Oh, the stories the trails could tell
Monday, May 12, 2014 5:05 AM
As noted in this column last week, despite an abundance of cloudy, cold and rainy days, it actually is spring. So it's time to get out those bikes and hit our area recreational trails.
Getting back out on the Harmony-Preston Valley Trail, I found this pretty arch bridge. It's located on an adjacent gravel road. I'm guessing it's somewhere about halfway between the towns. As luck would have it, Pam and Charlie of Old Crow Antiques and Amish Tours were walking right there. They took this photo with my cell phone.
Last week this column focused on my getting caught in - and seeking shelter from - one of those showers. All in all, while it may have rained on my parade, it didn't dampen my spirits. I'm so happy to get out after the long winter. I've taken a few rides and have had a number of interesting experiences.
I wrote last week that my first trek went northeast on the Harmony-Preston Valley Trail to the trail's 3-mile marker.
That brings up something odd about the trail: the whole mileage scenario. You need to understand two things to correctly decipher the signs and then go on to figure your mileage ridden. I think I've figured this out over time (and am sure hoping I have this right!)
The first kernel of knowledge is that mileage on signs along that trail is measured from north/east to south/west. The junction of the Harmony-Preston Valley Trail with the Root River Trail is where the mileage calculations start, Mile 0, if you will.
This spot is called "Isinours Junction" on maps of the trail system and is in between Lanesboro and Fountain. To be more specific, it's located between the Isinours Unit of the state's Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest and the Old Barn Resort. In fact, a portion of the Old Barn's golf course is very close to the Isinours Junction of the trails.
So, we've got that established. Let's put our math skills to work. From Preston to Isinours Junction is roughly five miles. So I pedaled from the Preston Trailhead to the 3-mile sign. In no world did I ride three miles. I went four miles, two miles out to the sign and two back.
And to confuse things even more, I'll also tack on another mile to make it a total of five miles. That's because I guess it's one-half mile each way to the trailhead and back home on a quick stretch of street and then Preston's in-town trail.
I bet you're excited to try out your newfound trail math skills. Here goes . . . now, let's say you've ridden by the 9-mile sign between Preston and Harmony on the trail. You're nine miles from the Isinours Junction. If your ride started in Preston, you've gone four miles one way, or eight if you turn around there and head back to the trailhead.
Sure, it's somewhat confusing (isn't all math?), but now you know the very specialized factors in figuring mileage on the Harmony-Preston Valley Trail.
I certainly hope I have this right. It seems to make sense. But I've yet to use a GPS during a ride to check it. Keep an eye on future columns to see if I have to eat my... err, back-pedal away my words.
Getting back to my early rides of the year, I headed south on the trail. I love the ride along Camp Creek, a pretty little trout stream valley. It seems I always spot bald eagles - and this trip was no exception. At one point I also heard an "oo-eek," bedspring-type bird noise, perhaps after a "whirring" noise of a bird taking off from water. But I never saw the bird(s).
I sought help from the Minnesota birding group online. I also listened to birdcalls at the Cornell Ornithology Lab online - a great resource. I'd seen wood ducks and teals on Camp Creek last year, so checked them out. Bingo! I think I heard a wood duck. Fellow Bluff Country Reader columnist Al Batt even emailed me to say hello and to verify that wood ducks would have been around then. Other people's suggestions got me listening to other calls. I discovered I recognized the calls and should now be able to put birds with them. Thanks, all!
Back to riding, I went as far as the foot of the big hill that takes you out of Camp Creek valley. I've yet to do that hill on the way to Harmony - and figured it would be a good goal for later in the season.
In its vicinity I discovered a very cool little stone arch bridge on a road adjacent to the trail. I was trying to figure out an angle and location to take a "selfie," which would have been a project that was going to require time and trial and error. To my luck, along came two people walking the trail.
It was perfect timing. Charlie and Pam from Old Crow Antiques and Amish Tours stopped to chat and take a photo. Additionally, they told me they'd said hello to me last fall on the trails.
That solved a mystery, since I still recalled the two bicyclists between Preston and Lanesboro talking to me as we met and continued on our paths in opposite directions. It was a rare occasion when I hadn't 'fessed up to not recognizing them and asking who they were. As a side note, that incident taught me to just go ahead and ask, even if it looks dumb. Then you'll know who a person is. The satisfaction overrules the bluntness of the question... at least to me.
Looking back, we've learned about a few things today... trail math, the squeaky bedspring sounds of wood ducks and the importance of a good question asked, even if a bit embarrassing.
Take to the trails soon to get exercise, enjoy nature and experience things that will become your stories. If one of them involves a seemingly nosey biker asking your name, talking nonsense about bedsprings and saying, "...but it doesn't seem like I've ridden 18 miles," well, thank goodness you'll be ready.