At 9 a.m. on this last Saturday, I set out from my front door on a little ride to check out the newly opened southern segment of the Badger State Trail and one of its more interesting features, the Stewart Tunnel.
I rode southeast from home through the UW Arboretum, south on Seminole through Fitchburg to Whalen, Fitchburg and Borchert roads, picking up the Badger at Purcell Rd. Now, I grew up on the rail line whose route this trail follows, so I've been looking forward to riding this thing for a long time. In fact, the northern segment would run right into Madison, but the Wisconsin DNR has seen fit to drag its feet on this whole project for better than a decade. But I digress. Sure seems like a popular facility already since its opening two weeks ago, and one of the more scenic rails-to-trails routes I've ridden.
I stopped at the Town and Country Mart (a PDQ, IIRC) on the outskirts of lovely Belleville and bought a trail pass, some Fig Newtons and a Vitamin Water. About 11 miles south of Purcell, I arrived at the tunnel.
Here's a shot of the north entrance to the Stewart. As much as I liked the world that Peter Jackson came up with Lord of the Rings movies, this is more like what I saw in my mind's eye while reading Tolkien's description of the entrance to the Path of the Dead in Return of the King. Anyway, there wasn't a ghost army or anything like that in the Stewart. Just cool, damp and quite as dark as the inside of a can of pitch. It's a quarter of a mile long and bends in the middle, so even at midday (about the time I was there) you really can't see a thing right about the middle. I had my Planet Bike Beamer along, but I think I'd bring a bigger light next time.
Here we are a bit closer. That's a huge blessed tree hanging over the entrance and that tiny fleck of light inside the tunnel is another cyclist's headlight.
Here's the south end, with some peeps for scale.
Then the ride continued south in hopes of meeting up with the Sugar River State Trail and following it back to New Glarus. Turns out it was a lot farther south than I had anticipated, and I ended up riding all the way to Monticello before turning northwest 32 miles out from home.
My next stop was lovelier New Glarus, a very neat little town chock full of Switzers. Here's the Trucker taking a break at the trailhead.
Next I rode out on County O, out onto some back roads and up past this Church. Lots of churches still out in the country like this in Wisconsin. Used to be the hub of farming communities, but fewer are in use now that those populations are more and more living in towns and cities. This one looks loved up.
Here's a farmer baling hay. That's a kicker baler, and you can see the bale in midair as it's being kicked into the wagon.
Then further north to lovely Mt. Vernon, up County Highways G and J to Dairy Ridge and White Crossing Rds., then a turn east and back onto the Military Ridge State Trail for the ride through my beloved hometown of Verona and back into Madison.
Arrived home at about 4 p.m. after something like 5 and a half hours of actual pedaling a total of 73 miles. Perfect day. Brilliant.