This Labor Day Weekend my family said farewell to summer with a trip to the Route of the Hiawatha This portion of the Olympian Hiawatha route has been called one of the most breathtaking scenic stretches of railroad in the country. It is no longer used by the railroad and has been converted to a 15 mile bike path. There are many ways to bike the trail. We took the most common, starting at the top and biked downhill, then had a shuttle bring us back to to the other end of the tunnel and we road back through the tunnel to our car. The St. Paul Pass, or Taft Tunnel (pictured above) is an 8,771 foot tunnel. Yes, that's about 1.7 miles! Biking through this tunnel gave new meaning to the phrase "the light at the end of the tunnel" to me. It is a feeling that is hard to describe, traveling through a dark tunnel, with only the light from my small headlamp.
The sound of water running past and dripping down on you sporadically from the ceiling can leave one with an uneasy feeling. 1.7 miles seems like it could take forever, like my pedals were turning ever so slowly, yet my confidence in my bicycling skills would not allow me to pedal faster. I was never so relieved to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When we finally made it through only to have the sun shine down on us and be greeted by a beautiful waterfall. And this was just the beginning of our day!
We went through a total of ten different tunnels, and the 1.7 mile Taft Tunnel twice. The trail took us over seven high steel trestles. The views were absolutely stunning! The trail offered several places to stop and take in the views while learning some history of the railroad and the fires of 1910. There are stories that when people were evacuating on the train, the trestles (then made of wood) were burning as the train went over them! All in all the day was incredible! It was a great outing that the whole family could enjoy! My seven year old did the entire trail with no complaints.
The Rails To Trails Conservancy is working to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people. Stop by their page to find a trail near you! I highly recommend looking for a trail near you! Take the whole family and a picnic lunch! Spend the day and breathe in the fresh air. The day inspired me to make a new version of my reusable sandwich bags. They will be perfect for a ride on the trail or add some personality to school lunches!