For the outdoor enthusiast and nature lover, a trip to the Augusta area is a rewarding experience and offers beginning and advanced options for cycling, mountain biking, and hiking. Bill and I have spent many hours pedaling or hiking in the area and we will share with you some of the best places to get outside and breathe the fresh country air of Missouri Wine Country.
Katy Trail is the
largest rails-to-trails bicycle trail in the country and is an easy trail
to ride for beginners setting out on their first day trip. Starting just east
of St. Charles, Missouri and ending in Clinton Missouri, the trail is 240
miles. Seasoned cyclists, cycling clubs, and outdoor adventure tours find that
the Katy can challenge them all along the way, too, with higher mileage planned
between stops. Small towns and bigger cities are linked by the Katy, like a
highway system just for bicycles. Cycling through the cornfields of the
Missouri River bottoms and along the white-faced bluffs of the Missouri River,
beauty and solitude is always surrounding you as you meander down the path.
Visit Missouri Wine and Bike for more information on the Missouri Viticultural Area ...
Thoughts from Debbie:
I never cease to be amazed at the constantly changing landscape from day to day along the Katy. Early spring rides reveal the white bluff faces as they contrast with the recently tilled black soils of the bottoms land. Newborn calves of the local ranches stare at you with curiosity as their wary mothers stand by making sure you're just passing through. Soon after the farmers plant the soybeans, corn, and grain, the earth turns a light pale green as the sprouts urge their way up. Every day is a new scene as all the living things begin to grow and shape the land. As the corn begins to tassel in mid-summer, a new color begins to appear and add another layer of drama, a pale gold that beckons the morning sun to light it up. Birds of all sorts use the tassels as a landing place, seeming to enjoy just hanging out, swaying in the breeze, whistling their favorite song. I often stop at a wooden bridge and watch them perform for me.
As late summer approaches, the corn turns to a rich golden-tan, losing most
of it's green of summer, but this again, catches the light of the sun in the
late afternoon and appears to be set ablaze. In a few weeks, once harvest
is complete and the soil is turned, the remnants of the once-living things that
kept me company are returned to earth creating a tan and black landscape that
always stops me in my tracks. I savor the moment. I know winter is
coming, and my bike will be put away, waiting for that early spring day
when I can get back out riding this great gift.
There are so many wonderful places for daytrips along the Katy that are close to the St. Louis area, yet far enough away to bring you closer to nature. The Weldon Springs Conservation area just east of Defiance is shady and quiet with benches for resting along the trail every so often. You can cycle to Sugar Creek Winery or hang out at Dave and Jackieís for a cold one. Take the bike path into Klondike Park for a trip around the lake.
Originally a quarry to mine white quartz sandstone for the production of glass, Klondike park has a small lake for catch and release fishing in the middle of white sands with bluffs surrounding the park. There are picnic areas, playgrounds and camping in the park. If you like to hike, there are several challenging hiking paths that take you through the woods and up the bluffs with mind-boggling views of the Missouri River Valley.
One of my favorite exercise routes is from Augusta to the Klondike cut-off, through the park to the entrance. I hop off my bike at the conference center and take the path up to the bluff. I gaze out over the river valley, imagining what it was like for Lewis and Clark. (Remind me to tell you about the cougar I saw). Sometimes, I will take the hiking path and add an hour hike to my 45-minute ride. The path through the park zigzags through switchbacks all the way down to the entrance again. A few miles west and you'll be in Augusta.
If you donít have bikes at your disposal, you can rent them at Katy Bike Rental in Defiance, and head to Augusta for an overnight stay at the Lindenhof. Reward yourself with a relaxing and soothing soak in the outdoor hot tub or sit by the stone fireplace with a glass of wine and some home-baked bread. Youíve earned it.
This park has paths cut through some of the most beautiful landscape in the area and a trip on a cool October day will be one of the most memorable experiences of your life. The lay of the land has plenty of heart-pumping ascents and descents but without the narrow drop offs of Klondike. Deer abound in this area, and I have never been disappointed while hiking through there. I feel as if I am the only one around who knows about this place. Someday I will ride it, rather than walk. Perhaps we'll meet along the way.
Here is a great synopsis of the Katy Trail that give you an
idea of itís attributes from end to end:
Between Sedalia and Calhoun,
horses are permitted on a stretch of trail between Calhoun and the Missouri
State Fairgrounds Katy Trail parking area in Sedalia.