For several weeks I have been looking forward to riding a trail in Austin, Minn. The trail is right across the street from the truck stop at exit 179 on interstate 90. It looked great. It is black topped with actual lane striping. There is a bridge built over the interstate. You would figure that building a bridge like that would cost a small fortune, and they would only do that for a longer trail. But then that would be applying logic to government.
The trail ended shortly after I crossed the bridge. So I headed back toward the truckstop. The trail continues behind the truckstop and heads west towards Wisconsin, so I gave that a shot. It ended within a half mile of the truckstop. It was early, and I wanted to finish off my 10-hour break with a ride. I kept going straight on the road the trail dead ended into. I prefer trails, but I do feel safe riding on most country roads, especially if I am wearing a bright colored shirt.
Then that road dead ended within a half mile. Here’s the good thing. There was a sign for the Jay C. Hormel Nature Preserve. I rode over to check it out. Wow! It is beautiful there. The Jay C. Hormel Nature Preserve is 507 acres of forest with trails marked and unmarked running through it. They do not allow bike riding inside the preserve. There is a bike rack in the parking lot. Then get off and take a hike. The Hormel family was nice enough to give us not just spam, but this preserve. We can respect their wishes.
The park reminded me of my grandmother. When I was little, she would take me birding with her to the Morton Arboretum near Lisle, Ill. We would spend hours there hiking the trails, and she taught me about the different trees, and we would watch for birds. Even though the arboretum was in an urban setting you could get lost in nature. The Hormel Nature Preserve is the same way. When you wander closer to I-90 the whine of the interstate will interrupt the sounds of nature. Then as you head further away from the highway nature takes over. All that you hear are natural sounds. Birds are chirping away and almost everywhere that I went you could hear water running. The sounds and smells of nature take me as far away from the truck as I can get.
So if you ever find yourself in Austin, Minn., check it out. From the driveway of the truckstop to the park entrance is about 4,000 feet. I am looking forward to going there in winter and taking my cross-country skis with me. Just keep looking and let me know of your discoveries.
Jeff Clark is a trucker, a grandfather and an eight-time marathon (26.2 miles) finisher. He is dedicated to helping truckers improve their health through better habits. You can contact him at [email protected].