Posts tagged ‘camping’
The leaves hang on, their color in the late afternoon light is magnificent. Days remain fairly warm, and it feels as if there is no sign of winter.
We’ve spent some days camping, biking, and hiking close to home … enjoying the autumnn-ness before it all falls to the ground and the season of holiday frenzy begins. My boys – except for one spending a semester in Scotland – are all due home within the day. My kitchen is scented with apples, cranberries, cinnamon, and pumpkin. I am excited for the long weekend of catching up, and conversations around the dinner table … and hopefully few bike rides.
The second part of our Katy Trail cycling trip; a look at lodging and camping, food/water, sights and side trips and a few of my personal thoughts. (Like I said – I need a good editor … forgive me).
LODGING & CAMPING
While I enjoy camping on our bike adventures, I personally felt that the camping options along the Katy Trail were somewhat limited. We decided to stay in small local inns and B&B’s over the course of our trip. I remember passing only two campgrounds along the way, both in the same general area and both very open with not much shade. Some of the website listings for camping along the trail include places like a local fairgrounds, a city park, and possibly a trailside hostel. The only hostel we saw was a bit sketchy-looking, appeared to be closed, and I had read some very mixed reviews about the place. None of these options sounded particularly appealing to us.
Moreover, upon stopping in one or two of the town parks – which may or may not have allowed camping (?) – we discovered there was no available water, and the restrooms were locked.
While park regulations stipulate that camping is not allowed on trail/state park property, we did see at least one couple “stealth” camping off to the side of a trailhead parking lot. Personally, if I were to attempt stealth camping, I would plant myself on the edge of a corn or wheat field … but, whatever.
There are a wide range of accommodations convenient to the trail (i.e., within 1-5 miles, easily accessible). You can stay in anything from an B&B on the historic register, to a renovated train caboose, to a variety of other options in various price ranges. You can plan everything on your own, or you can make arrangements through a tour planner, like the Independent Tourist.
We spent our first night at the Hotel Bothwell, a fascinating and historic hotel in Sedalia (I think its founder, Mr. Sweet, had a thing for coffee). The next three nights we spent at small B&B’s in trailside towns: Yates House B&B in Rocheport, Cliff Manor B&B in Jefferson City, and Captain Wohlt Inn B&B in Hermann. All three provided beautiful and restful rooms, wonderful breakfasts, and they really catered to us as cyclists – providing appreciated extras like offering to wash a load of laundry, rinsing trail dust off of our bikes, to filling and freezing our water bottles for the following day. All three also offered to pack sack lunches for us for the next day’s ride.
FOOD & WATER
Most days we stopped for lunch in towns along the trail. The places we found were small and friendly diner-types or bar-and-grills – good enough for a sandwich, maybe fruit or salad, or just a pizza or burger-and-fries kind of thing. Even though we had a list of possible eateries in various towns, trailside businesses can struggle and change quickly; places were sometimes closed (especially on Mondays and Tuesdays), or we discovered they had gone out of business since our list had been compiled.
We also had lunch on the trail one day, as our hosts at Yates House provided us with a sack lunch. While it saved some time, I think we both preferred taking time to explore places in the trailside towns, riding on some pavement, and taking a break from heat and dust.
Dinner in the evening provided more options, and some very nice ones. Our favorite evening meal was at Les Bourgeois Vinyard’s Blufftop Bistro in Rocheport. We walked part of the Katy Trail from the B&B to a footpath that led up the bluff to the restaurant. The views over the river at dusk from the airy timber-frame and glass restaurant were lovely, and the food – mostly local and organic – was even better. We shared a bottle of their wine, took in the sunset over the river, and thoroughly enjoyed our evening.
Water. You need it, and you need plenty of it in the heat on a dusty trail. Unfortunately, I think it’s somewhat limited availability along the trail is one of the biggest complaints among riders. A number of trailhead stations did not have water (this is marked pretty accurately in the map and signage), and it may be hit-or-miss finding an easy place to buy a bottle of water in a few of the smallest towns. We stopped at one local park, thinking we could fill our bottles from a faucet in a restroom – only to find the doors were locked. So be prepared to carry plenty and top off your bottles at every opportunity.
SIGHTS & SIDE TRIPS
The places, stations and towns along the Katy Trail have a rich and diverse history. Nearly every railway station along the route has nicely detailed signage, offering a brief history of the area and outlining points of interest ahead – in both directions of travel.
Wildlife is also abundant along the trail, and we saw a wide variety – deer, many types of birds (including wild turkeys, cliff-dwelling swallows, waterfowl, and indigo buntings), turtles, lizards, snakes, and a healthy number of acrobatic bats in the evening.
For railroad buffs, there is much to see – railway stations, an “I-lost-count” number of bridges, an amazing old rock tunnel, and several old cabooses and railway cars. Several of the stations have their own museums; the one in Sedalia is even home to a small bike shop.
There are also a few trailside oddities, like “BoatHenge” near Easley.
While I enjoyed the railway-related history, I was most interested in the Lewis & Clark points of interest along with the old agricultural landmarks. All of the Lewis & Clark campsites – from their first weeks along the Missouri River – have markers and usually detailed signs, many containing excerpts and drawings from the mens’ journals and descriptions of their experiences. For me, it is just fascinating stuff. Especially to pull my bike over and imagine what it must have been like for them along the river.
The Katy Land Trust has partnered with the Missouri State Parks; their mission is to “increase awareness of the benefits of preserving agricultural resources and forests along the Katy Trail.” I was drawn to many of the old grain elevators that still sit along the trail – wonderful iconic symbols of the local agricultural heritage.
