The whole rails-to-trails thing is all about riding my bike. No walking, definitely no jogging and certainly no roller-blading. It's all about me and my bike, the wind in my face and a unknown trail full of potential stretching and winding out ahead of me. It's all about riding those old railway routes, now tastefully, respectfully re-purposed and paved with asphalt and limestone (though I always imagine a dirt road, which somehow feels more appropriately Rockwellian) and getting a chance to ride my bike through interesting spaces not burdened by cars. I like the serendipity of it, too. Of the natural beauty these trails promise. Of the little towns they take you through, perfect, I always imagine, for stopping and grabbing some lunch.
Browsing the smart and unfussy Rails-to-Trails Conservancy site tonight, I fell under the spell of their December 2006 Trail of the Month: Wisconsin's Military Ridge State Park Trail. My romantic notions of rails-to-trails doesn't have time for any pint-sized trails. Anything under 20 miles seems too dainty, too potentially abrupt. The Wisconsin Military Ridge State Park Trail is a little over 40 miles long, which isn't too shabby. Most of it runs along what was once, according to the accompanying description, "the old Chicago and Northwestern (CNW) railway corridor." (See picture above of the Challenger, a train that ran on the CNW.)
And there's this:
It (the trail) flows uninterrupted from Dodgeville to Fitchburg through scenic farmland, woods and wetlands. In between, it meanders west to east through the communities of Ridgeway, Barneveld, Blue Mounts, Mount Horeb, Riley, Klevenville, and Verona.
"Meanders." I like that. The trail meanders. That's nice. After this winter, I definitely need to meander. But really it was this stunning photograph below that sold me:
Its alluring caption reads, "Several long stretches of trees provide shade along the trail." And, wait, is that a dirt road I see?