Again, since Martha has provided all the details, I’m just going to do a little comparison of today’s trail with yesterday’s. When people ask us which is our favorite trail of all the trails we’ve ridden, it’s hard to decide because each has its faults and its merits. The trail yesterday, for instance, started out to be really scenic with its bushes on each side of the trail, providing some shade and some variety to our views. Then the closer we got to Chicago, the less scenic it became. The scenery along the Pere was a bit monotonous because it hardly changed, but the several sections (almost the whole trail) of wild flowers was really pleasant to look at as we rode along. The corn and soybean fields in the land beyond the trail reminded me of the Katy Trail in Missouri, except that both of these trails are incredibly flat. Rails-to-trails are usually pretty level, but these trails have been flat and very easy to ride.
Being hard packed limestone (rather than paved), the Illinois trail had a nice “ambience” to it that seemed fitting to its name, “Illinois Prairie Trail.” But compare that to the Pere Marquette Trail, which is asphalt-paved and as smooth as could be, the preference might be for the paved.
The frequent number of street crossings became tiresome on the Illinois trail, but the little towns it went through were kind of neat. The Pere trail had some crossings, but it was a more rural area, so we didn’t worry about cars coming like they did yesterday. The Pere had a nice side dirt trail at Veterans’ Park, which we took for a little bit for a break in the scenery and to find a picnic table for lunch. Both trails had benches for resting along the trail and a sufficient number of restroom stopping points. There seemed to be a direct connection between the upkeep of the trail and the socio-economic status of the little towns on the Illinois Prairie Trail, but the Pere Marquette seemed evenly maintained and a source of pride for each little town it passed through. I guess what hurt the Illinois Trail the most was the unfinished and unmarked ending of the trail, which we wrote about yesterday.
The town of Midland, where the Pere Marquette has its southeast end, was probably the best part of the bike trip. Its” tridge” at the farmer’s market (no produce out for sale, though) was an interesting site, the park at the end of the trail was well kept up and nice, and the owner of Ray’s bike shop, Joe, who shuttled us from Midland to Clare, was especially friendly and supportive. He even filled our tires before the trip, oiled the chains after the trip, told us about Cops and Doughnuts in Clare, and gave us interesting conversation for the 30 miles in the car on the way up. He was a good guy and seemed to have a thriving bike shop.
I guess if I had to rank these two trails, I’d pick the Pere Marquette wildflower views over the Illinois Prairie Path.