. Hill Trail through Ray Lake Preserve

These maps will have to be revised after two Route 176 underpasses are completed in 2012, allowing easier passage for both trails by avoiding road crossings.

Here's a brief video highlighting some of the sights of the two trails...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Video Excerpts from Our Village Singers Spring Concert

The Village Singers of Lake Zurich Spring Concert was this weekend, and here are brief excerpts from each of the selections. ( DOUBLE CLICK on video to see full screen.)