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Posts Tagged ‘Katy Trail’

The Great Smoky Mountains; Easter 2011

This time of year is chock-full of Top Ten lists, and I didn’t want to be left out of the countdown fun.  Here are my Top Ten Adventures of 2011. Click on the links to read the archived articles about each of my top adventure picks.  I highly recommend any of these activities for your adventure planning in 2012!

1. Cycle Illinois. I hadn’t been on a bike in years when I bought one from a friend in February 2011. Now, I can’t get enough of this wonderful sport.  Bicycles truly embody freedom and speed, and the cycling community of Quincy is supportive, inclusive, and really fun.  Read about my two favorite rides of 2011 here and here!

2. Rock climbing.  Whether it was scaling the indoor Kroc Center Wall or rappelling down a cliff at an undisclosed location, hanging from walls is one of the most exhilarating things I tried in 2011.

3. Kayking on the Mississippi.  How had I lived so close to the Mississippi for so long without trying this activity?! Kayaking  is an easy hobby to learn and a tough one to master, but the feeling when you’re silently gliding through the backwaters of the Mississippi is incomparable. It’s nothing less than a completely new view of something you’ve seen a million times.

4. Roadrunning.  In January 2011, if you would have said that by the end of the year I’d be running regularly and signed up for a half marathon, I’d have told you that you were crazy.  But here we are in December and I’m running 5 days a week! This change in attitude is entirely due to the wonderful folks of the Heartland Roadrunners Club.
5. Katy Trail. This Missouri Rails-to-Trails project runs from St. Charles to Columbia and beyond.  The now defunct railway has been converted into flat-grade multi-use trails for biking, hiking, or running.  The beauty of the trail and the hospitality of the towns that surround it cannot be overstated!
6. Ski Jumping.  If kayaking is the most silent way to experience the river, then water ski jumping is its opposite.  The roar of the Quincy Ski Club’s Hydrodyne Boat and its twin 175 horsepower Evinrude motors shakes the bay, and the adrenaline of the approach to the ski jump shakes my knees.
7. The Great Smoky Mountains.  My husband and I took a trip to the Smokies over Easter.  We climbed small mountains, played Frisbee on Andrew’s Bald, hiked some of the Appalachian Trail and saw a bear.  Greatest Easter trip ever!

8. Ultimate Frisbee.  Quincy’s Ultimate Frisbee Pick-Up League provided great fun all summer long. Highlights included the Quincy Hat Tournament, Southern Illinois Tournament and the Jacksonville “Jax Hat” Tournament.  If you’re looking for a great way to stay fit and have fun in 2012, be sure to “like” the Quincy Ultimate Frisbee Facebook page!

9. Cuivre River State Park.  This Missouri State Park gets the nod as the #1 close by destination for hiking adventures.  The wildlife, well-kept trails, lake and beach area, neat campgrounds and close proximity to Quincy are all great reasons to visit this Troy, Missouri park.  It’s a mere hour and a half from Quincy, but somehow seems like a vacation.
10. Meramec River Float Trip.  Meramec State Park is located just west of St. Louis, and its hiking trails, biking trails, limestone bluffs and forested hills are second to none in our area.  Get a river’s-eye view of the whole park by renting a canoe or raft for a float trip down the Meramec.

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Katy Trail Trailhead in St. Charles, Mo.

It was one hot weekend, but that didn’t stop the Green Machine (that’s my bike) from hitting the trail for a serious cycling adventure! My husband and I left Quincy in the predawn hours of Saturday morning and headed south to catch the Katy Trail in St. Charles, Mo.

The Katy Trail is a Missouri Rails-to-Trails project. The Rails-to-Trails program converts defunct railroad right-of-ways into multi-purpose recreational trails for public use. In this case, more than 240 miles of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT, or Katy for short) Railroad line have been redeveloped with wide hard-packed limestone trails that are primarily used for cyclists, hikers and runners. The current trail runs from Machens, Mo., (North of St. Charles) and follows the Missouri River west across the state through towns like Augusta, Herman, Jefferson City,  and Columbia, and ends in Clinton, Mo. This trail is already the longest Rails-to-Trails project in the nation, but plans are in progress to extend the trail through to Kansas City and beyond.

