3 New Trails this Fall, Hennepin, Wauponsee, Mammoth

Mammoth Cave Trail

Mammoth Cave Trail in Kentucky

I have just completed 3 trail articles, with ride reports, photos and videos for the new trails that we have ridden this fall.

The trail names in the blog title are the shortened versions. The full names of the new trail articles on this site, with the links are:

Below is just a very brief summary of each trail. See the individual trail articles (the links above) for more information on each trail.


I rode the Mammoth Cave Trail (MCT) in Kentucky in October while I was on a trip down south. This is actually the first non-Illinois, non-Wisconsin trail that I posted on this site but I hope to venture out and include more out of state trails soon.

The MCT is an 8 mile biking and hiking trail in the Mammoth Cave National Park. It is not a trail within a cave as the name might indicate. The trail is crushed stone (and gravel in some places) and is VERY hilly. It’s a really nice trail but probably a little better to ride with a mountain bike (than with a road bike like I used).


Hennepin Canal Trail

Hennepin Canal Trail – Photo compliments of Dale Kiffel

We rode the Hennepin Canal Trail (HCT) in late September of this year. There is a north/south section of this trail and an east/west section. The entire trail (and canal) is about 104 miles!

We rode about 30 miles on this trail heading south out of Rock Falls, Illinois. The trail surface (for this part of the trail) is a combination of paved, crushed stone, gravel and dirt and is in pretty bad shape in many places. This was a difficult trail for a long ride. Once again this trail would probably be better with a mountain bike.


Wauponsee Glacial Trail

Wauponsee Glacial Trail

We rode the Wauponsee Glacial Trail (WGT) that runs from Joliet, Illinois to the Kankakee River at Custer Park, back in early September.

The WGT is a fairly straight and flat trail that runs through the prairies and fields of northern Illinois.

It is not the most scenic trail that I have been on but it was definitely a pleasant trail to ride. The trail was not crowded and the surface was in very good condition. It seemed like the north central part of the trail, where we started, was a little more open as it ran through the prairies and fields while the southern part, near the Kankakee River was a little more wooded.


I have created short videos for the Hennepin Canal Trail and the Wauponsee Glacial Trail on YouTube. I think these came out well and can be found at the bottom of the pages for these 2 bike trail articles (the links above).

To get to all 49 trails documented on this website see the Bike Trails Page on this site.

 

Paul Douglas Trail and Central Road Construction

Paul Douglas Trail along Central Road (before)

Paul Douglas Trail along Central Road (before)

I just rode the Paul Douglas Trail today and found that they are really doing a lot of construction on the south part of the trail that runs next to Central Road between Ela and Roselle Roads.

I have noticed a little construction in this area for a while now but they have really started making some big changes now.They have knocked down most of the willow trees that you can see  in the (before) photo.

Paul Douglas Trail Construction

Here’ the part of the trail under construction.

I was curious about what was going on (of course) so I asked this construction guy that was carrying a surveyor tool along the trail. This guy was really nice, knowledgeable and took some time to explain to me what is going on.

So here is what is happening:

They are doing some major work on Central Road here, between Ela and Roselle Roads. In the process they are moving the bike trail away from Central Road temporarily (to a little north of where it is now). Once the trail is moved they will be doing the construction on Central and eventually Central will be closed down between Ela and Roselle Roads.

FYI: There will also be a westbound entrance to I90 here when the construction is complete. The guy said that it would be accessible from Central so I assume that it would also be accessible from Roselle (Yay!).

When is this happening:

Well, as I mentioned it has already started. The guy that I talked to said that the temporary bike trail will probably be in place in a few weeks (max). I don’t know exactly when Central will be shut down but he mentioned that that should happen pretty soon this year (2017). I also did not ask about a completion date.

He mentioned that the bike trail will eventually be moved from the temporary location back to running along Central Road again when all is complete. All I could think of regarding that is WHY? I would love to see the trail moved more permanently a little north and further away from Central Road. Well, it sounds like that Is the plan anyway (and I’m sure me whining about that would not make any difference :-)).

