Sunday, September 18, 2011

Elroy-Sparta State Bike Trail: Second Half

July 15, 2011.  Trailing behind, indeed. This summer has been a bad one for riding the trails, and even worse for posting about them. As stated in the last post, I was "caught up in various activities".... well, I remained caught up in those activities, which seemed to have time and life-sucking abilities. Since this blog is about biking on state trails, and not bickering about state woes, I won't get into the tirade about politics...........grrrrr. 

This summer was about leftovers: the leftover Gandy Dancer Trail, and the leftover Elroy-Sparta trail. I did look forward to finishing the Elroy-Sparta trail, since I so enjoyed the first half of it. The tunnels add adventure and interest. Be sure that you bring a flashlight, or have a good bike light for the tunnels, since (duh!) this time I completely forgot to bring a light. The tunnels are long and dark and you REALLY need a good light. 

Read the October 17, 2010 bike entry for the first half of the Elroy-Sparta trail. I biked the first half of the trail from Sparta to Wilton with my sister, Jen, on August 7, 2010. This time, I began where we had left off in Wilton, and I continued on to Elroy.
The Village Park is a good place to get on the trail in Wilton.  Highways 71 and 131 run through Wilton, and it won't take you long to find the trail, or anything else.
Don't forget to have a trail pass, if you haven't purchased one already. Helps to pay for the upkeep of these trails that we all enjoy.
It takes just a minute to leave Wilton, and farmland appears on both sides of the trail.
The Kickapoo River is small here. Take a moment to enjoy it from the bridge. Later on, the trail crosses the Baraboo River several times. Apparently, all rivers here have "oo" at the end of their names. 
 Of course, you could always leave the trail for a rest and a snack and enjoy the community the trail passes through. If you bike trails as fast as you can just to make the miles, you'll never discover all the cool stuff along the way. Stop and smell the roses...........and the baked goods.
Historical signs! I always stop to read them. This sign explains that low-tech whistle posts are still used to alert cross traffic.
The Tunnel Trail Campground looks like a place every adult kid would love. There is a swimming pool, too. What an ideal location. Right on the trail.
But THIS is the real draw of this trail. The tunnels. Here is Tunnel # 1. (Remember, I already did the first half of the trail, that included Tunnel # 2 & 3. Also remember, I often do the trails backwards. Well, I can't pedal backwards, you know what I mean.)

I earlier stated that I had forgotten to bring a light. Duh. Don't YOU forget to bring a light. You must walk your bikes through tunnels, or you may have various mishaps. It is seriously dark in there, and wet, too. Dark, drippy, wet, echoes, probably a creepy Halloween experience. So what did I do without a flashlight or bike light? I remembered that I had a flashlight app on my iPhone. (Thank you, dear daughter Alli for loading that on my phone.) It's actually not very bright. I found it didn't light the way very well, so I beamed it at the tunnel walls and the reflection alerted me to how close I was veering to the edge of the tunnel trail. Otherwise, I probably would have had a drunken wayward passage through the dark. It's kinda spooky in there with no light. Lucky that this tunnel is only about 1/4 of a mile long. Tunnel #3 is 3/4 of a mile long, and you really want a light for that one.

Telltale! What a great name for a useful, simple device. There probably were some grisly accidents (that most people never heard about) because railroad brakemen didn't get off the top of the train in time before passing through tunnels. Or hobos either, as this sign explains. The dangling wires from an outstretched overhead pole would alert them to the upcoming tunnel, like a tap on the shoulder.
 Dolly's Pedaler's Rest. Rent the entire house for your biking party! Very cool idea. It's not a bed and breakfast. Bring your own stuff. Check out the link. It was in a lovely spot close to Kendall.
  And here's Kendall. What is nice about the service this trail headquarters offers is: a driver and shuttle service. You may rent bikes here, and get transportation to the end of the trail and get picked up at another point, or end of the trail. I assume this service only covers their rental bikes, but it might be worth calling to inquire about pickup for your own bikes. I became aware of this service because I met this nice lady (featured below) whose name I unfortunately have forgotten.
After I passed through Kendall, I met her walking along the trail. She asked me if I had seen a blue bike laying along the trail; I hadn't. She works at the Kendall trail headquarters, and a bike renter had abandoned the bike because of a flat, and now she had to locate it, and take it back. I said I'd keep watch for it. About a quarter mile later, there it was, and a cooler too. I biked back to tell her before she returned to her truck. Both of us determined we didn't think the bike had a flat.....................people do weird things.

