Happy (Chippewa River State) Trails to You

With the temperatures getting warmer and the days getting longer I’m getting that itch to get out on my bike. We are fortunate to live in a city that has so many great bike trails to utilize whether it’s riding a bike or walking, running, or rollerblading.

I personally find the Chippewa River State Trail to be the most enjoyable. This is partially due to the fact that I’m close to Short Street Bridge and have easy access to it, and partially that it seems to be, in my experience, a little less populated and more nature oriented when compared to the other trails.

For the past few years I’ve tried to get out on the trail at least once a week and head towards Caryville. This round-trip voyage for me is roughly 20 miles and depending on my mood can last 1.5 to 2 hours. (For point of reference, according to cyclinglevel.com the average 20-mile time is about 1.25). Even when I’m trying to push myself and go my fastest I’m really not that fast! And while I like to keep track of my rides to gauge how I’m doing from the beginning of the season to the end, from year to year, etc., the overall goal for me is to get out on my bike and be alone with my thoughts, listen to some good music for two hours and just be with nature.

The scenery on the Chippewa River State Trail is diverse. As the name would suggest, the trail follows the Chippewa River, but for the most part the river isn’t visible while on the trail. Instead the trail is lined with trees, cows and corn.

Here are some of my favorite spots along the way…

Approximately 5 miles in, breaking out from all the dense trees is what I call Woodpecker Alley, there are old, dead trees that have long lost their branches and contain so many holes that it’s a wonder how they manage to continue to stand up straight.

Coming across one of the bridges and seeing cows just hanging out on a warm summer’s day. Sometimes they’re in the water looking at me as intently as I am looking a them, sometimes they’re just hanging out trying to cool off in the shade, and there are sad days when they’re headed back to the barn or they’re not there at all.

In August you can enjoy Babbette’s Seeds of Hope and see thousands of sunflowers raising their happy, golden faces to the sky. However, in September they’ve lost their vibrant colors and droop their heads to the ground knowing that soon we’ll be experiencing cold, gray days and dark, seemingly endless nights.

On the Trail: Animals and memories…

Accompanying this beautiful scenery are various songbirds singing their tunes, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks. Sometimes turtles will be sunning themselves on logs in the water, or a big snapping turtle blocking the path. I have unfortunately (in my opinion) encountered some snakes and have to remind myself that we’re all enjoying this trail. Occasionally I have seen deer and on one special occasion I saw a fox.

I tend to think about my dad a lot while biking this trail. My dad was a big birder and instilled in all of us a love of birds. He also bought me my bike for when I moved to Eau Claire to attend school over 20 (cough, cough) years ago. He added all the bells and whistles to it to make it a safe ride, but ironically didn’t actually add any bells or whistles. We lost Dad unexpectedly almost 17 years ago so riding this old bike that desperately needs to be replaced, and being surrounded by birds and nature always brings me some comfort, and it’s as if we’re having our own conversation.

Whether you’re getting out on those trails for the first time or the umpteenth time, to enjoy being active with friends or enjoying your own solitude, to crush some fitness goals or to just get some movement in, I hope you enjoy this trail and the others as much as I do! And as always, if you need some help along the way the library has the following (and more)!

P.S. While my favorite time to use this trail is during the warmer months it is also great for those looking to try out a pair of our snowshoes or if you have some cross-country skis! If you go during the winter months I would recommend getting on the trail at a different section than the Short St Bridge area because that is heavily used by ice fishing people so the trails tend to have their sled tracks impeding the snow.

Start your journey at the library…


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