Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gandy Dancer State Bike Trail: Last Dance

June 8, 2011.  A new season! It was a very long winter, and a cool, wet spring. I waited for the trails to dry out, and then was caught up in various activities. Now I am back on the bike, and glad to be there.

This last "leg" of the Gandy Dancer did not have to be doubled up, since I had a driver to drop me off and meet me at the end. I only had to complete the last 16 miles. I had felt uncompleted about the trail all winter, and was also apprehensive about finishing because of...........bears. In my last posting, I wrote about racing a bear cub, and hoping relatives were not lurking about, licking their chops. I also featured a bear poop photo. I have since learned from a wildlife expert that the photo exhibits not bear, but wolf poop. I felt SO much better. But enough about excrement.

I began, as is often my way, at the end of the Wisconsin portion of the Gandy Dancer (the trail continues on into Minnesota as an ATV trail) in Danbury, and headed back to Siren where I had last stopped. My husband, Steve, dropped me off and also met me halfway in Webster, and picked me up at the end in Siren. Confused? Sometimes I do trails backwards. 

You will find this trail access in Danbury on State Highway 77, which connects in a short distance to the east with State Highway 35. We took 35 from the south to get to Danbury, and the Gandy Dancer is roughly parallel to Hwy. 35 most of the time.

Back on the trail for the first time in 2011! I adjusted my helmet, remembered my water bottle, and I was off!

Milepost 47! That's the length of the Wisconsin portion of the Gandy Dancer, from St. Croix Falls to Danbury. I found the trail to be in excellent shape, crushed limestone, packed, no ruts, easy going.

 Lupines, phlox and columbine were displayed frequently along the trail. If you REALLY want to see a massive display of lupines, head up to Lake Superior. They grow like crazy up there.

If you wish to take a break (or came prepared to swim) Ralph Larrabee Park on Round Lake looks pretty pleasant.

 Smaller, unidentified lakes appear to the right and left of the trail. Trail bridges cross the Yellow River twice, also crossing streams and wetlands. Stay on the center belting for a smoother ride,
otherwise it is possible a splinter from weathered wood could hamper your progress.

Can you see this guy/gal? Dragonflies were sunning on the trail. One armada after another accompanied me all the way to Siren. It was Dragonfly Day. No mosquitoes for me!
 Side trails for snowmobiles in the winter branch off the Gandy Dancer. I wonder who named this trail...........and why? Sounds like too much fun on the snowmobile.
 Signs posting distances to all businesses and towns appear frequently, which is handy for knowing your progress. My twisted logic includes taking lots of photos along the way not only for notes (I take photos for notes, I don't write them) but if I get eaten by a bear, you will know where on the trail it happened. Unless the bear eats the camera.
 Yellow Lake is a large lake. It was a breezy day, and the waves were kicking up, just a bit. A wood platform to the side of the trail offered a view, a bench, and an opportunity for immortality:

A bit further on, the trail crossed the Yellow River for the second time.
The river weeds formed an interesting pattern. OMG I think I can see a face in it!
 Steve met me in Webster. Then he was off to Siren.
I explored the Main Street of Webster just a bit. I didn't have time to visit any businesses, and I didn't even have to "use" the library (think public restroom). There are some intriguing places.
 You know it is good and quainty when there is diagonal parking on Main Street.
Oh, I am coming back to the Moonglow. I love it that there are booths for alfresco dining, not bistro chairs. None of that Frenchy stuff.
 I always feature the public library. So far, it always has been on Main Street, too. This is located just one block off the trail, in case you need to "visit the facilities". Or you could just stop at the Moonglow.
 Are black and orange the school colors, or does the owner really like Halloween? Further research must be done.
 I'll be coming back to this store, too.

It's a little moldy, but you can see where I am (Webster) a little more than half way to Siren, the end of the trail for me today, as I bike from Danbury (the official Wisconsin end of the trail) back to Siren where I last ended.

Every trail has these. Every single one. Who digs these? Woodchucks? The bike trails are used by more than just humans. Wildlife can scoot quickly along the trail, and then dodge back into the woods. A wildlife superhighway.

 Dragonfly Day. At first, I thought these were dead. Then I thought the two dragonflies were having special dragonfly fun. Then the grisly truth revealed itself. The green dragonfly (laying on its back beneath the black dragonfly) was EATING the black dragonfly. Why was it laying on its back, having lunch? I picked it up, and it just continued eating. Usually they fly away when you try to pick them up. So I had to Google dragonfly facts. They do indeed eat each other.
Getting close to Siren, I saw this excellent beaver lodge. Very symmetrical.

I didn't take a  photo of this, but I feel I must warn you about the airport. Just after my cannibal dragonfly science lesson, I crossed a county highway, and the trail took an unexpected jog to the west. Usually bike trails don't jog about very much at all, being former rail beds. At first, I thought  the very high fence that the trail skirted was enclosing a wildlife farm, but soon I realized it was the Siren airport. This makes sense. A bike trail shouldn't go smack through an airport. The only bad thing about it was, the gravel surface changed from crushed, packed limestone to large unpacked gravel, which made for a mile or so of slower slogging. And a boring detour.

 A community garden is established along the trail, just before the official trail parking area. Nice job.
 Looking a little red, I'm at the end of the Gandy Dancer State Bike Trail. Well, not the real official end, because that is in Danbury, where I started today. You know what I mean. I'm just a bit backwards. Go with it. It works for me.

Trail head location: St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin (Polk County Information Center) south of State Highway 35 and Highway 8 intersection for the official start of the Gandy Dancer State Trail. I did the trail in three sections.
Length: 47 miles, full length. I cut the length in three sections.
Usage: (Summer) walking, biking non-motorized. (Winter) Cross-country skiing (untracked?) snowshoeing and snowmobiling (if 6 inches of snow).
Highway crossings: Small roads. From Webster to Danbury, frequent small road crossings. Highway crossings have trestle bridges or tunnels.
Surface: Limestone screenings.
Scenic: Pleasant.
Signage: Well marked directional and mileage signs. Missed the historical information though. Regional trail system: Yes, cooperates with Minnesota. It sort of is its own regional trail system, being so very long if you count the northern section from Danbury, through Minnesota, then back into Wisconsin up to Superior. In the future, it may be linked with the Stower Seven Lakes State Trail that I previously reported on. That runs From Amery to Dresser, which is about 4.2 miles from St. Croix Falls. 
Rest stops: Make use of the facilities in the towns. There is a pit toilet in Danbury alongside the trail head there. Find the libraries!

Those are the facts, Jack. Finally done with the Gandy Dancer! I am so ready to go to a different part of the state. Next I will finish the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, and on to the other state trails in that area: the 400 State Trail, Great River State Trail, La Crosse River State Trail, and the Omaha State Trail. After that, I will travel the trails around the Madison area, then the Milwaukee area, going up to Green Bay, and finish with Superior. Counterclockwise. Unless I change my mind.

Mantra: Well, it WAS "keep on pedaling, and no bears", but since the bear cub meeting, that mantra is broken. I think I will use the statement from my Trail Behind Facts intro: "I may not get there first, but I'll get there."  That fits.