Friday, July 17, 2009

Katy Trail: Portland to Marthasville

I have now completed a second overnight trip on the Katy Trail. This time I biked the area just west of where I had gone last time. On my last trip I went from St Charles to Marthasville, a distance of about 40 miles. This time I put my bike in the car and drove to the little town of Portland, MO and then biked east to Marthasville (once again about 40 miles), camped and biked back the next morning.

Portland is a very small town. It's main feature seems to be the Katy Trail trailhead near a boat launch on the Missouri river.

This section of trail is just as beautiful as the previous section with limestone bluffs and forest all around.  Occasionally the trail comes out of the forest and passes through farmland as in this part where the trail crosses over a bridge on a creek.  That's my bike in the background and my pack in the foreground.

The bluffs are actually even more impressive in this section then in the section closer to St Charles.  In fact one of the little towns I passed through was called Blufton, apparently named after the nearby bluffs, which are really high and very impressive.  However it's really hard to get a picture which does them justice.

What really sets this section apart is the views of the Missouri river.  It's quite close in other places too but here you ride so close that often it's just a few feet away, with no trees to block the view.

The downside of being so close to the river is that near the river there are always plenty of mosquitos.  But when you are on a bike you don't even notice them.  They can't keep up and so I wasn't even aware of them until I stopped to take a picture.  Then they swarmed around me and I got back on the bike quick.  Biking is definitely the best way to see the Katy Trail.  A walker would get eaten alive.

Once again I camped in Marthasville,  in fact I slept in exactly the same spot as I did last time.   Here is the view from where I slept (the picture was taken in the morning).  It's right next to the town baseball field.  The great thing about this spot is that it's covered and so there's no need to string a tarp or otherwise protect from rain.  A little rain was forecast but never materialized.

Once again there was a game going on when I arrived.  The town seems to be really big into baseball and they all come out to cheer on their team.  This time it was the 16 to 18 year old boys.

The people in town are really nice. The lady at the concession stand recognized me right away. I had dinner and watched the game before showering and going to sleep. The concession stand is a typical midwestern affair, the prevailing attitude being that anything can be deep fried. I had a burger, fries, and the jalepeno bites you can see on the menu. A jalepeno bit is just sliced jalepeno, dipped in batter, and deep fried. Great for an old New Mexico boy like me.

I slept pretty well on my Big Agnes pad. I wrapped myself up in a Neat Sheet (with the corner weights cut out) for a quilt. It worked fine. I didn't sleep quite as well as last time because the wind kept waking me up. But it wasn't bad. I woke up at 5:18 which was perfect because I had to get back for a meeting at work at noon. So I got some hostess snacks at the convenience store and biked the 40 miles back to my car and then drove home, changed and got to my meeting just in time.

All in all a great trip.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pictures from the Katy Trail

In my last post I bemoaned the lack of photographs I had taken. So I drove back and took a few just to give an idea of what the trail looks like between St Charles and Marthasville.

As you can see the trail is well packed and wide with trees arching overhead. It's a veritable tunnel of green. I didn't get any shots of the wetlands on the south side of the trail but on the north side in many places you are riding next to limestone bluffs that are quite beautiful.

I'm heading out in a few minutes for another ride, a bit farther west. Next post I'll have info about that part of the trail.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bike camping

The past few weeks the weather has been scorching. This week was so nice that I decided to take a bike trip along the Katy Trail. It wasn't a long trip. About 40 miles each direction. And rather than backcountry camping I ended up in a city park in the cute little town of Marthasville.

View Katy trail to Marthasville in a larger map

The Katy trail is a real gem. I've used it for long runs when I was training for a marathon. It used to be a railroad line and I believe it is part of the Rails-to-Trails project. The trail is flat and for many miles it runs next to the Missouri river. Often there are limestone bluffs on one side, the river or wetlands on the other, and trees overhanging the trail itself. Nothing short of gorgeous.

Biking the Katy trail is popular enough that there are trail towns that cater to the biking community. I stopped in one of them, Defiance, and had pizza at a little tavern before continuing on. (That's one benefit of bike camping: no need to bring food since you are never far from civilization.) Some town allow camping in the city parks and Marthasville is one of these. It's one of the cutest towns you will ever see. Really tiny. There are like 4 streets in town and the trail cuts right through it. When I showed up at the park there was a little league game and a men's softball game going on. I swear the whole town turned out to watch the games. It's so quaint it's like the town that time forgot.

The city park also has showers for bikers and they ask for a $5 donation to help fund the facilities. It was nice to be able to shower before bedtime and then to sleep under a park shelter so there was no need for a tarp or anything.

I ran into 5 other bikers and we all camped together. They are college students who are part of a cross-country trip called Trek to Re-Energize America. Several teams are biking to Washington D.C. to advocate for action on climate change. In particular they seem to focus on biking as a viable alternative for commuting. The particular group I ran into blogs about their ride here (although when I last checked the site was down). They stared in Peublo, Colorado. Great kids. We had a nice time together. They wanted to hear me lecture about economics and the environment. And of course professors love to talk so we got along great.

I wish I had more pictures of the trip. I tried using my cell phone as a camera but I can't get the pictures off. But if you go to the Katy Trail website there are maps and lots of info and pictures from better photographers than I.