Saturday, February 17, 2024

Brown Season: Ford Road Access Adventure

Escape Route: Old Commute Route To Andy's
My Turkey Burn Ride for 2023 was a ride up the Washington-Union Access Trail and then back on Ford Road and then through Cedar Falls and Waterloo. There was one thing eating at me ever since I did that ride. "Where was the intersection of the Washington-Union Access Trail and the Ford Road Access Trail?

I tramped around that day back in November and found nothing but dead ends. So, I figured on getting back to there and attacking from the Ford Road side where I knew there was good trail from Ford Road. 

Through family events, sickness, weather, and time for snow to melt, I bade my time until things were ripe for an adventure out that way again. Without cutting the approach short by using my truck, it takes nearly an hour to get out there at a fair pace. So, it isn't as though I could just hop on over there and check things out.

By nearly Valentine's Day I was seeing reports from all over the Mid-West that mountain bike trails were open. That is simply unheard of this time of the year. So, with that knowledge, I assumed a trip down the dirt trail that I knew as Ford Road Access Trail would be dry enough to pass through. That is, if one could pass through. See, years ago I recall riding through there and having to bushwhack a portion of that trail, nearly crawling/dragging my bike in places. There was a time shortly after that which saw clear passage through to the fire road (Washington - Union Access Trail) Who know what I'd find this time.

Nearly 50°F, barely a whisper of a breeze. February! Where art thou?

Barns For Jason: I don't think I've ever photographed this one.

The weather was darn near perfect for March. Only it is February! I decided to wear bib tights, a base layer, a long-sleeved wool jersey, and my PCL windbreaker. On my head was a buff, and a helmet, and on my feet were wool socks and Northwave winter boots. It was a perfect get-up for this ride. The bike was the Singular Gryphon Mk3. I wanted those wider tires in case I ran into mud, soft grounds, or some leftover snow patches. 

Ford Road. The gravel rode more like chip seal due to the Winter conditions.

Barns For Jason: Another one that has escaped me over the years.

While the weather was nearly perfect, at least for this time of the year, that long slog out to get to Ford Road is not perfect in the least. I tried to slip in as many alleys and bike paths as possible, but the terrain is so flat most of the time, due to my paralleling the Cedar River, more or less, that you end up just pedaling all the time. Good for training. Sucks the fun out though. 

What wind there was was out of the Northwest so I was working against that as well. Eventually I got out there, but I could not find the Ford Road Access Trail parking area off Ford Road. So, I stopped to consult my "map". (iPhone)

A quick stop to research where I missed the trailhead.

Aha! There you are!

Somehow I passed the entrance which was plain as the nose on my face, but I eventually found it. I dove in knowing the first fifty yards or so were good and led to a steep down hill section. After that, I did not know what I might find. 

Initially things were good. The trail was wide, looked to have been mown, and dead falls were cut back. It was encouraging and I thought this would end quickly at the Washington - Union Access Trail and show me where I had missed the intersection. 

But then the adventure part began!

The trail suddenly narrowed after I passed a field on my right where there was an opening to the field. That field looked kind of familiar to me as I had puttered around a field looking for the Ford Road Access last November. Could it be that I missed the access by mere feet? 

Maybe, because while the trail I was on kept following a fence line, it was soon littered with deadfalls and looked unkempt. I kept pressing on, as it was clear that there had been a trail here at one time. But then the trail veered to the right, went down steeply into a ravine, and disappeared. 

Things were looking good for a while.....

...until they weren't.

I kept probing forward but all I found was the flotsam and jetsam from decades of flooding. This was a lowland area and probably marshy in "normal" times. But with two years worth of drought this area had all but dried up and all that was left were the tangled masses of branches and grasses. It was no place to be hiking and that with a bicycle. 

I decided to hike back to the fence line and follow it Westward which I figured lead me to where the trail was. After a bit, I saw a place where I could cross the downed fence over into the field. It was getting nigh unto impossible to walk where I was walking due to all the bramble and dead falls. By this point any semblance of a trail was gone. 

I then came out to a place at the corner of the field where, if I went straight, I would be walking through more fallow land, lots of tall dead grasses, and who knows what lay underneath. At this point there was a high-tension electrical pole carrying lots of cables. Those five or six story high behemoths that march across the prairies here. I had seen that this line crossed Ford Road on my way out. I grabbed the "map" again for some consultation. 

Follow the poles!

Annnnd.....Back on Ford Road!

The map showed that I had about a mile to get back to Ford Road. I assumed that the utility's right of way would allow me somewhat clear passage back to Ford Road, but I did have to hike-a-bike it for well over a hundred yards to get to clear double-track where I could ride again. 

I came out in between two farms and I was hoping I didn't catch anyone outside that could see me, because, well... Even though I was on the easement I was fair game for some confrontation. But nothing of the sort happened and after a short while I was back on Ford Road and pedaling back home. 

Conclusion: I did not miss the Ford Road Access intersection with the Washington-Union Access Trail because it no longer exists. Maybe I could have bailed out onto that field I saw but that is most likely private property. 

I think the Ford Road Access could be opened up again, but with little traffic, if any, most of the time, it would be hard to keep it that way for long. The County, or whomever did the maintaining closer to Ford Road doesn't seem interested in pushing the trail through. So, I doubt anything is going to happen there. 

At least that mystery has been solved and I can put that to bed. I got a little over three hours straight of hike-a-bike and riding, so it was a great time on a fantastic day in February.


Tyler Loewens said...

Man that bike looks sick with those tires!

Guitar Ted said...

@Tyler Loewens - Thanks!