This bike trail in central Wisconsin is complete in itself but it also connects with three other trails, the LaCrosse River Trail, the 400 Trail and the Great River Trail. It stretches out for 101 miles. We didn’t get to ride all of it and concentrated on the Elroy Sparta State Trail and some of the LaCrosse River Trail. We got a good spot in the Village of Norwalk Park right off the trail.
The highlight of this section of trail is the tunnels that remain with their large wooden doors to keep snow out of the tunnel. The first one we came upon on the way to Sparta was three quarters of a mile long and it was dark! You walk your bike through the tunnels and it’s a good thing…it is very dark and a spring in the rock above made for a constant cooling shower during the passage.
The “tunnel watchers” had a small hut outside the tunnel and they had to open and close the doors 50 times a day! Not sure why, if not snowing. There were also man-sized indentations carved into the sides where tunnel workers would sit and monitor the trains. Can you imagaine the soot? From a coal fired engine? Ugh.
When we entered I thought we could barely see the end of the tunnel but it turned out to be bikers walking toward us with their lights on. Once they passed, it was very dark again with no end in sight. Kind of creepy; just keep moving.
At the other end, the cool mist just pours out of the tunnel. Riding back, we could feel it cool off several hundred feet before we reached the tunnel. The gentleman on the left told us he comes to sit there all the time for the “natural air conditioning.” He lives right up the trail.
Approaching the end…
This is another highly recommended trail! The surface is hard packed dirt and gravel most of the way, and even with heavy rain in the area before and while we were there, the surface was good and very rideable. Is that a word?
We ate our lunch in Sparta which bills itself as America’s Bicycle Capital. Motorists were very deferential to bicyclists in crosswalks and everywhere. First time since Oregon that we’ve seen that.
Along the trail…
The next day it rained so we took a day off. Then we rode in the other direction toward Elroy. We wanted to eat at the Dorsett Valley School restaurant but they only served till 2:00 PM. After stopping in the town of Wilton and finding out how to get there, we literally sprinted the last three miles so we would make it in time. We did and were hungry by that time. We thought it was good but nothing special; we had the sandwich special of the day. And people raved about the pie on Yelp, so we both got a piece to go. Again, OK but not worth writing on your blog about. Oh wait…
The tunnels on this leg were much shorter, about 1700 feet. And no cooling effect from the overhead spring. You could see to the end of this one.
Taken for my friend, Elsie. Hey Elsie, look! They even have the cow!
A B&B in Norwalk
Not to be outdone by Sparta, Norwalk proclaims itself the Black Squirrel Capital. We didn’t see a single one.
Carmella liked Norwalk and got much exploring in. Astrid continues to be braver and Tikita just wants to eat grass.
From here we will have a night at the Elks Lodge in Iowa City, then another Elks in Council Bluffs. We signed up for the Pedaler’s Jamboree at the end of August. It is a 35 mile ride with lots of live music along the way. You ride from Mineola to Shenandoah, Iowa the first day with music along the way, then more on arrival. The next day we ride back to Mineola with more music. I hope they have food too!