We picked up the trail at the St. Charles riverfront early in the morning on Saturday. The St. Charles trailhead to Katy is very endearing. The city has refurbished its train station and even has an old engine and caboose sitting near the start of the trail. I couldn’t help but make choo-choo noises as we set off toward Augusta.

It was hot, but not yet unbearable, and as we left the St. Charles Station, there were many bikers, hikers and runners using the trail. It wasn’t more than a few miles down the road that the crowds thinned out and we had left the city behind. The country roads are charming. In places, the trail would be bordered on either side by tall wildflowers and wooden fences. There were more birds than I can even recall, but the ones that stood out the most were the Indigo Buntings. The dazzling turquoise birds against the sunny black-eyed susans were as pretty as a picture.

The biking itself started out very easy.  After all, trains can’t run up very steep grade, so the Katy Trail is virtually flat. The 240 miles of flat trail seems like a cyclist’s dream, until you realize what flat trail really means. You may not ever be going up a hill, but you are also never going down one. Our speed was almost constant at 13 mph, and we were always pedaling. It was more exhausting than I expected! The surface adds some resistance as well. Though the limestone “pug” is hard-packed, it’s still gravel, and the feeling for my tires was a bit like riding through shallow sand.

Only seven miles from St. Charles, we pulled into the first stop along the trail at Green’s Bottom, Mo.  Each of the 30-odd towns on the Katy feature small roofed “stations” with informative dioramas about the sections of trail immediately adjacent to the station. Much of the trail is built along the Lewis and Clark exploration route, and many of the graphics explained the historical significance of their journey. The gravesites of frontiersman Daniel Boone and his wife Rebecca lay along the trail, as do several Native American points of interest. The effort the Missouri Parks have put into making this trail both fun and educational cannot be overstated. There is even a guided cell phone audio tour at some stops. To hear the recording about the Katy Trail in St. Charles yourself, call (877)767-0603 and then press 10#.

Further down the trail there was so much to explore. It seemed like there was a new vista around every corner. The Missouri River was running high and fast on our left for many miles. The bluffs on our right were imposing and beautiful, at one point, they formed a natural shelter wall that was at least 150 yards long and 120 feet tall. When the trail steered us away from the river, some of the backwaters of the Missouri backed up into primordial looking wetlands, complete with bullfrog symphonies. The wildlife of the trail included several large turtles, lots of frogs and fence lizards, hawks, turkey buzzards, deer, herons and much more. There is even a small chance of spotting a black bear along the Katy, though it would be rare.

Another highlight of riding on the Katy Trail is the chance to explore the small towns of Missouri. Many of the stops had wineries, antique shops, bed and breakfast cottages and more. I especially liked that there were almost always “hitchin-posts” meant for horses but repurposed to chain up bikes. At our destination, Augusta, there was a brewery with craft beers and house-smoked meat sandwiches for lunch. If a micro-brewed IPA and smoked brisket aren’t reason enough to bike 28 miles, then I don’t know what is.

After over-indulging in Augusta, my husband hopped on his bike (The Blue Meanie), and we headed back to St. Charles. The same trail we had just ridden took on an entirely different character as the late afternoon descended. The golden colors of the fading light made the cornfields look graceful and the rock walls come alive. The butterflies and other bugs became active as the temperatures finally dipped into the 80s, and it was magical to ride through the clouds of fluttering color.

Our 57-mile round trip on the Katy Trail was supposed to be the beginning of a three-day trip, however, after only seven miles in the heat on Sunday, (Trail temp. was 102 with a heat index of 115+) we decided that the rest of the trail would have to wait. I am very much looking forward to riding the Katy again though, and we are planning to complete the entire 240 miles this autumn. Whether you’re headed down for a short ride or to take in the full length of the Katy Trail, I know that you’ll enjoy your trip. I think next time, I’ll bring one of those wooden train whistles to blow on at each stop…

For more information including mileage charts and attractions along the trail, visit www.bikekatytrail.com For the Missouri Katy Trail State Park information, visitmostateparks.com/park/katy-trail-state-park. To read more about Rails-to-Trails projects nationwide, visitwww.railstotrails.org.

Laura Sievert (Original post 7/14/11)

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