Bike Touring in Maple Grove, MN

The Elm Creek Park Reserve is a biking paradise unto nothing I have ever encountered before. The bike path is well-paved and clearly marked. The trail features rolling hills and twisty turns that make riding feel exciting and like a proper adventure, and the mixture of wetlands/marshland, suburbia, scenic creeks, rivers, and lakes, make biking on this trail an experience that is worth the one hour drive.

My sister Alyssa and I reunited for our 2nd round of biking together. It’s a shame that it took us nearly two months to meet up again to bike, but this summer has been busy for the both of us.

My sister was the tour guide for this trail as she has biked here before. We set off out of the Elk Creek Park and got onto Medicine Lake Regional Trail which is a non-rail trail which includes twists and turns, rolling hills, and some pretty intense climbing. The entire trail goes from Maple Grove through Brooklyn Park and ends in Plymouth, MN. My sister was so excited to bring me to Medicine Lake (which is 16 miles one way), but we had some technical difficulties with her bike so we cut our ride short about halfway in.

I’m not too sad about cutting it short. The trail was a bit busy as we were biking in the prime afternoon on a Sunday and I was just here to enjoy the scenery and take everything in. I should’ve stopped to get more pictures but pictures can’t do this place justice. You need to go there yourself and hit the trails.

What I loved most about this trail compared to the Gandy or the Hardwood Creek/Sunset Prairie trail is that the hills made me feel more accomplished as a cyclist. There was a lot more technical skill needed to bike here than on a rail trail. I’m use to setting a consistent speed and pedaling until I take a few second break to stand up out of my saddle to give my butt a break. But on this trail, I was shifting gears to make the climbs and I was aware of my surroundings because this is a multi-purpose trail which had walkers, rollerskiiers, and hikers in addition to cyclists. I just felt like I was biking through a community instead of biking along side a busy highway.

You don’t see something like this on the Gandy!

The best part of this ride (aside for getting to bike with my “seester”) was that 80% of the trail is shaded from the wind and the sun. The wind gusts were reaching 20 mph today and I knew that I’d have a bad time if I was biking on an exposed rail trail.

I saw people of all abilities and biking experience on this trail. I saw the hard core elites with their biking kit, gloves, glasses, and super lightweight road bikes, but I also saw moms and dads with their kids. I saw new bikers wearing t-shirts and shorts just trying to get some exercise in on a gorgeous day like today. Best of all, I saw people huffing and puffing up hills just like me! There was a sense of community here that some rail trails lack.

Don’t get me wrong, I love rail trails and I’ll be back in Hugo on Wednesday or Thursday (weather dependent) to do a 50k ride (my favorite distance). But rail trails are remote. It’s just you and your thoughts for 1 – 5 hours of biking. If you do see people, they all have the same stony-faced “God-kill-me-please” true grit expression on their face as they suffer through the agony. But on these trails, people smiled at me and one little boy yelled “on your left” all happy and proud and my heart melted a little.

I mean, this trail did get remote at times but I never felt lonely, and I think that would hold true if I was biking here alone instead of with my sister. I felt life here. I felt like a kid again. I wanted to go farther and father just to see what was around the next corner or over the next hill.

Or across the next bridge…

Harkening back to my earlier post about stopping to smell the roses, this jaunt out with my sister was another one of those rides where I was here for the journey and not focused too much on the destination. (I mean, this was my first time on this trail and I didn’t really know the destination).

I plan to go again tomorrow and bring the husband out with me. We’ll try to bike the full 32 mile route, but if we fail, we’ll still have a good time anyway.

All in all…it was a good day. Crooked helmet notwithstanding.

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