A Related Update on the Paul Douglas Trail:

There is also some good news about the PDT trail condition. The area that floods on the west side of the trail, along Huntington/Freeman have been completely dry for weeks now. Not even a puddle.

That’s it for now. Here’s a link to the old photo tour of this part of the trail from way back in 2009 when they just completed this part of the trail:

Paul Douglas Trail along Central – Before the construction

Update: 10/28/2017

Normally I would add a comment for an update but I thought that this was important enough to include in the main post.

PDT Trail CLosed

PDT Trail Closed east of Ela Road

The PDT is now closed where the road construction is going on at Central Road just east of Ela Road.

They have also NOT made the temporary detour path that the construction guy, that I talked to, said they were going to make at this location 🙁

 

Update 11/1/2017 – Weekends and Don’t believe everything you read…

One more update on the construction. First, there is now a sign at Grassy Ridge Meadow Park that says that the trail is closed going east from there. Well, being the rebel, law-breaker that I am and knowing that it is almost all woods from there to Ela Road I decided to check this out.

I could see that there was nothing going on and since I don’t ride that fast I could just stop and turn around if there was something. Well, as of today it is completely clear from the park to Ela Road just like it always has been (it’s just closed after Ela Road).  Maybe they will do something at some point but at this point that sign is totally useless.

The other thing that I just wanted to mention is that although the southern part of the trail is closed east of Ela Road, when I rode the trail on Sunday I discovered that it was open since they were not working then. So on Sundays at least (maybe the weekends) you might still be able to do the entire trail.

 

Google Trail View – Virtual Trail Rides

I was doing some research on the northern end of the Des Plaines River Trail (DPRT) since I had some new trail photos to post of this part of the trail. I often use Google Maps and Google Street View to find new trails and to check out the locations and surroundings of new trails or trails that I have ridden.

Wide view of Des Plaines River Trail

Panoramic View of DPRT North

As I was checking out the part of the DPRT that I rode, I clicked on the brown line for the trail (you need to select the “Bicycling” option in Google Maps to see the trails). When I did this a small photo of the trail popped up at the bottom of the screen – I clicked on the photo and got a Google Street View of the DPRT bike trail! It is probably more accurate to call this a Trail View but Google uses the term Street View for all of its zoomed-in 3D images within Google Maps.

So the Trail View of the Des Plaines River Trail works just like any other Street View in Google Maps. You can click on the arrow image imposed on the photo to move further down the trail or click and drag any part of the photo to turn around and/or see any other part of that 3D, spherical photo.

Just to be clear, the Google Street View option is not just a 360 degree photo and it is not a video. It is a series of photos that allows you to see all around the point where the photo(s) were taken – front, back, sides, and up and down. Then you can move forward, backwards, etc. (with the arrows) to the next spherical photo. How cool is that!

So back to the Des Plaines River Trail, I discovered that the entire northern part of this trail (the Lake County section) has Street View available. So in addition to a real world ride you can also take a virtual ride of this part of the trail.

Here’s a link to the Trail View option on the DPRT going through Half Day Forest Preserve.

I also discovered that one part of the Oak Leaf Trail (OLT), in Wisconsin south of Milwaukee also has the Street/View Trail/View option. Here’s a link to the Trail View part of the OLT south of Milwaukee.

I’m sure that are other “Trail View” trails out there but these are the only 2 that I have found so far.

The Photos and Trail Pages on This Site

As for the photos that I had of the northern end of the DPRT – like the panoramic view above, I decided not to post them since you can see so much more with the Trail View option on this part of the trail.

Way back when I first started this website (14 years ago), one of my goals was to document, photograph and video record the trails that I had ridden in order to pass this information on to the visitors of this site. Well Google Street View (Trail View) blows away some of the need for that.

Since Google Street View (Trail View) is not available on all that many trails (yet) I will still be photographing, documenting and video recording as many new trails as I can. I also think that there is still a need for good photos, artistic photos, videos and first hand ride reports of the trails.

So with all that said, feel free to check out the large number Ride Reports, Photos and Videos of Chicagoland and Wisconsin Trails on this site.

