|North end of Sac and Fox--the seasonal frog is ready for summer.|
So I got out my Fancy Beast mountain bike, aired the tyres, and was off. I wasn’t sure how to get there—you can ride the Cedar River Trail to downtown and then go down Otis Road to Prairie Park Fishery, and from there access the south end of the trail, but that seemed like a long ride to get there.
Instead, I decided to head over to Washington High School and then take Cottage Grove to the north end of the trail.
Except I made the mistake, because the bike lane on C Avenue ended there, of heading east on 40th Street to cross First Avenue. I figured, badly as it turned out, there surely must be a way south in the neighborhoods east of First Avenue.
I ended up riding on streets behind industrial areas—streets that looked more like alleys. I had several dead end turn-arounds, one at the bottom of a hill, which mean I had to turn around and climb that hill again. At one point I crossed private property, riding by accident through an apartment complex.
|For one block, I cut back west to a sidewalk on First Avenue and was met by this. Of course. But hose guy saw me and paused, which was nice. Below, when I finally find the elusive Washington High School, this is what greets me.|
Anyway, about 5 miles later on a confusing, indirect route I’m sure I could never recreate, I ended up by Washington High School. And the street there was closed. The upside is that the sidewalk was open.
The rest of the trip to the trail was not eventful. I was questioning why I was going on this journey during a “rest” week, but it was too late to turn back. And then I got to the trail.
The day had started cloudy, but started to get sunny. It was warm, but not at all hot. And I found it hard to have any negative thoughts while riding a mountain bike south on the Sac and Fox Trail. Woodlands alternated with sunny meadows full of prairie flowers and butterflies. Birds sang and swept across the trail. I saw a few hikers and bikers, but for most of the ride I was blissfully alone on the prettiest nature bike trail Cedar Rapids has to offer.
Seriously, if you need some “me” time and have a mountain bike, get thee to the Sac and Fox. Your spirit will thank you.
Near one meadow, I happened to glance left at something glancing back at me. A buck, maybe 15, maybe 10 yards away. My heart revved a little, I tried to think peaceful, not threatening thoughts, but I also swung up my good camera and took a deer portrait or two or three—about five, I think. Eventually, Bambi got bored with man in the forest, and ambled off.
And then, less than a quarter mile down the trail, another face in the forest stared out at me—this time a doe, a bit better hidden in brush, but just as close as the buck had been. Deer me!
|Two nearby deer have their portraits made.|
Well, I had deliberately taken my good camera, and was glad I had, just for the sake of these images.
I had also spotted many monarchs in the prairie flowers, but they were quick and distant. Cone flowers were in full bloom, and for some reason, I developed a silly itch. I wanted to make an image of a monarch butterfly on a purple cone flower—I love that color combination, and I have not taken such a picture this year yet.
At one meadow, I caught a monarch on a cone flower, but at a distance. And I told myself I was being petty. The trail was dappled in sunshine, the day was turning heart-breaking beautiful—and I had seen both a buck and a doe up close. No matter what else I saw, the day would be perfect, and so I was at peace.
And then, around a bend, not even in a sunny meadow, but on an isolated cone flower plant—there was a monarch butterfly, sucking nectar. She let me get pretty close and snap a few images before she left, but I had fulfilled my goal and the ride was complete. I took a drink of water and prepared to depart—when what to my wondering eyes should appear but another wonderful, natural gender reversal. A boy monarch landed on the exact same flower the lady had recently vacated and man spread his wings to show his scent spots.
|Female on cone flower.|
|Butterfly boy on the same flower, minutes later.|
|Restroom, water break at parking lot on trail. My ride.|
Well, for a biker-photographer who loves the subtle beauty of Iowa flora and fauna, suddenly it was pretty much the best day ever.
Well, I reached the south end of the trail a bit later than I expected. All of the photo stops did not add up to a fast ride. And I had to decide—do I head back and try to climb that Cottage Grove hill, or do I push on to the slightly longer, but flatter Cedar River trail?
And it occurred to me that it was pushing noon and my son from Ames was visiting—so I texted my son and my wife, and invited them to a New Bo lunch at Fong’s. They accepted.
As it turned out, I got there maybe half an hour before they did—they were working on a home improvement project. Lunch was fine, and I headed home in the warming afternoon. And now I’m wondering how to talk the MMU bike club into a Sac and Fox adventure.
|Lunch images. And one more of bike on trail.|
|Butterfly is upper left from bike, flitting over my ride.|
|All yield to horses.|
More nature images from these rides: