Part of the fun of bicycling is exploring new places.
Given the choice of riding down a familiar path or following a new trail, my curiosity gets the better of me every time. Such was the case yesterday when my familiar path intersected with a shiny new trail.
Heading east along the Great Western Trail between Prince Crossing Road in West Chicago and County Farm Road in Winfield, a patch of brand new blacktop caught the corner of my eye the moment I crossed the bridge over the West Branch of the DuPage River. I was just squeezing in a quick out-and-back on the Illinois Prairie Path between Wayne and Winfield when I decided at the last minute to detour down the GWT to add in a mini loop before I had to turn around. I would have never known about this spur otherwise.
Intrigued by this surprising discovery, I followed the winding path that appeared to parallel the narrow river.
It twisted along past a small private pond before passing underneath North Avenue. The underpass access on the east bank of the river had been lying unused for more than a decade since North was widened to six lanes. I had always hoped that it would be used as a bike path one day. That day had finally arrived.
I wasn't really surprised when the trail abruptly came to an end at St. Charles Road a mere tenth of a mile later. The land from St. Charles Road north to the West Branch Lower Reserve forest preserve - a distance of nearly three quarters of a mile - remains privately owned with no present opportunity for interconnection.
So why was I excited to explore this spur to nowhere?
For starters, it eliminates the on street bike route along Prince Crossing and the busy intersection with North Avenue for those traveling to and from the GWT and Prairie Path. Safe new routes are always exciting for cyclists.
Second, it brings the interconnection of the vast acreage of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County that much closer to reality. Currently there are two preserves in Bloomingdale, two in Hanover Park, one in Bartlett, one in Wayne, two in West Chicago, one in Winfield, two in Wheaton, and another two in Warrenville that feature bike trails and are within riding distance of one another with very few of them directly linked. Being able to ride safely from one to the next has long been a goal of the district.
If you haven't ridden the well-maintained, mostly crushed limestone trails of the DuPage Forest Preserves, I highly recommend it. Scenery varies from open prairie to woods and wetlands to open water (river, stream or lake). The best place for an overview map is here with individual maps found here. To connect from one preserve to the next, use the bicycling directions on Google Maps.
If you're looking for a map of this spur, you won't find it anywhere - it's that new. Google Maps shows the original link leading from St. Charles Road south and east to Ancient Oaks Drive. There is no connection south to the Great Western Trail. The Timber Ridge Forest Preserve pdf doesn't even include the shorter link shown on Google Maps.
Put the Prairie Path, Great Western Trail, and the bike paths of the FPDDC on your to-do list for this season. You won't be disappointed.
Keep riding and be safe!
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