There are rules for state bike trails. Just some good guidelines to follow, that will make the experience better for everyone. Actually, it is called "trail etiquette". Probably no arrests will be made.
Trail Etiquette
  • When using rail-trails be sure to be considerate of other trail users and local landowners.
  • Be safe--always wear a helmet!! Be a good example for your kids.
  • Always ride single file when meeting other riders or when being overtaken. Courtesy takes precedence over conversation with your riding companion.
  • Ride in a straight line. This is especially difficult for children, so remind and encourage your children not to weave around on the trail.
  • When stopping along the trail always park your bike off the traveled portion of the trail if you can, or as far to the right as possible. Remind your group not to block the trail when stopping.
  • When overtaking other trail users, call out a warning, such as "passing on your left" or use a warning device such as a bell. Be especially careful when passing children as they are easily startled and may swerve in front of you.
  • Only stray from the trail on public areas. If you do leave the trail, remember, leave no trace of your path! Don't litter!
  • Bike trails are surfaced with fine limestone or similar materials.  They are
    not designed for high speed travel.  They can become soft and wet, can erode
    quickly during heavy rains, and are subject to animal damage.  Keep your
    bike under full control at all times.  Keep at least two bike lengths
    between riders and warn others when passing.  Bike clothing (reflective for
    night riding), shoes, pant leg clips, and helmets are recommended.
Please make note of the third rule: single file. I didn't take a photo of the situation, because I was IN the situation (kind of like the bear experience) and had to DEAL with the situation, not take photos. Thumbs down to the dude who thought it would be cute to play chicken with me on the trail. I guess he thought the chubby little old lady would get out of his way, as he was speeding with the other dude, side-by-side. Mr. Important. I just couldn't believe that someone would actually behave that way on this mellow country trail. Well, ha ha. It wasn't me that had to veer over at the last second. Nanner, nanner. I'm a cranky little old chubby lady.

Soon after the near collision excitement, I was in Elroy. There is a bit of wending about inside of town in order to get to the restored railroad buildings at Elroy Commons. I missed a turn. There are brown and white directions signs, that I ignored/didn't see. It's a small town, folks. You can't get very lost.

At Elroy Commons, three trails are represented: the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, the "400" State Trail and the Omaha Trail. I will return to here, and take up one of the two remaining trails next. Which one?
The cranky little old lady.

Trail head location: Elroy, WI (Elroy Commons, between County Hwy. O, and Hwy 80/82) or Sparta, WI (Sparta Chamber Depot, 111 Milwaukee Street) I got on this trail at the half way point in Wilton.
Length: 32-34 miles, depending on source of info. Wilton to Sparta: 15.4 miles.
Usage: (Summer) Biking, hiking, non-motorized. (Winter) Snowmobiling, cross-country ski (ungroomed).
Surface: crushed limestone
Highway crossings: An overpass for WI 71, and stop for some small backroads. No highway crossings.
Scenic: Are you kidding? Oh yes. Oh the tunnels=fun.
Signage: Historic markers, and main trail map signs, yes. But what happened to the mile markers?
Regional trail system: Well, I don't know what the system is called (maybe Bike 4 Trails?) but it involves 4 trails in the southwestern area: Elroy-Sparta State Trail, the Great River State Trail, the La Crosse River State Trail, the 400 State Trail.  See the link above for Friends of the Four Trails.
Rest stops: Headquarters in Wilton, Kendall and the regional trailhead at Elroy Commons in (of course) Elroy.

Those are the facts, Jack. No more leftover bike trails! On to completely new ones. 
Mantra: I may not get there first, but I'll get there.