|Heading west on Grant Wood Trail to tunnel under Highway 13. We can't see it yet, but there is not a trail beyond the tunnel.|
I tried it today for the first time. After doing some schoolwork in the morning (and other unfortunate events that Amanda knows about, but the rest of you are in ignorance of although a yummy breakfast that must be atoned for was involved), my wife and I decided it was time for a bike ride.
We had talked about the Grant Wood Trail before—we’ve noticed signs for it east of Marion on Highway 13. We parked one day earlier this summer at the east trail end, and noted the surface was not paved, so today, when we decided to finally ride it, we thought it best to bring mountain bikes.
|Sometimes the trail was sort of a grass-rock mix, and sometimes, below, was more just a grassy track.|
That proved to be wise. If you ride the Grant Wood Trail, do it on a bike with wide tyres—the ground is grass at some points, and was, despite the drought we are now in, a bit soft and muddy in one low, shady spot. You don’t want a road bike on this trail, and even a hybrid would be dicey. It is quite nice, however, on a mountain bike, and you’ll be grateful for the shock absorbers such bikes typically have.
After parking in a small gravel lot just off of Highway 13 near Highway 151, we started off heading west because it looked like there was a tunnel under Highway 13, and we wondered where the trail went into Marion. It turns out that it doesn’t. There is a tunnel under the highway, but it’s the far west end of the trail. So after the quick tunnel passage, we turned around and did our best 1970s rock band imitation. We headed east.
If you’re old enough, that may have launched a frat party soundtrack in your head. If not, see below. You’re welcome.
The Grant Wood Trail is fairly straight and not hilly. It does make up for it, however, with hidden bumps. It is, at points, like riding across a rather rough lawn, with little dips, sticks and unexpected tree roots. Still, despite being a bit on the bumpy side, if you ride it slowly (we were going about 7 mph) on a mountain bike, it’s also a very pleasant trail to be riding on during a late summer/early fall sunny afternoon.
And there are some bonus sights. We early passed a new park just south of the trail—so new, it appears that it’s not open yet. We could glimpse a big hole in the ground that we assume will be a pond when the weather turns wet. In future rides, this may be a nice picnic stop.
A little farther along the trail, an interesting sign marked a boggy area that, a few thousand years ago, was a small lake where a bison drowned. His bones were found in the 1960s. The animal was not a fossil—it died recently enough that the uncovered bones were still just bones. And yet, it belonged to a species of bison that is now extinct, the almost immediate ancestor of the buffalo of today.
Well, hello there, bison great, great, great grandpa. You were an unexpected bonus to encounter on this fine day.
|Seen along the way--a future park (below) and past bison (below).|
It was a day of pleasant sunshine, comfortable shade and a multitude of grasshoppers. There were a few screams and yelps from my wife when a jumper would hitch a short ride on her body. I’m happy to report that, for whatever reason, I was not a locust bus myself.
The yelps were few and far between, like the hidden roots. They did not spoil what was a pleasant ride. In fact, despite the jolts of the uneven trail, we were not ready to stop when the trail came to an interruption at a gravel road after a bit more than 3 miles. A sign said it continued somewhere, but we didn’t know how to get there and weren’t willing to try on unknown roads.
So our whole ride was 7 miles (we rode back to the Highway 13 tunnel just to ensure we reached the 7 target) and a bit more than an hour. That time included stopping to read the buffalo sign and peer at its spot of earthly departure, and a pause at the east end for a granola bar break.
|The trail (above) continues somewhere. Our bikes parked a bit more than 3 miles from where we started (below).|
All in all, I would say the Grant Wood Trail is worth your time, if you have not yet tried it. Do bring a mountain bike, keep a careful watch on the changing trail conditions and pick a very dry day. I hesitate to think what the boggy part of the trail would have been like if we weren’t in a drought. My wife noted she would like to bring grandchildren to hike part of it—I’m sure it works well as a walking trail.
I don’t think we’ll be riding this trail a lot, mostly because we have to drive through Marion to get to it—but I’m sure we’ll be back. We’ll someday try to find the other two-mile stretch of the trail that’s cut off on the east.
|Not from Saturday ride--these images are from my Friday ride on the Cedar River Trail.|
The Grant Wood exploration ride came a day after a very pleasant evening ride home for me. I happened to have my nice camera on campus for other reasons, so on the way home Friday, I used my good camera to shoot butterflies, egrets, flowers and bees on the way. See more of my pictures.