Sunday, September 11, 2011
September 9: Iowa has had more miles of bike trails than any state I have visited so far. I don't even have to look at the numbers. Almost every day is spent at least partially on their asphalt or limestone surfaces.
Today I utilized the Neal Smith Trail, which I found after a few miles travel south from Slater and Sheldahl, where I experienced three counties in mere minutes (Boone, Story, and Polk). There are a whopping ninety nine in the state.
Neal Smith follows the eastern edge of the Des Moines River into the city of the same name. The river is trapped here by the Big Creek Dam, and the obstruction resulted in the creation of Saylorville Lake (pictured above). The water provided excellent scenery as did the prairie and woodland I also passed through. Sunflowers, lavender, and prairie clover growing in bunches for hundreds of yards in every direction. Neal Smith is on park land run by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Unlike the rail trails, where the property runs in a thin line providing an anorexic habitat corridor, the forest is thicker and the habitat available for wildlife to roam is much vaster.
I had something of a scare at the end of the day when I reached Cherry Glen, where I had planned to camp. There were no sites available. I've learned over the summer that pride can be a hindrance to finding a place to sleep. So I begged, pleaded, and told them my story. Softened by my pleas the site manager located a strip of grass for me, provided gratis.
I'll be heading through Des Moines tomorrow, which means the final stretch to Council Bluffs and Omaha is drawing close. I'm thinking more about wrapping up the first half of the hike in only a couple of more weeks now. The experiences out here have been terrific, but the clock is staring midnight in the face, the time to head home is growing nigh.
16 miles/1613 total miles