Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Biking the Virgil Gilman Bike Trail

The Virgil L. Gilman Trail follows two railroad right-of-ways and runs from Montgomery, IL west 11.5 miles to Waubonsee Community College at Route 47 in Sugar Grove. It was constructed by the Fox Valley Park District and the Kane County Forest Preserve District and is named in honor of Gilman, who served 30 years as director of the Fox Valley Park District and who fought to expand public access to the Fox River from the 66 feet available in 1946 to the 30-plus miles open today. A trail map is at the end of this post.

Much of the trail heading northwest from the Jericho Road/Elmwood Dr. parking area in Aurora is framed by trees as seen above, and some runs through lovely forest as at Bliss Woods. Just before the college, a wide meadow of prairie plants is crossed. The trail also takes you past Blackberry Farm's Pioneer Village and water park, Bliss Woods Campground, occasional residences, and several trailheads with parking areas. Don't be surprised if you hear gunshots as you near the college. The Aurora Sportsman's Club's shooting range is just south of the trail.

This old wooden plank suspension bridge is an interesting artifact from the past, and just beyond it is an ultra-modern bridge over Orchard Road, providing a real study in contrast. The trail is nearly all asphalt except for a short section near the college alongside a corn field as well as the eastern-most mile and a half or so.

In the photo below, Dave and Patti cross this old truss railroad trestle over the Fox River. A closed pedestrian crosswalk is alongside, another testament to life in another age. The eastern three miles travel past a cemetery, through a residential area, and by some wetlands before ending in an industrial area. There is a half mile section separating the eastern and western sections, interrupted by another industrial area, and the trail was poorly marked when we did it (a sign was missing). To avoid wandering as we did -- when heading east, turn left at Terry Street, proceed to the first right turn, head east, and watch for the trail's continuation into Copley Park on your left just after crossing the railroad tracks.

Here's a map of the trail (click to enlarge.)

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