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.