Ode to the Multi-Use Trail
Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you have it. Today is day 38 on the road, I’ve run 169 miles since we left, and my first treadmill run didn’t happen until yesterday. We were in Amarillo, TX, there were severe storms in the area and the only roads nearby were too busy to run. So I pumped out a sweaty, boring five miles on the treadmill in the cramped hotel gym. On the heels of my treadmill run, I thought it would be appropriate to give a shout out to the multi-use trails I grew accustomed to while we were out west.
Living most of my life in the northeast, the phrase “multi-use trail” is fairly new to me. In New England, we say, “bike path” or “running trail,” both of which fall short of the true potential of the multi-use trail. Perhaps it’s a lack of real-estate, an abundance of country roads (in NH, VT and ME anyway) or a lack of (or mismanagement of) public funds, but multi-use trails are hard to come by in New England. In addition, the majority of trails that exist are either dirt/rock, too short for a quality run/ride or too far from most homes and neighborhoods to be accessed without driving.
Spending the past 30-plus days in the Canadian and American west, while training for next month’s marathon, has opened my eyes to the benefits of multi-use trails. I’m running four days a week, often in two, three or four different places, and almost all of my runs since hitting the road have taken place on multi-use trails. In addition, I’ve been able to access many of the trails directly from our hotel, hostel or campground. While running, I’ve seen other runners, walkers, dog walkers, commuting cyclists and recreational cyclists. Many of these people accessing a portion of the trail network directly from their home or neighborhood. I’ve even come across “prescription trails” that local doctors can use to prescribe their patients with progressive exercise routines for weight loss, diabetes management, etc.
I wanted to say thank you to the communities that maintain the trails I’ve run on in recent weeks. In case you plan to visit any of the places we’ve been, and you want to get out for a walk, run or ride, below is a list of the trails I’ve run on and a brief description of each one. There’s also a tremendous amount of information about trails online, so instead of sitting in your hotel room watching TV, use the free wi-fi to see if there are any trails in the area. You might be surprised by what you find right outside the front door. – M
- Niagara Falls, ON: We picked up an easy four miles along the trail lining the Canadian side of the Niagara River, complete with early-morning spray from the falls.
- Charlevoix, MI: We loved the Charlevoix Half Marathon, which started in the Charlevoix neighborhoods and moved onto the trail that stretches from Charlevoix to Petoskey along the shore of Lake Michigan. The trail is mostly paved, but the wooden bridges (including one nearly a mile long) made for a fun change of terrain. The full Charlevoix Marathon is on my short-list for 2014.
- Grand Forks, ND: Randomly discovered an urban bike path on the southwest side of town while picking up four miles from our hotel.
- Saskatoon, SK: Grabbed six miles on the Meewasin Trail along the bluffs of the South Saskatchewan River. An interesting mix of hilly, wooded terrain and city parks with some cool public art.
- Jasper, AB: Ran into a large elk with full antlers while running the loop trail around the city maintained by the National Park Service. The trail ran through the woods, behind neighborhoods and along the railroad tracks and sidewalk of the main drag in the small mountain town.
- Banff/Lake Louise, AB: Due to the washout of the Banff Legacy Trail (which runs partially along the highway strangely), we ran in the Lake Louise campground. Other than strange looks from campers as I ran by for the fifth, sixth, seventh time, it actually wasn’t that bad, and the electric fence kept grizzly bears at bay.
- Great Falls, MT: One of the best finds on the trip. We watched wood storks and deer along the Missouri River as we ran on the River’s Edge Trail. For our long run, we followed the bluffs all the way out past the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center to a network of single-track mountain bike trails. We were able to pick up 18 miles on this out-and-back run.
- Grand Teton, WY: We ran in the bike lane on the one-way scenic road along Jenny Lake. The path started at our campground and connected with hiking trails along the shore. Although we didn’t encounter any wildlife, we did take a dip in the lake to cool off.
- Jackson, WY: We entered the Russ Garaman Pathway behind the post office and ran along Flat Creek, behind neighborhoods past an elk grazing area and around the high school. Some trail construction caused us to turn back a little earlier than planned, but it was nice to see the trail being maintained and improved.
- Springville, UT: The Hobbler Half Marathon was a point-to-point, mostly downhill course (though definitely not entirely downhill) starting in Hobble Creek Canyon and heading down to a local park in Springville. Although the entire race wasn’t on the Hobble Creek Bike Path, several miles followed this rolling, multi-use trail down the hill and into town.
- Provo, UT: I accessed the Provo River Parkway trail directly from our hotel near BYU. The trail stretches nine miles, but I ran a four mile out-and-back through parks and behind neighborhoods. Underpasses made road crossings mostly unnecessary, and the network of sprinklers in one of the parks made a bit of an obstacle course. I wasn’t able to stay dry.
- Grand Junction, CO: We ran on the Colorado Riverfront Trail System for a quick five-mile jaunt. Not much to see other than the river and the birds, but any break from running with cars is welcome. We had to drive to grab this trail since our hotel was on the other side of town.
- Steamboat Springs, CO: We crossed the street from our hotel and hopped onto the Yampa River Core Trail. The trail is 7 miles long, but we didn’t need that much. This trail rolls along the Yampa River at the base of the mountain. It’s well-maintained and even included some public art sculptures.
- Denver/Aurora, CO: We followed the Highline Canal Trail from the Municipal Center in Aurora to pick up 16 miles. We ran out-and-back legs in both directions with a stop at the car to refresh our Gatorade. We happened to be running on the anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting, and there was a memorial happening inside the Municipal Center. We were able to park for free in the shaded garage, which was a benefit on this hot day, and the event security was very friendly. The best part of the trail was definitely the hundreds of prairie dogs. Prairie dogs be prairie doggin’…
- Colorado Springs, CO: I picked up 5 miles on the New Santa Fe Regional Trail. I crossed the street from the hotel and entered the trail which was mostly wooded and ran behind businesses along Corporate Drive and a rain water channel. Much of the trail was sponsored by local bike shops and businesses, but my favorite feature was a rest area designed and built by a local outdoor patio company.
- Santa Fe, NM: We cut through the parking lot of our hotel and the nearby mall to get on the Arroyo Chamiso Trail and head toward downtown Santa Fe. The trail runs under the major roads, although we had to cross some minor roads. The drivers in Santa Fe were surprisingly aware of people on the trail, and everyone stopped to let us cross. There were plenty of runners, cyclists, dog walkers and lizards to help us feel safe as we took on a moderately hot run on this rolling trail. They even plow this trail in the winter…now that’s service!
- More trails to come. We won’t get home for a few more days and there are definitely other trails in our future!