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Rail-trails inspire more than just your body—they inspire your mind. What's the most exciting wildlife encounter you've had on a rail-trail?"

We want to hear from you!
Essays should be no more than 250 words in length and may be edited for publication. If your essay is chosen, we'll ask you to provide a picture of yourself (perhaps on a rail-trail) to accompany the essay. Send your essay and contact information to or:

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Magazine/Trail Tales
1100 17th Street, N.W., 10th Floor Washington, DC 20036


More Trail Tails

We asked Rails to Trails readers to tell us what they daydream about when they're out on a rail-trail. Below are a selection of the creative and sometimes whimsical responses.

You can find the featured letter, "Old House By The Tracks," a poem by Marilyn Fass Neuburger of Seven Valleys, Pa., and inspired by the Heritage Rail-Trail in York County, Pa., in the Spring 2007 issue of Rails to Trails.

Ryan Phillips of Canal Winchester, Ohio writes:
I am a huge fan of Louis L'amour, a pretty famous western author, and have read literally more than 100 of his books since the time I was 10 years old. In his books, there is always a theme of the lone cowboy riding the long, dusty trail.

Sometimes when I am riding my bike I think of that—that I am back 150 years heading west and experiencing new country. When I'm coasting along and scare up a deer, or see an eagle, I think what it like was for people to see this for the first time on the pioneer track.

For me, the new horse is the bicycle and while I wear a helmet and not a Stetson hat, and I change tubes not horse shoes, I, like the cowboy, get saddle sore and call my bike "girl." Cowboys were the explorers of their time and while I know many people have traveled through the regions I ride, I still feel I am out there exploring, because I'm experiencing the long, sometimes dusty, trail for the first time.

Al Burt of Arlington, Va. writes:
While riding on long stretches of rail-trails, I concentrate on the book I'm writing about quality of life. The combination of plenty of clean air activating my brain, beautiful scenery and few stressful distractions fosters many new ideas for the book. When I come up with a fresh idea, I stop and write it down on a 3x5 card immediately, before it gets away. I find that these ideas come rather frequently when I'm riding on the W&OD Trail (Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park) for instance.

I highly recommend biking on a rail-trail to anyone in need of fresh ideas on how to improve the quality of their life. The ideas will seem to come from the sky overhead.

Paul F. Jacobs of Manns Choice, Pa. writes:
"Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as Industrial Archeology—and you are right in the middle of it on this trail." More than a path, a trail or a road, this scenic byway was once the aorta of the Industrial Revolution. Can you see the workers who plotted the line, built the grade, laid the rails and connected the towns? You can look for evidence of former glory: the remains of bridges, signals, depots and sidings. Dream of the industries served, the raw materials delivered, and the finished goods removed. The nourishment of commerce, of wars, of lives and families, the lifeblood of a nation ran here. You can dream of the tranquility, the plants and animals, and the closeness of nature as you ride along: they have a strong appeal, but "the magic carpet made of steel," that's where the daydreams live.

Charles Brown of Mansfield, Texas writes:
As a child, all those bicycle rides on long peaceful trails would inspire daydreams: Daydreams of growing up, riding my one speed bike for thousands of miles to strange lands, and being the best at something. Daydreams of riding away, alone into freedom. Daydreams of riding with my dad, brother or friends, to anywhere—or nowhere—in particular. Daydreams of what lies ahead; what life holds for the future.

Today as an adult, those rides on long, peaceful trails still inspire daydreams. Daydreams of being a child again. Riding my 27-speed bike for thousands of miles to strange lands, and being the best at something. Daydreams of riding away, alone into freedom, and daydreams of riding with my family to anywhere—or nowhere—in particular. Daydreams of what lies behind, and what lies ahead; what life holds for the future.

Time has changed some things, but it hasn't changed the fact I dream the most on two wheels, on a peaceful trail.

Ritt Henn of New York, N.Y. writes:
I play bass, write songs and live in New York City. This past summer, I took a gig at the Cape Playhouse in no small part because of the proximity of the rail-trails on Cape Cod. I had a tune I was writing and trying to finish for the new album, and the first verse was about a mother being there for her kid. Riding along the long straightaway section of the trail in Eastham, I'd see these little kids pedaling away, some dashing off, some barely inching along. And never far behind: their folks keeping a watchful eye. Seemed like a better image than doing the kid's laundry.

Mother said to her only son
Need anything, I'll see that it gets done
Now you're barely walkin'
But soon you will run
And if you ever look back
It'll be me you're starin' at
I will go that mile for you

-from "Go That Mile For You"
on the CD "Timber"
©2006 Ritt Henn

There you have it...thanks for asking!

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
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