shop   |   eNews   |   find a trail Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity
Share this page:

Beware black "sticks" in your path!

Cedar Valley Nature Trail, Iowa © John Riley
A bridge along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, prior to flooding in 2008.

Cedar Valley Nature Trail, Iowa © John Riley
Washed out during the flooding, the bridge remains unrepaired.

Mickelson Trail, S.D. © the McMillens
Billy and Kris McMillen take their summer bicycle tour to the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota.

Tell Us ...

What are your favorite winter activities on a rail-trail? Do you strap on a pair of cross-country skis, or are you a seasoned snowshoer? Or maybe when the snow is sticking, do you stick to hiking? Share your winter adventure stories with Karl at

With all e-mails and photos, please include where you currently live as well as any caption info.
All photos submitted to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy may be used in any and all organizational materials.

Tell Us ...

In January, we asked you to tell us about the most unusual sights or things you've ever come across on a rail-trail.

Randy Burks — Calera, Ala.

Last year while cycling the Chief Ladiga trail in Alabama, I came across three abandoned puppies. I gave them a power bar and some water and then rode to the next town, found a cardboard box and some potted meat. I taped the box to my handlebars, rode back, had a flat, picked up pups, fed them and it started to rain. Near the next town the box melted and I spilled the pups. I rode on to the next town and got another box, rode back, picked up pups and brought them back to the truck. I took them to an animal shelter the next day. I must have ridden 60 miles.

Nancy Krupiarz — Lansing, Mich.
My strangest story happened on a rail corridor that was abandoned but not acquired as a rail-trail, so I don't know if that counts. It was also before I became familiar with rail-trails or Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. I was out for a run on this rail corridor behind our cottage in Bellaire, Mich.  It was a nice, cool, crisp autumn morning. I was not paying much attention other than to the energy I had to muster to make my long run. So I was looking ahead but also downward so as not to stumble on the vegetation and thin layer of ballast. 

I suddenly heard a noise to my right and looked up startled to see a full-grown deer prancing along within about 10 feet, parallel to me and at my pace. I smiled and kept running a few more seconds, wondering how long this would keep up. But alas the deer turned away and veered off in another direction. Talk about feeling one with the earth and all its creatures!

Lynne LaBarre — Walnutport, Pa.
We spent a lot of time on the trails in eastern Pennsylvania during 2010. We most enjoyed the trails that ran along the Lehigh and Delaware rivers, enjoying views of hawks, osprey, eagles, herons and other birds. One of our craziest finds was the "black stick" that began to move as we approached the trail edge. It was a four-foot-long black rat snake that decided to use the warm trail as a place for an afternoon nap.

Deborah Fagan — Wheaton, Ill.
My strangest encounter on the
Illinois Prairie Path in the west suburban Chicago region was two men walking and carrying a canoe. On some trails this may be common, but it's not our typical trail user.     
My second-strangest encounter was an artist. He simply stopped on the side of the trail, set up his easel and started painting the landscape. 

John Riley 
At right are before-and-after pictures of a section of the
Cedar Valley Nature Trail in eastern Iowa.
This trail section was destroyed by the flood of 2008 and has never been restored. The bridge is unsound and must be replaced, and much of the trail grade washed away. The trail is maintained by two counties, and they do not have the resources to do the restoration. The right-of-way is quickly returning to river bottom woodland.
That was one of the beauties of the trail. It provided access to woodland and wetlands that were otherwise inaccessible.

(... and here's another response from last month's question—proudest rail-trail feats from 2010—we couldn't resist!)
Billy and Kris McMillen — Hot Springs Village, Ark.
In August and September 2010, we took a seven-week-long trip with our friends, Bo and Brenda, to Idaho, Washington and South Dakota. Among other activities, we biked several rail-trails. We haul our bicycles on the back of our camper trailers and have two four-bike racks in the back of the trucks for shuttling. We had such a great time on this trip in beautiful country and enjoyed the trails very much.
We biked the
Wood River Trails in Sun Valley, Idaho, from Ketchum to Bellevue. Beautiful trail and very easy riding, except for the flat tire we had. Luckily, we were in a town eating ice cream when the flat occurred, so we went straight to the bike shop to replace our tube.
Next biking destination was the
Olympic Discovery Trail in Washington, where we biked from Port Angeles on the Waterfront Trail at the Coast Guard Station on Edis Hook to Sequim State Park. This trail follows the beach much of the time and was beautiful.
Route of the Hiawatha in northern Idaho is a different kind of adventure. There are lots of long, dark, chilly tunnels. I know I ran over a chunk of ice one time in the dark. We rode out and back. Who needs a shuttle bus? (Be sure to stop at Lookout Pass Ski area and get your trail pass.)
Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes was a two-day ride. We biked from Plummer to Cataldo and then Mullan to Cataldo. This is a wonderful paved trail, which we enjoyed very much.
In South Dakota we biked three days on the
George S. Mickelson Trail. We biked 10 miles uphill on the first day and rode by Crazy Horse Memorial. We saw a real gold miner's campvery eclectic. Much of this trail is remote, but there are a lot of nice shelters and benches. We had one adventure where the bridge was under construction, and the construction worker told us to go out on the road and up through the town of Lead. I asked how far that was, and he said, "about a mile." It was a very chilly day, and trying to rain. Well, maybe that was a South Dakota mile, but it was a long, long way UPHILL on a very busy, switchback highway, and all the way through the town of Lead. We had to stop at a visitor center to ask directions. We finally got through town and onto another highway and found a spur trail to the Mickelson Trail. We were sure glad to see that path again. It's an excellent trail. 

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20037