Esther Wagner shows off the huge pine cones from along the Longleaf Trace in Mississippi.
Brian Anderson, Leeann Rock's husband,
poses at the Mason-Dixon Line.
A Summer of Rail-Trail Excursions
In August, we asked you to tell us your favorite memories from the summer rail-trail season. From family getaways to annual rides and geocaching adventures, this summer has certainly been an active one for rail-trail lovers around the country. Enjoy the great responses below, and see if you get any ideas for next summer!
Rick and Debbie Wagner — Pierceton, Ind.
We are always looking for longer rail-trails that our family has not ridden. Last month, we drove 860 miles to Hattiesburg, Miss., to say goodbye to our son, who is now deployed to Army duty in Afghanistan. Using RTC's trail-finder Web site, www.traillink.com, we made plans to ride 25 of the 41 miles of the Longleaf Trace.
The Longleaf Trace begins on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, though it will soon be extended farther into the city. The trail has many sponsors and is first-rate in its appurtenances. One unusual feature not found on many trails is a trailhead with modern restrooms about every five miles along the route. For scenery, the pine forests along the Longleaf are breathtaking. And to make it yet more interesting, many signs have been posted by the builders of this trail, giving the names of trees, shrubs and bushes along the trail. The signs help one's awareness of the fascinating varieties of trees that grow in wooded areas, which could not be appreciated when whisking along in a car on a highway.
Signs along the Longleaf Trace also indicate that Rails-to-Trails Conservancy was involved in building this trail. We commend all parties for preserving a historic rail corridor, while adding convenience and opportunities to learn more about nature. Bicycling on rail-trails was fun just for exercise, sightseeing, fellowship and quiet time. Now it's more yet!
Leeann Rock — Mount Airy, Md.
My husband and I spent this past July 4 on the Great Allegheny Passage and used both rail and trail. From Cumberland, Md., we and our bikes rode the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad up (and I do mean up—an "only" two percent grade gets to be wearing after a while) to Frostburg, Md., and from there continued by bike into Pennsylvania to Sand Patch. It was an amazing day in many respects, not the least of which is the sheer beauty of the trail environment with the woods and mountains and the amazing tunnels. There had been plenty of rain, so things were ferociously green!
Then there was the awesome train ride, experiencing the power of the coal-fired steam engine and watching the engine reverse on the turntable in Frostburg. Flying back down the trail from the Eastern Continental Divide back into Cumberland was just a blast! Finally, and somehow fitting for the Fourth of July, was the wide range of people riding the train: tourists from all over the country and all over the world, locals, young and old. Following on the previous day's ride on the C&O Canal towpath out of Cumberland, it couldn't have been a better holiday!
Will Wattles — New Vineyard, Maine
I was on a three-day bike trip in eastern Maine. Toward the end of day two, I broke the rear derailleur on my bike, instantly rendering my 27-speed a three-speed. I was in hilly country with a very heavy load, including camping gear, camera and laptop. I was in Calais, Maine, and had about a 50-mile ride back to Machias where I had left my car. The thought of trying to pedal a very heavy bike up all those hills without gears was daunting. I realized that I could take the Down East Sunrise Trail most of the way. It is under construction, but much of it was finished and there would be no crews working on Sunday. The gentle grade of the trail was perfect for three speeds, and my trip and day were saved. The trail goes through very isolated woods with lakes and marshes not accessible any other way.
Teresa Smith — Texas
We biked along the North Bend Rail-Trail and Greenbrier River Trail in West Virginia, along the Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail, and also the Silver Comet Trail and Chief Ladiga Trail through Georgia and Alabama. When I was biking between Marlinton and Cass on the Greenbrier River Trail, I saw 22 deer along the trail. I believe that was more than the number of people on the trail that I saw that day. Many of our vacations are planned around rails-trails. Here in Texas, rail-trails are very few.
Mike Madaj — Linwood, Mich.
There have been a couple this summer. Early on, there was the Mackinaw City Shoreline Bike Tour. We rode a 25-mile route on Saturday, which entitled us to ride across the Mackinaw Bridge on Sunday morning. That was indeed a memorable ride!
A friend and myself also did a combined mountain biking/geocaching adventure on a trail between Clare and Midland in Michigan (part of the Midland to Mackinac Trail). It was a 35-mile trip, which was a personal best for both of us, with 12 geocache finds. Planning the next adventure soon.
Harvey Regan — Chesapeake, Va.
Each summer I visit my brother in Suffield, Conn. The Farmington Valley Greenway passes nearby in Simsbury and East Granby. Over a period of several years, I rode on sections of the trail as they were completed. This past summer I was able to ride several miles into Southwick, Mass., for the first time. The trailhead at 22 miles is near my brother Larry's home, and the trail comes within a few miles of my brother Danny's house, where I stay. I was able to spend time together with both brothers on trail rides. I especially like the bridge over Salmon Brook near Route 189.
Steve Allie — Whitney, Texas
My brothers, ages 65 and 58, and I rode from McKeesport, Pa., to Georgetown in Washington, D.C., along the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal towpath from June 23 to 28. We had perfectly cool weather and made the 300-plus miles without a flat or breakdown. The history along the ride was amazing, and the rivers and mountains beautiful. I just wish there were more routes like that in Texas!
Tom and Linda Page — Winter Haven, Fla.
Three weeks ago, my wife and I took on the Van Fleet State Trail from Polk City, Fla., north to its end two counties away. On Catrikes, we did a 38.8-mile roundtrip section. Gopher turtles by the truckload, white-tailed deer, red-shouldered hawks and turkey crossed our path in a wooded, shaded, solitary ride that took all day.
On the return, my wife commented we had not seen an alligator yet in spite of the trail bordering the famous Green Swamp. Sure enough, within a mile, an eight-foot gator strolled across the trail ahead of us. We recommend it if you want isolation and peace. The Van Fleet Trail is in excellent shape, flat, level and has almost no turns the entire length. Bring your own food and water, though, as there is nothing between the start and the finish. Well worth it!
Jack Doman — Newbury Park, Calif. I am a 66-year-old grandpa. My grandson and I had the great opportunity to ride 42 miles of the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes and 14 miles on the Route of the Hiawatha in Idaho this past week. The trails were great and the weather was warm. We traveled with Adventure Cycling, and they provided a wonderful experience that both of us that will treasure for many years.