Saturday, October 12, 2013

Biking Wisconsin's Three Eagle Trail

Named for the two towns it connects, the crushed limestone Three Eagle Trail traverses the former Chicago and North Western line between Eagle River and Three Lakes.  The newest and shortest segment starts in Eagle River and runs from the Dairy Queen parking lot south to Sundstein Road, crossing the lengthy wetland area seen here...

...on this boardwalk. Two other bridges are used on the southern section.

In the winter, the trail is groomed for cross-country skiers and also used by snowmobiles (probably because Eagle River calls itself the "snowmobile capital of the world" and hosts the annual world snowmobile championships.)
The longer southern segment of the trail begins in Three Rivers at Don Burnside Park, which offers restrooms, athletic facilities, a playground, and picnic tables. From there, the trail meanders through wetlands, dense forest, and marshy pines with lots of twists and turns and plenty of benches to rest on. The route includes two boardwalks and a bridge.

You'll find rest benches often along the trail, and the 8.5 mile long southern segment takes you through wetlands, marshes, and woods.  Active cranberry bogs can be seen on the southern segment.  Wausau Paper Company previously owned a wooded area which remains scenic.

The two segments are about 3 miles apart, connected by Sundstein Road, a little traveled backroad that is not dangerous to bike on.

Click on the map below to enlarge it... 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Biking Minnesota's Harmony-Preston Valley Trail

The Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail travels 18 miles from its intersection with the Root River State Trail (between the towns of Lanesboro and Fountain) to its terminus in Harmony, passing through Preston on the way.  The northern segment follows Camp Creek using an old railroad right-of-way, after crossing Watson Creek and the South Branch of the Root River.


The trail is paved, in good condition, and is mostly flat until the final 5 miles or so into Harmony (between County Road 16 and Harmony) where some steep roller coaster type hills take you alongside the edges of agricultural fields and through small woodlots as the trail makes its way from the river valley and climbs up to Harmony.   The Harmony-Preston State Trail is popular with cyclists, hikers, and skaters.  In the winter, the trail is groomed for cross country skiers.

Trailheads are available in Preston using US 52 to Fillmore Street/County 12, and drive a half mile to the lot.  In Harmony, you can park at the tourist center at the end of 2nd Street NW at Main Street, or take US 52 to 4th Street NW, west to the lot.

Biking Minnesota's Root River State Trail

The Root River State Trail is a paved, 42 mile trail that mostly follows an old railroad right-of-way, except for the final 5 miles or so into Houston, the only section that is a bit hilly since it isn't an old rail line.  From west to east, the trail runs through Fountain, Lanesboro, Whalan, Peterson, Rushford, and Houston.

This area is dubbed "Bluff Country" for obvious reasons as you pedal the trail, especially the section from Lanesboro west to Fountain, as you pass alongside tall limestone bluffs.  Besides cattle in occasional fields to the west, you also have opportunities to spot deer, raccoons, turkeys, and various waterfowl.  Most of the trail is alongside or close to the namesake river, often giving views like this...

The towns on the route offer lodging, food, drink, museums, various shops, campgrounds, and historical buildings. Though Lanesboro is the most visitor friendly with over 20 B&Bs and a thriving professional theatre company, all the towns offer amenities to bikers. 

A number of old trestles have been re-purposed into bike bridges...

The scenic beauty of this trail is top-notch.  I biked this trail for four days as part of a Road Scholar biking program, and this trail quickly made it into  my top favorite trails list.  Here are a couple photos of the trail...

 The asphalt is in good condition, especially the western secment which had just been repaved.  The eastern-most segment was a bit in need of repair in places and it was scheduled to be redone next year.  The state seems to realize the tourist-draw of this trail and area and the need for investment in its upkeep.  Picnic benches are available along the trail for rest stops, and small three-sided shelters are available for biker/campers.

An adjacent grass trail was often available for equestrians (and in the winter, snowmobiles), and cross country skiers use the bike trail in winter.

Map signs like that below are liberally located along trail, and each town has a large sign showing the location of businesses in the town.

Between Lanesboro and Fountain, the trail meets the terminus of the 18 mile long Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail, an extremely scenic trail in its own right, which follows Camp Creek for part of its length.

Trail access:

  • Fountain: From Highway 52 take County Road 8 about one mile to the parking lot near the city park/softball field.
  • Lanesboro: Parking is available in the lot next to the Bass Pond off of County Road 8. Additional parking is available along the streets and at the parking lot by the Community Center/Sylvan Park.
  • Whalan: Street parking.
  • Peterson: From Highway 16, turn into Peterson on Mill Street, go 1/2 mile to Fillmore Street, and turn left to the city campground/softball field. Parking is also available along the streets.
  • Rushford: From Highway 16, turn north on Elm Street and go one block. The parking lot is at the restored railroad depot.
  • Houston: Turn west on Plum street of of Highway 76 and go one block to the Nature Center.

Biking Wisconsin's BATS (Boulder Area Trail System)

The Boulder Area Trail System (BATS) runs south 8 miles from Boulder Junction, Wisconsin, then jogs east to the Crystal Lake Campground, passing the lovely Trout Lake for over a mile, for a total of 11 miles.  Additional mileage is available if you do the off-shoot dirt trails.  The trail is paved and in good condition.

Here's a trail map (click to enlarge)

The 1+ mile segment along Trout Lake is especially beautiful...

...and the woodland segments feature towering pines, oaks, and maples, and at times pine needle- covered trail surface...

The trail is predominantly flat, but it has enough roller coaster type hills to give a bit of a workout, as you pass through the lovely 225,000 acre Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest.

A good starting point is the trailhead at the Boulder Junction Town park ballfields.  Others are the Trout Lake Campground/picnic area or the Crystal Lake picnic area.