Naturally being obsessive about collecting data and making maps on my next opportunity I had to get out and start supplementing the trail I reported in my previous post. Only two days later nothing has changed (like not a hint of green, fairly depressing winter dead) and the weather was about the same.
Unlike the MoPac intersections of roads and the Wabash Trace are less predictable. The trail generally heads southeast and thus crosses many roads, but that portion of Iowa is not a routinely divided up in section line roads as Nebraska is where the MoPac ambles through on a generally westward direction. So finding trailheads is a little harder and thus deserved its own exploration.
I had found a GPS track for the northernmost 22 miles (of 63) but other maps (DeLorme, Bing, Google) are somewhat unreliable about showing the Trace; in fact, at times it just disappears even though I know it continues. Trying to follow it on satphotos is hard as it is usually under cover of trees. So walking the Trace is trivial to find it, but knowing where to intersect it by driving and then knowing parking will be available is a bit more work. And that’s what I did yesterday, at least the northern third. So here’s my updated map (still a pain to do as I have to use old computer with older software to upload tracklogs and waypoints and then edit then in suitable manner to export to cloud, then fire up other computer to “import” then (in the odd way BaseCamp works):
The waypoints are all my measured locations and the magenta segments are my walks vsw the black segment is someone else’s tracklog from the Net (only about 1/3rd of the Trace) which I’ll replace with my own data.
The trailhead shown as MVP is where the first walk started but we never went far enough to intersect another road. So my first stop was on 240th street at the south end of that previous segment. I only had to go about 1km to overlap 20Mar’s hike, then I reversed and went a bit south to establish a line so only 1.9miles total.
Then on to Mineola (whose trailhead marker is obscured by the W260th waypoint which is about 1/4 mile east). I’d originally thought it was 14 miles from the northernmost terminus of the Trace to Mineola, but actually it’s only a bit less than 10miles, so that changes my future plans. There is a biker bar / steakhouse kind of place, called Tobey Jack’s in Mineola that would make a good meetup place with my shuttle ride, but I want to do a one-way that is longer than 10 miles. Fortunately the rest of my exploring yesterday will solve that. So my main hike was from the Mineola Trailhead (an actual parking area and signage and place to pay the fee) for 3.1 miles (round trip) mostly to northwest back toward Council Bluff. At one point my handheld was down to only 3.7km back to the W240th waypoint which seemed to close, but now that I know the distance all the way from northern trailhead to Mineola is only about 10 miles that small gap makes sense.
I failed to turn off my handheld upon leaving Mineola by car to Silver City so that’s the cyan tracklog on the map, that short bit of driving. OTOH, the black line that forms the hypotenuse of that right triangle is the Trace, per the tracklog I found on the net. You can’t see it on this map scale but I did do 0.8 miles out-and-back in both directions so to mark where the Trace passes through Silver City.
And then on to the southern terminus of the tracklog I found (and show on the map), to Malvern. The only one of these three towns with any kind of store so a quick stop for cold drink plus getting directions to trailhead which took a tiny bit of wandering around to find exactly. The trail in Malvern has been paved with concrete (don’t like that, but the runners do) and I knew my only tracklog stopped in Malvern so I elected to go slow (thus my segment is brighter magenta since it’s not overlaid on top of the other tracklog in black). That was actually quite a nice segment. The concrete ended in about 500m and then it was a gentle uphill climb through a fairly deep cut (remember this is old railroad so they flattened the grade with cuts and fills, providing a nice isolation to today’s trail).
So with that 3.7mile segment that made the whole day’s four segment hike about 9.5 miles, in the range of what I’ve done other places and about half of what I’d need to do for any true long walk. My longest, to date, outside walk is about 11.1miles, again about 1/2 day for long walk. So I want to push this closer to 15 mile range. There’s nothing that fits that on this trail, but I can at least push it about to about 12.5 miles by going the reverse direction of Malvern to Mineola and meeting up with my shuttle ride at Tobey Jack’s. Based on this route I have another option of starting at MVP waypoint and going to Malvern and so picking up about 18 miles.
But next week it appears I’ll have some time along so instead I intend to drive down in the vicinity of Shenandoah and actually walk the Trace from northwest to southeast since its location is somewhat vague from various map sources. If I’m not too tired from that bit I’ll go look for a Trace segment that crosses Iowa184, north and west of Shenandoah to get some segments on the middle third of this trail.
While it will be nice for spring to arrive and see winter’s dead brown replaced by green that also means the humidity will be arriving. My only other experience with Wabash Trace was seeking a geocache. I don’t recall exactly when this was but it was nearly mid-summer and it was miserably hot and humid and buggy along the Trace, which might be why I never came back, not the best introduction to Iowa walking.