Catching Up on Trail Reports and Photos

Although I have mentioned some of our rides from last year below, I am still catching up on posting the ride reports and photos to the main about-bicycles.com website.

The Kankakee River Trail

The Kankakee River as seen from the trail overlook

Last week I updated our ride on the Kankakee River Trail that we did in June of 2016, you can get more details and see the photos at The Kankakee River Trail ride HERE.

Then just today I updated the ride that we took on the Seven Waters Trail out of Burlington, Wisconsin.

You can get the details and see the photos of the Seven Waters Trail Ride HERE.

Seven Waters Trail

The Seven Waters Trail

When I was updating the Seven Waters Trail pages I was looking up some information on Burlington, Wisconsin where we started our ride and there were a lot of news stories about the flooding in Burlington.

So if you are considering riding this trail this year, be sure to check the latest flooding updates. This would apply to the Kankakee River Trail ~ and for that matter, any of the river trails this year.

I have also added a Video of the Seven Waters Trail on YouTube. See the bottom of page linked to with  the Seven Waters Trail link above for the video of this trail.

Bike Radar Saved Me Again

What I am actually referring to in the post title is Weather Radar for Biking.

I have written about this subject a few other times in the past and as technology keeps changing but this is such and important tip ~ for those who may not already be aware of it or forget about it at times ~ that I believe it is definitely worth repeating.

Bike Radar for Rides

Weather Radar just after my ride

The best way to check if you are going to get rained on when planning a ride or even when you are on one is simply to check the weather radar just before you ride or on your ride.

As for my story today, I have attached a screen shot of the weather radar ~ from the MyRadar app ~ from my phone from right after my ride. I forgot to check the radar before my ride but was at the point that I could do a 13 mile ride or an 18 mile ride.

It was partly cloudy but I remembered that there was a possibility of rain for today so I decided to check the radar to decide how far to go

I saw a big area of yellow and red what looked like about 45 minutes away. I decided on the 13 mile ride. Then about 15 minutes after I got home it started pouring! The extra 5 miles that I almost took ~ before my radar check ~ would have taken me at least a half hour more. That means at least 15 minutes of riding in pouring rain – Saved by the radar!!!

I am fortunate to have the radar app on my smart phone and I would definitely suggest that for those of you who have smart phones. If you don’t have a smart phone you can still check the radar easily on numerous sites on the internet, but you will have to remember to check before your ride. If you are just not technical or don’t have internet access then there is always the old Weather Channel updates or news if you are able to catch that at the right time.

The weather radar is way more accurate than a typical forecast that just says something like a 40% chance of rain (for example). These forecasts are usually for a much larger geography and it means that it will probably rain within 40% of this area. That could be all in the north and you are in the south (or any other situation) and it does not always tell you when it will come or for how long.

The animated radar lets you see exactly what is happening in your specific local area and you can usually get a pretty good idea about what might happen. If you see yellow or red very near then you will be getting heavy rain. Green and blue are iffy and harder to predict exactly what will happen but it still lets you know that you could get a little rain.

Well that’s it for now, if you are looking for bike accessories see our bike accessory page here for some good online resources.

Riding Season and Paul Douglas Flooding

Yep, it is definitely riding season again here in Chicagoland! I’m seeing more cyclists out every day now. Personally, I got a start in February! Yea, that crazy warm weather that we had then but am riding a little more regularly now.

Flooding on Bike Trail

Flooding on Paul Douglas Trail

And of course, with riding season comes flooding season on many trails including the Paul Douglas Trail (PDT) in Hoffman Estates ~ a little southwest of Harper College in Palatine.

Anyone that has ridden this trail fairly often in the spring ~ like myself ~ knows that the western side of the trail, along Hunting-Freeman Road floods pretty regularly.

Well I rode the trail the past two weekends and both weekends it was flooded in this part. BTW, this is the only part of the trail that floods (although there are a few puddles in other areas).

It looks pretty impassable but most of the time you can get through without getting wet ~ except maybe for a few splashes. You can also detour around this pretty safely and easily on Hunting-Freeman Road ~ but what fun is that!

