High Trestle Trail melds history, nature, easy biking

By Carol / August 29, 2011 /

I biked the newly opened High Trestle Trail for the first time this weekend. My friends and I entered the  trail at Woodwardand biked east. Our main goal was to see the new High Trestle bridge. We were not disappointed.

A converted railroad bridge, the High Trestle is a work of art and an unparallelled observation point, as well as a means of getting from Point A to Point B.

Standing 13 stories above the Des Moines River valley, the bridge provides expansive views in all directions. The river was largely within its banks this weekend, but the valley showed how wide it became during earlier season flooding. Hawks soared overhead. A little time and sharp eyes or a set of binoculars would have revealed many other birds.

Signage along the bridge explained the coal mining history of the area, a history that was also embodied in the artwork of the half-mile long bridge.   Dramatic girders at angles across the bridge represent the ‘cribs’ of coal mines.  The 42-foot tall towers that frame the east and west entrances to the bridge symbolize the river and coal veins in the area.

In addition to the bridge, the trail offered a lot to see. A deer stepped out of the trees 20 yards in front of us, stood at the side of the trail gazing at us and then bounded away. Butterflies flitted among the many wild flowers that brightened the path. And lots of trail users. People on bikes, on foot, pushing baby strollers, exploring caterpillars.

Though we began our ride at 3 p.m., we picked a pretty good day. Both heat and humidity were a (tiny) bit lower than a week ago. We enjoyed every bit of breeze that came our way. An ice cream break at a little stand in Madridgave us a chance to refresh for the return ride.

We expect to return to the High Trestle Trail – maybe even at night when the bridge is lit. It’s a great addition to the Iowa trail system.

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