Ride 3: Jane Addams Trail

  Biking Illinois: 60 Great Road Trips and Trail Rides  

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Freeport, IL           August 5, 2005

The Jane Addams Trail is one of the state's newest rails-to-trails conversions. Its namesake was a pioneering social reformer born and raised in nearby Cedarville. Addams is best known as the founder of Hull-House in Chicago and as a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Fittingly, I visited Cedarville before my ride. The town is a few miles north of Freeport on Illinois 26. The historical marker for Addams was easy enough to find, but I had trouble locating the town's museum.

I did manage to find the cemetery where she is buried with the rest of her family. Cedarville Cemetery is  on the northwest side of town on Mill Street/Red Oak Road, and signs point the way to her final resting place.

I returned south to US 20 and headed west to the sign for the Jane Addams Trail. The Wes Block Trail Access is at the south end of the trail, but someday the trail may continue down to Freeport. The trail goes north to the Wisconsin state line, where it will eventually connect to the Badger Trail to Madison. Approaching the parking lot, I saw some colorful poultry but kept my distance from the bee boxes.

It was a typically hot August day, so I brought plenty of water. That was a good move because there wasn't any along the trail unless I went further than I had time to go. (Confession: the lengths of certain rides in this book were determined by how much time I had that day.) The trail runs north from this access point. The highway bridge in the background is US 20.

There weren't many cuts in the rock for this railroad/trail, but this is one of the deepest on the part that I rode. Most crossroads and bridges have mile markers measured from the Wisconsin state line.

An abandoned  grain elevator stands beside the missing railroad tracks.

Parts of the trail have grass growing in the center.

The bridges on the trail have wooden sides and decks.

Approaching the long Stephenson County Visitors Bureau (SCVB) Bridge, there is a deep cut in the rock.

The SCVB Bridge crosses Richland Creek, which flows on the west side of  the trail from this point down to the trailhead. After taking pictures from the bridge, I turned around and headed back south.

On the way back, I stopped to photograph this caboose. It's visible from the trail, but it is private property. I took the second picture from the road that crosses the trail just south of the caboose (you can see the caboose in the background.

When I got back to the trailhead, I had just enough time to do a little exploring. The Jane Addams Trail is also a snowmobile trail (snowmobilers supplied  the trail's warning signs), and it extends south across the Pecatonica River on a steel truss bridge. This short segment of the trail has not been improved for bicycling, and in August it is thick with weeds. If you look closely at the first picture, you can see a railroad tie that was not removed from the right-of-way. The trail disappears into the weeds.

With the big tires (700x35) of my touring bike, I decided to give it a shot. Naturally, the weeds became more dense the further I pedaled.

There it is!

Alas, the adventure ends at the south end of the bridge. There is a stop sign dead-center, and another sign says that only snowmobiles are allowed.

I turned around and rode back toward the weeds.

When I returned to the trailhead, a local woman putting her bike in her car asked me about the ride to the bridge. I told her it would be better to try in the spring when the weeds haven't grown so high yet!

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