To detour around the flood, go out to Hunting-Freeman at Lakewood Blvd (there is a 2 way stop sign there and a short path to the road there) if you are heading north or at the fire hydrant by the opening on the right if you are heading south. It’s only about 2/10ths of a mile.

Hint for riding through up to 5 inches of water and keeping your feet (and everything else) dry.

I’ve used this method quite a bit and it works well. Last week the flood was about 4 to 5 inches (my best guess) and I stayed completely dry. This past weekend I estimated that the flood was 5 to 6 inches deep and one of my feet did get a little wet so that is about the limit. You must also have a clear path (no obstructions) and it needs to be relatively flat.

You can cover quite a distance this way so here’s what to do: Approach the flooded area fairly slow (just to avoid splashing and sprays) ~ try to keep your pedals parallel to the ground ~ Do NOT pedal all the way around, instead just use short, quick back and forth pedaling strokes keeping your feet above the water.

OK, now that you know the secret, maybe you can go out and find your favorite flooded area and give it a try! 🙂

OK, here’s my CYA Disclaimer: I am not responsible if you get wet or for anything else that happens… It’s just a helpful hint… After all, we are all responsible for our own actions and safety, right? 🙂

Anyway, the PDT is still a good trail to ride in the springtime. This is a completely paved trail that goes around the Paul Douglas forest preserve (I usually skip the part that goes out to Algonquin Road just west of the busy intersection at Roselle and Algonquin Road and east of Ela and Algonquin cause it’s not as nice as the parts that are right up against the forest preserve).

One of the other trails that I know also floods occasionally is the Des Plains River Trail (DPRT) but I usually avoid this one completely in very wet weather since it is not paved and the flooding can be bad in places.

For more on the PDT see the Paul Douglas Trail photo pages HERE on this site. I actually wrote these pages quite a few years ago and they could use an upgrade but there are photos and more information on the trails there.

Well until next time, enjoy the ride(s)!

Thorn Creek Trail Ride

Thorn Creek Trail

Thorn Creek Trail, near Sweet Woods

We have been doing more new bike trails this year and finally made it to the Thorn Creek Trail, TCT with the northern end of the trail near Glenwood, Illinois (in the southern Chicagoland area).

This is a very nice, paved and mostly wooded trail and we were able to ride 30 miles on most of the main parts of the trail.

We rode the Old Plank Road Trail, OPRT last year ~ about this time of year ~ which runs from Joliet to Park Forest, and there was an extension to the trail that was under construction that connected to the TCT but it was not quite rideable at the time. That section of the trail is now complete and we rode that part of the OPRT this year too.

Old Plank Road Trail extension

New Extension to Old Plank Road Trail © Photo Dale Kiffel

The photo on the left is the a fence along the new extension to the Old Plank Road Trail. Although we did not ride the rest of the OPRT on this trip, you could ride quite a few miles on these 2 trails.

As for our Thorn Creek Trail, we started our trip at Sweet Woods Forest Preserve near Glenwood and went mostly east toward Lancing then turned around when the trail ended, went past where we started and continued south to Sauk Trail Woods forest preserve where the trail loops around Sauk Trail Lake where we headed back north again. On our way back we rode the New part of the Old Plank Road Trail.

I took quite a few photos and some videos of the trails but have not had a chance yet to complete the official ride report and trail pages for this website. I will post those but it usually takes a while (sometimes a long time) so I wanted to at least do a quick blog post ~ which I guess I just did. 🙂

Bridge on Thorn Creek Trail

Bridge on the Thorn Creek Trail – Photo © Dale Kiffel

Although my main goal with my bike trail photos (and sometimes videos) is to document the trails ~ with good photos ~ one of the guys that I ride with a lot, Dale Kiffel, often gets more artistic photos of the trails or sites along the trails and I had to post this last photo on the right of one of the main bridges on the TCT by Dale.

For more official bike trail pages and ride reports from those of us who have actually ridden, photographed and documented the trails, see the other 45 (and counting) Illinois and Wisconsin Bike Trail pages here.

 

 

A Few Des Plaines River Trail Updates

I’ve been out to a couple different parts of the Des Plaines River Trail (DPRT) this summer and have been meaning to post the updates… so here are updates!

