A Summer Manifesto

June 1, 2010 by cynick | Posted in mntour

Statement: This summer I intend to cover every mile of rail trail in the state of Minnesota.

At first glance, this seems like a daunting task, but, thanks to traillink.com, I see that the total mileage is just shy of 1200 miles, with 43 trails. Eminently doable.

Some of these trails are quite short, others are more than a hundred miles. I’m going to do all of this on my 2007 Brompton M3, and perhaps some light camping equipment. For some trails, I may even be able to ride Amtrak to get to the trailheads. For others, I will have to drive my car to get to them.

The main idea of all of this is to ride the trails with an eye on the history behind the construction of each railroad that used to run there, and to document any remaining artifacts such as rails, signal masts, mile markers and other signs of the railroads’ former presence. Some trails on which I’ve already ridden have provided fairly decent historical information via kiosks arrayed along the line, but others supply no more information than “this is an abandoned railroad grade”. These might go so far as to state the name of the railroad, but it’s typically the name of the last railroad to operate the line, rather than the railroad that operated the line for most of its existence, or the railroad that was actually involved in its construction.

I’m also going to link all of this into Google Maps to chart my progress as the summer goes on. I may even invest in a GPS receiver to mark the locations of any artifacts along the right-of-way.

This should be a lot of fun. I expect to learn more about Minnesota railroads, as well as hone my bicycle touring abilities. The latter might lead to even longer rides, to such places as Omaha or Michigan.

Stay tuned.