Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Katy Trail Ride: Boonville to Pilot Grove

One of the truly cool things about Missouri is the Katy Trail State Park, a rails-to-trails project that has resulted in a recreational trail more than 200 miles long, stretching from St. Charles in the east to Clinton in the west, hugging the Missouri River much of the way.

It’s not paved, but it has a hard-packed surface of fine limestone gravel, perfect for walking, running, and biking.

Since we have lived in Columbia and Jefferson City, we know the sections near those towns the best. Our “beaten path” ranges from Boonville to New Franklin, Rocheport, Easely, Wilton, McBaine, Hartsburg, North Jefferson City, Tebbetts, and Mokane.

Saturday, with our friends Tim and Jane from Boonville, Sue and I rode a part of the trail we hadn’t ever traveled before.

We started in downtown Boonville, right near the renovated historic Hotel Frederick (and Glenn’s restaurant), and rode southwest to the little town of Pilot Grove. And back. The round trip was about 23 miles.

It’s really nice how Boonville has routed the trail through town, past monuments, historic buildings, past the big pink riverboat casino, and through a park commemorating the railroad.

The section heading out of Boonville has a slight uphill grade, which was kind of a drag on the outbound flight, but is pretty sweet on the way back.

Even though the trail diverges from the river, there are some really nice-looking spots along this section of the trail. Lots of pastoral scenery. Very calm and pretty. And at this time of year, the trees are starting to turn, and the crisp, cool air kept us from getting all sweaty. (Which is a slight understatement—I was very glad to have a jacket on.)

Heading into Pilot Grove, there was a beautiful arbor of trees that formed a natural tunnel over the trail. I had to stop and take a picture.

This is also the part of the trail that goes over I-70 on an old railroad bridge. Pretty cool! Of course we had to stop and watch the cars and trucks zoom by below. Some drivers tooted their horns at us.

Except for a few places where walnut trees had dropped nuts on the trail, and some stretches where small branches littered the ground and got stuck in my bike—plus a few country-highway crossings—overall it was a quiet, safe, pleasant ride.

Alas, there was not much to do on a Saturday afternoon in Pilot Grove, though the trail facilities were nice, the Katy Trail signs were informative, and it was fun to ride around the small community and see the houses and the horses.

Bicycling, because it’s so much slower than driving, affords you scents and sights that become blurs to a motorist; if you’re observant, you can tell by the smell in the air whether you’re in a patch of cedars or walnuts, riding by a sun-bathed pasture, or cruising past a sludgy-slow, late-season creek.

The Katy Trail, no matter which part you’re on, allows you to see parts of the state you just can’t see from a car. This state park is essentially a ribbon that allows you to see behind the scenes of farms and small towns. You see the countryside views you would have seen years ago from a train; you’re not seeing the fronts of the properties, but the backs—the fields, the forests, the wildlife, the river . . . and once you get past the trail hubs, very few people.

If you have a bike that hasn’t been out of the garage for a while, oil it up and take it out to the trail on one of these nice autumn days. Put out as much or as little exertion as you want, and you’ll be surprised at the distance you can cover and the things you’ll see.

1 comment:

Dunraven said...

Love the tree tunnel.