My initial goal was to check out the New Extension to the trail between Deerfied Road and the Lincolnshire Marriot where you used to have to go out to a dirt path or the sidewalk along Milwaukee Road between Aptakisic Road and the Cubby Bear sports bar/restaurant. I had heard that this had been completed but had not had a chance to check it out yet. I will get back to that in a moment.

Rugged Bike Trail

DPRT in terrible condition between Northbrook and Wheeling

So my first attempt was to get on the trail at Euclid Ave ~ in Northbrook ~ and head north to Half Day ~ and beyond if I had enough time.

Well, it turned out that the DPRT in this area is in Terrible Condition. Especially the part of the trail from Algauer’s Restaurant to Patawatomi woods in Wheeling.

The trail has a lot of pot holes and loose gravel in places in this stretch. It looks like they had some heavy duty equipment out on the trail removing trees. I guess it is OK for a good mountain bike but it was terrible for my road/path bike.

The entire northern Cook County part of the trail is not in very good condition compared to the Lake County parts of the trail which are mostly really nice.

So back to my ride… with the slow, rugged path, we only made it to Patawatmoi Woods in Wheeling and I was glad to turn back from there.

DPRT Trail Extension north of the Cubby Bear

DPRT Trail Extension North of the Cubby Bear

My next DPRT ride, a week later, I started just south of Lake Cook Road heading north and this was a much nicer ride. We made it to and through the New Trail Extention ~ shown in the photo ~ and to Wright Woods, just north of Half Day. This was a Great Ride!

The DPRT trail extension is one of the only parts of the Des Plaines River Trail that is paved. The paved stretch isn’t very long but the crushed stone part of the trail is in great condition in this area too.

The Trail Extension is a very welcome improvement! I would often avoid this part of the trail since I had to go out to busy Milwaukee Avenue for a stretch and then get back on the regular trail again.

It is still a little bit of a pain to have to cross Half Day Road (Route 22) at Route 45 but there are lights there and when there is traffic you just have to wait a little. Then the rest of the trail north of there is really nice.

So before writing this blog post, I updated the Des Plaines River Trail photo pages and ride reports on this site since I had photos and descriptions of how you would have to get around this part of the trail.

I kept the old photos on a separate page (for nostalgia and trail history) and included the new one on the original page.

See the New DPRT Extension North of Cubby Bear page here for the photos and descriptions of this section and The Old Path Along Milwaukee Avenue page here for the historical look at this part of the trail.

So Many Trails… So Little Time…

So far this riding season I have ridden 2 trails, or parts of trails, that I have not ridden in many years ~ Elroy Sparta Trail and Des Plaines River Trail (Far Northern End) ~ and 2 trails that I have never ridden before ~ Prospect Heights Trail and Kankakee River Trail ~ in addition to the trails that I ride all of the time, of course.

I usually try to post the Ride Report and Photo Tour pages to this site prior to posting a blog about them but it could be quite a while before I get to all those pages so I decided to post a summary of all of these trails first ~ with a few photo collages to go along with the summary.

Stay tuned though because I will post the Full Ride Reports and Photo Tours of these trails eventually.DPRT and Prospect Height Trail

So getting right to the trails.. We rode the Prospect Height Trail first this year ~ in May.

The Prospect Height Trail is in a convenient location (for many of us) but it is a real contract between Nature and Industrial Sprawl.

Most of the time, I just stick to scenic, natural bike trail photos and try to avoid power lines and other distractions unless I am writing about them specifically (which I do on occasion). In this case, the Power Plant along the trail was so obtrusive, I just had to get some close up photos of that. After all, there are trails with all sorts of “scenery”.

This trail connects to the path around Lake Arlington at the northwest end of the trail. Lake Arlington is nice and scenic but in general it is usually really crowded which makes it difficult to ride and not much fun for the short distance involved.

The next section of trail that we rode, and that I have not been to for years was the northern end of the Des Plaines River Trail (DPRT) through Van Patton Woods. I have been on the DPRT many times recently ~ it is one of my favorite trails ~ but I rarely make it all the way to the northern end of the trail ~ near the Wisconsin border.

