Slippery Elm Trail offers prime bike-riding conditionsWritten by Roger Holliday Claudia Fischer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you ridden a bike lately?
Like the one that’s been languishing in the darkest corner of your garage since it was unceremoniously dumped there at the first mention of an impending cold snap last fall, where it’s been sitting flat and gathering dust?
Well, as we speed into May, it’s time to drag out the old Trek or Raleigh, especially if you have any serious travel plans this summer, and need to get into some sort of shape.
Of course, the “professional” pedal-pushers have been out on the streets and trails since the last snowflake dissolved, piloting their thin-tired, carbon fiber machines, sporting skintight Spandex shorts, heavily branded shirts and wind-cheating helmets and showing off their bulging calves, barrel thighs and ultra-trim tums!
For the rest of us, however — the out of shape, the old, the infirm — there should be a more cautious start, starting with a trip to the local bike shop for a tuneup and lube job for $50 or so. Then a few short rides on bike-friendly streets to remind our bodies — and our bottoms — of what’s to come.
Happily, there is no shortage of great biking trails in NW Ohio. And in Wood County, there is one of the best: The Slippery Elm Trail (www.wcparks.org), which runs for 13 miles on virtually flat, paved asphalt from Bowling Green to North Baltimore.
It’s a rails-to-trails project that opened to the public in 1995 and has become increasingly popular for bikers, hikers, joggers, in-line skaters and dog walkers. It was named for the wood of a tree that formed the first rails of the Bowling Green Railroad Company which ran trains to southern Wood County to access the oil and gas reserves in the late 1800s. The oil ran out after a few short years and the railroad was abandoned in 1978.
Today’s bike trail, which provides “a natural corridor through the heart of Wood County,” begins next to the parking lot of the Montessori School on Sand Ridge Road and crosses 15 roads and multiple creeks on its way to the North Baltimore terminus, where there’s a well-equipped rest area and parking lot.
While shielded for much of its length by trees and bushes — there are only two short open sections — cyclists would still be well advised to check the weather forecasts before riding out as 15-20 mph headwinds winds are not uncommon.
Wind permitting, it takes the better part of an hour for the casual cyclist to cover the full 13 miles to North Baltimore. But a round-trip ride to Rudolph, “The Deerest Little Village in Wood County” four miles downtrail, also makes for an excellent excursion.
Actually, a ride on any part of the trail isn’t just good exercise, it can also be a fascinating trip through the history, geography and natural wonders of Northwest Ohio.
Signs put up by BGSU environmental studies students line the route and tell us:
n There are some 125,000 miles of abandoned rail-to-trail corridors around the country.
n The Slippery Elm provides a natural habitat for all manner of wildlife from the monarch butterflies that lay their eggs on the abundant milkweed to the white-tailed deer and the red-tailed hawks that are frequently seen from the trail.
From my particular saddle, I usually only see woodchucks, rabbits and robins. But on a recent ride, I ran (figuratively, of course) into a UT environmental science professor and two net-toting student assistants who were out checking on the northern pike that spawn in the tiny creeks before returning to the Portage River. (There should be a plaque to that effect!)
n We also learn that “Old Huldah” was the first train to make the Bowling Green-North Baltimore run in May, 1875. It had two passenger coaches, two flatcars and a boxcar. And that one of the biggest oil field explosions in Wood County occurred in September, 1897 when a wagon containing about 100 quarts of nitroglycerine exploded in Cygnet, killing and maiming many residents.
So whether it’s for exercise, a wildlife tour or just a trip down memory lane, the Slippery Elm Trail provides a perfect excuse to get out our bikes and ride.
Tags: Holliday Travels