Although the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro area has 100’s of miles of bike trails, now that I have ridden thousands of miles around the cities it becomes more and more difficult to find new trails close by. For the first few months of the cycling season I am happy to discover anew my favorite trails, but by the time July comes around, I’ve cycled these so many times again that I’m starting to lose my motivation to get out there.
One weekend last July I was looking at my bike maps and realized I had never ridden the River-to-River trail across Mendota Heights and West St. Paul from the Mississippi River west of downtown St. Paul to the Mississippi River south of St. Paul. Not sure how I missed it for so long, but it was time to explore!
I got in a good leg workout that day with all the climbing. There were long climbs up the bluffs on both ends and a lot of ups and downs in between. I used to live in Mendota Heights so this should have been all familiar territory, but the trail went through areas I did not know or did not recognize at slow speed. I had to stop a number of times to figure out which way to turn and backtracked a few times to find the right way since the path was not always marked. The western section of the trail was off street and peaceful even though it was never far from busy streets or highways. Between Marthaler Park and Thompson County Park in West St. Paul, however, the trail was on rough sidewalks with some road construction. I was determined to reach the river and kept going even though I had to get off the trike to get through the worst sections. All rides should have a few challenges, right?
Once I reached Kaposia Landing, I rode the northern 19 miles of the Mississippi River Regional Trail (Dakota County), most of which was right along the river. I love pedaling along the river, but there are no facilities on that section which made it hard to just enjoy and not get fixated on how much water I had with me. (This coming summer I plan to take a 3rd water bottle with me so that I can be more at ease cycling in places like this on very hot days.)
Look up and there is a beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds and an occasional airplane, look to one side and there is the river with pleasure boats or barges, look to the other side and there is a train yard. Movement, life, nature, humans, coming and going who knows where. It was a pleasure to soak it all in for a time. When I took up cycling again almost four years ago now, I began a journey into the unknown that was right there in the middle of my familiar world.