So for this ride we drove the northern trail head off of Russell Road and went south from there through Van Patton Woods (VPW). VPW is very nice but we were actually there on Memorial Day weekend and it was pretty crowded due the nice day and holiday weekend. We rode south on DPRT to just past Gurnee and back. This is a nice ride.Kankakee and Elroy Sparta Trails

Moving on to June, the next trail that I rode, and haven’t been on for years, was the Elroy Sparta Trail (EST) in Wisconsin.

I rode this trail with my brother who wanted to try a recumbent bike which we rented at a Speeds Bike Shop near the trail in Sparta. The people at this bike shop were really nice and the rental was a pretty good deal.

We didn’t ride far on the EST but I suggested that, as long as we were on this trail, we had to see one of the tunnels. So se started our ride near Norwalk, Wis. and rode to Tunnel #3 (in the photos to the left).

This is the longest tunnel on the trail ~ 3,810 feet to be exact ~ and we walked through the tunnel. If you have never been through one of the converted rails-to-trails tunnels on a bike trail, I would suggest going to one to check it out. It is pretty cool (literally cool too) and interesting.

And finally the last new trail that we rode in June, that I had never ridden before, was the Kankakee River Trail (KRT).

This is a really nice trail and there are quite a few different places along the trail where you can park and get on the trail. We got on the trail at the southeast end just southeast of Willmington, Il off of Route 102.

The Kankakee River Trail is not that long ~ about 11 miles one way ~ but it is a very scenic ride. The trail is mostly paved except for about 3 miles on the northwest end of the trail.

Before we rode this trail I read a few articles that people posted about the trail and they talked about the steep hills on the trail which made me a little nervous. I don’t like really steep hills that are so difficult that you end up walking up the hills.

Well, now that I have ridden this trail, I would say that the hills are not that bad. There are some hills but really nothing all that difficult.

Well, as I mentioned above, stay tuned… because I will eventually post all the photos and ride reports on these trails… and the other trails that I will surely be riding this year also!

BTW, You can click on either of the Photo Collages above for a much larger view of the photos.

BTW2, I keep a lot of stats and things in spreadsheets and I have kept my bike mile totals at the end of each year in one of my spreadsheets. I have been riding over 1,000 miles a year ~ and over 2,000 miles a couple of times ~ and my total miles, since I’ve had Bike Computers (from 1997) is now 20,469.

It just goes to show, if you ride a lot and consistently you do rack up lots of miles…

Fox River Trail Bike Lanes through Aurora!

Bike Lanes through Aurora

Bike Lanes through Aurora connecting the Fox River Trail northern and southern sections

This past weekend we took a ride on the Fox River Trail from St. Charles, Il. to and through Aurora. Last fall (2015) one of our website visitors had told me that the city of Aurora was constructing bike lanes through Aurora so I decided to check them out.

Well, the BIke Lanes are Now Complete and are a very welcome connection of the Fox River Trail north of Aurora to the FRT south of Aurora.

The Fox River Trail runs from Oswego in the south to Algonquin in the north. One of the biggest problems when trying to ride the southern part of the trail was always going through Aurora. I had done this a few times mostly on the sidewalks on Broadway but it was always a pain.

Now, the trail goes right by Hollywood Casino ~ which is an interesting and kind of scenic area ~ then right out to the bike lanes on Downer Place, River Street (the main stretch) and North Avenue.

The bike lanes are well separated from vehicle traffic on the road and are bright green and very easy to follow.

When you are heading south through Aurora on the bike lanes you go on to Hurds Island and then back to the trail on the west side of the river. If you are going to continue south to Oswego you will want to get on the Virgil Gilman Trail Bridge to cross the Fox River and get on the east side of the trail.

I have posted some photos and information on the Bike Lanes through Aurora here. In addition to the Bike Lane information there are links to the connecting trail pages.

So now, if you want to take that really long ride, you can ride from Oswego, Illinois north to Algonquin (much easier now), connect to the McHenry County Prairie Trail and continue on to Genoa City Wisconsin!