In Treloar, reproductions of paintings by artist Bryan Haynes are displayed on one of the old grain elevators; a beautiful way to promote the Land Trust and to celebrate the Katy Trail agricultural corridor.
We also enjoyed our side excursions to nearby towns, and wish we could have extended our trip to spend more time in some of them. Most are easy to reach by bicycle, the large bridges had pedestrian/bicycle lanes. We particularly enjoyed Sedalia, Jefferson City, and the old German Society town of Hermann – which is the center of Missouri’s wine region.
There are so many wonderful things about cycling the Katy Trail, and I feel I have barely scratched the surface. I still believe there is no better way to experience a place – every aspect of it – than by bicycle.
As I looked through my photos and read my notes, I realized how drawn I am to wide open spaces of plain, prairie and farmland – and to the endless span of blue skies and wisps of clouds overhead. I think it may be reflected in some of my photos, but I just don’t have a wide enough lens to adequately capture the feeling. I hope you will go and see it for yourself.
Our Katy trip was filled with wonderful cycling, friendly people, and provided a rich history lesson. It is a great place to ride for any cyclist, young or old, fast or slow. You can enjoy it for a day or longer, and it’s an excellent place for anyone who might want to make a first attempt at a multi-day bicycle adventure. Everyone should make their own journey, in their own way … I hope you enjoyed some of the pieces of ours.
You can’t have much more fun than a camping trip by bicycle.
(I’m posting a few of my favorite pictures in this entry, but some additional photos/descriptions can be found in my Flickr set, here.)
Mark and I packed up the Xtracycle “twins” on Friday and headed out toward Cherokee National Forest, the Hiwassee River, and Gee Creek campground for a weekend of fun and adventure by bicycle. It was a lovely ride over – although extremely “warm”. Temperatures in the mid-90’s, and I couldn’t guess at the humidity.
We had only one mapping snafu. We had mapped a back-roads route so that we could avoid traveling on one of the more major roads – a road that is often used by logging trucks heading for the paper pulp mill in Calhoun. It was a good plan until the very end. Near the small community of Delano, TN, we could not locate one of the unnamed roads that would take us through the Amish community. We backtracked twice, looking for the connector, and finally gave up. It still remains a mystery as to whether the map was correct, or if the road really exists(?).
We arrived at Gee Creek campground in the early afternoon and had our choice of campsites. We unloaded the bikes, set up camp, and spent the remainder of the hot afternoon relaxing in the shade, trying to stay cool. Early in the evening we set out again to have dinner at a resort we had read about, Black Bear Cove. It was nice to enjoy a leisurely dinner in the air-conditioned lodge.
On Saturday morning, we set out early for the Amish community and market that was a nearby. We had been to the Amish market several times before – by car. They have just-picked-that-morning produce directly from their fields outside the market building. They also have some wonderful baked goods – from sorghum sugar cookies, to whole wheat bread, to killer sticky buns. We decided to have the sticky buns for our breakfast! 🙂
We rode through the community on some of the small gravel roads that meander around, in part trying to see where we had missed our mystery connecting road the day before. It was pastoral, picturesque and lovely – similar to some of the other Amish areas we have visited in Lancaster, PA, and Holmes County, OH. There is no electricity, no motorized vehicles or equipment. Tidy farms, tidy fields, windmills, horses and buggies. It can sometimes make you stop and question the benefits(?) of modern progress…
As the afternoon heat escalated, we decided to head for the Hiwassee River. We rented a kayak and had a nice, cooling trip down the river, snacking on a sweet watermelon we had picked up at the Amish market.
Saturday evening proved to be … well … let’s just say an interesting and colorful local experience. There is a small local winery in the area, and they were hosting an evening concert in their “pavillion”. The Goose Creek Symphony (YouTube). I’m not sure what I was expecting, never having heard of the group. The winery staff described them as “putting on a really excellent show, not exactly country, not exactly bluegrass …”. I kind of envisioned a neat bluegrass-y/mountain music kind of event, maybe a glass of the vinyard’s wine. Uuhhh …. not exactly.
Let me just say, the “Symphony” was actually pretty talented – for that type of music (not really my cup of tea, thanks). Maybe you’ve heard the song that begins, “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz …”? Yeah. Ok. Well, that’s Goose Creek. The Symphony may have had talent, the crowd on the other hand, was, well, quite a different story. I’ll just leave it at that. Mark had joked about visiting a place up the road called the Hillbilly Bar. Well, this may have been a winery, but the description could have fit just as well.
Sunday morning we packed up for the return home. We had really packed fairly lightly, but it was still impressive to see how much gear we were easily able to stow on the bikes – with still plenty of room to spare – and not any messing with panniers, trailers, etc. I love the versatility of the Xtracycle slings. The gear/cargo size and shape doesn’t matter – there are no constraints to deal with when using the slings (unlike panniers).
As much as I loved nearly all of the miles we put in, there was one stretch of county road that we covered that was paved with large, loose gravel/rock. It wasn’t the nice finely crushed and packed gravel of the Amish roads – it was just nasty chunky stuff. Without a major detour – or spending a few miles on the logging truck road – we had to use this road. It wasn’t more than a couple of miles, but without knobby mtn. bike tires, there was a lot of wasted energy pedaling uphill, and a lot of teeth-rattling, sketchy sliding action on the downhill. I didn’t love it. Yuck.
Arrived home in time to relax a bit in the afternoon (it was Father’s Day, after all). It was really a fun adventure. We logged some lovely and scenic miles and explored some back roads I would like to return to some day. The Xtracycles, as always, proved to be amazing vehicles – easy to haul our gear, easy to ride. The perfect machine.
So – get your bike out and grab your tent and sleeping bag. Have an adventure on two wheels. It doesn’t get much better!