Today's long ride was on the wonderful Chichaqua Valley Nature Trail. We usually do this trail few times every year and this would be our second time in 2020, my third time this year, and our first since the Derecho knocked down and uprooted thousands of trees on this 20 mile long trail. The trail was closed for weeks as the damage took a lot of time and resources to clean up and make the trail rideable again.
We started at the original trailhead east of Bondurant, Iowa, and rode all the way to the end at Baxter, Iowa. It was a windy day with a strong wind from the south and later SSW with gusts over 30 mph. But this kept us cool as it was forecasted to be a day in the upper 80s to low 90s. The crosswind was favorable for us on the trip to Baxter.
The first 3 miles of the Chichaqua Trail is under a canopy of trees. Since it is autumn the trail was covered with beautiful leaves and I regret not stopping at the time to photograph them. After all, we were heading downhill with the wind at our backs.
The beauty of the trail was marred by the extensive tree damage. The closer we got to Mingo, Iowa, the more pronounced the damage was. Mary mentioned that she worried about the loss of habitat for the birds that live there. They will have to share next year. The shoulders of the trail were littered with downed trees, many split in half and others cut and moved off the trail near where they fell. The Chichaqua Trail has always had steep drop offs next to the shoulder that could seriously injury a hapless cyclist that somehow and for whatever reason rode off the trail into the ravine. Now that injury may include impalement. What out and ride accordingly!
|From the park shelter in Mingo, one of many split trees. Of note, the kybo is there and the water fountain works but the bottle filling machine is not working. There is a water faucet next to the shelter that is operation.|
|Lots of this...|
|And this. Lots of sticks on the shoulder.|
|The ball diamond in Mingo.|
|Soft shoulder falling in.|
|Another bridge that got hit. Railing damage.|
|This bridge railing took a beating!|
|It was good to see the farmers harvesting their crops!!|
Some of the structures on the trail were damaged as well. The long bridge crossing the South Skunk River had a significant section of its railing destroyed. Another bridge closer to Mingo was damaged. Fencing at the baseball diamond in Mingo was also knocked down.
The trail itself is fine. We did encounter a section of shoulder that appears washed away but not even a percent as bad as back in 2008. The equipment used to remove the downed trees left a few marks and piles of gravel from the shoulder in various locations. Just keep a look out. Dangerous places such as damaged bridges and shoulder cave ins are marked with orange snow fence and barricades.
Tree damage becomes more visible near Baxter. Just inside town a large pile of trees and limbs awaits their fate. This collection seemed to be the size of a house perhaps bigger. We rode to the caboose at the trailhead and then to Kountry Korner convenience store for hydration needs. We laid our bicycles on the grass as it was so exposed to the wind which seemed to be over 20 mph sustained and 50 mph gusts (my phone said 17 mph and 73*F) to prevent the inevitable fall over. I also checked radar just in case a storm was approaching. Nope, just wind.
We took our road bikes today and saw many riders on a variety of bicycles including a lot of skinny bikes as one would call them. Everyone was in a great mood and smiling and nobody seemed concerned about trail conditions.
PS They best thing we saw was a squirrel running down the trail with an ear of corn in his/her mouth like a dog carrying a stick! Roundup Ready this squirrel was!