Shenandoah presents another alternative for a longer (≈20 mile) hike. Park the car (at some safe location for overnight) about 20 miles away, either northwest or southeast. Walk to Shenandoah and actually spend the night (the only town with accommodations) and then return the next day. Not sure I’m ready for that yet, but that would be the closest simulation of long walk in England or Ireland and I need to do that under controlled conditions to see if my 69YO body can be stretched that far.
Actually Shenandoah is the location of an interesting memory. One time in January we set out for a quick day of geodashing. The weather was cold but not brutal and clear. A few miles north of Shenandoah I was so intent on figuring out how to drive through a mud puddle I failed to also notice the Minimum Maintenance road sign – BIG mistake. My two-wheel drive Suburban had no chance against Iowa mud (Minimum Maintenance usually means no more routine application of new layer of gravel so road reverts to the nature clayey soils of Iowa). Iowa mud is incredibly sticky (walking it soon ends up with 10lbs of mud stuck to each foot) and simultaneously incredibly slippery (seems to violate physics, but this is what the stuff does, virtually as slick as ice).
So I walked about a mile back to highway where I could get cell reception, called AAA, and waited for tow truck to arrive. Little did I know that AAA contract does NOT support rescuing you on Minimum Maintenance roads. But a couple of young kids were blasting the tow truck out with another kid in his 4WD pickup. The towtruck driver was wise enough to not even try to go on the road where my car was stuck, but the intrepid (and foolish) other kid piled us all in his pickup and headed up the road to use his winch. As I’d managed to slide my car diagonally across the road the kid had to dodge it and got too close to edge of the road and so we ended up at 45° in the ditch, now two vehicles stuck. We climbed out through passenger-side window and again walked 1/4 mile of muck back to waiting tow truck and now four of us (in seating for two) head to Shenandoah.
Back at the service station the older and wiser owner basically said we were screwed BUT it was expected to freeze overnight and that would turn the muck back to ice and so maybe he could get us pulled free early the next morning. He suggested the motel and they did give us a ride. Naturally not much of anyone is staying in Shenandoah on a weekday in mid-January (oh, not true, just remembered the week before had been a campaign stop for Democrats in the Iowa caucus, so about 2007 is this event – had we be stranded in Shenandoah the week before we’d have slept in the street). So we have a plan, a place to stay overnight and (hopefully) a way to rescue car next morning.
But what we don’t have is much cash. Now for various reasons, based on past need, I carry a couple of hundred dollar bills. Fine for car repair or motel, but not much use trying to buy a six dollar dinner. So, as we also had no clothes, and discovered they did sell booze at the nearby Walmart (ugh, perhaps my first time inside a WalMart) we headed their to buy some overnight supplies and bourbon and thus spend enough WalMart would take the $100 and our change would buy us other things. Another problem solved. So now it’s a walk to downtown Shenandoah (now beginning to get rather cold and we didn’t have our full winter clothes), but we found a place to eat (yes, needed the cash, didn’t take plastic), found an ATM (different bank, wouldn’t take our card, so yes, good idea we’d gotten little bills at Walmart) and went to a movie. Back at the motel we used some extras from a pack of cheap underwear as bathing suits and so hit the hot tub (while well below freezing outside) and then settled in for a little bourbon before bed. A bit after midnight and knock on the door. The kids from garage again. Rather than wait for morning they wanted to go retrieve car NOW. They’d already rescued the other kid’s pickup and knew the muck was now frozen. Fine, except having not expecting to go anywhere I’ve had a bit too much bourbon. The cold air sobered me up some and we drove to my car, not even needing towtruck as the kids giving me a little push got the Suburban unstuck and I just drove out on the now frozen mud. All the way back to town I left the windows wide open to be blasted by the cold air to keep my head clear as possible since the last thing I needed to end a bad day was a DUI from local Iowa sheriff. But being as careful as I could I soon returned to motel, now able to sleep in the next morning.
So Shenandoah turns out to have fond memories, a day gone bad, but rescued by some luck and ingenuity. And now I carry a few twenties in my wallet I never spend so they’re a reserve. And I really look for the Minimum Maintenance signs, now even with Subaru AWD I’m not going to risk Iowa mud ever again.
So what adventure (or disaster) might a long hike to Shenandoah bring – is it cursed for me? If I wait much longer, of course, then a tornado or nice golf ball sized hail storm might be my option. Who knows, but that is the point of the walks – adversity is inevitable and so resourcefulness (and endurance) rises to the challenge.