The High Trestle Trail is 25 miles in length and travels through Woodward, Madrid, Slater, Sheldahl, and Ankeny. It’s my favorite place to ride thanks to the smooth concrete trail with minimal grades. Wide shoulders and benches along the trail give riders opportunities to take advantage of the beautiful scenery. Trailheads with water and restrooms are available in Woodward and Madrid. Parks in Slater and Ankeny can be used as locations for starting a ride. West of Madrid riders pass under a wooden bridge and two tunnels. One of the tunnels has some can’t-miss art work.
The highlight of this trail is the half mile bridge. Crossing the Des Moines River it is a 13 story high work of art. The design of the bridge pays tribute to the coal mining industry that once thrived in the area. The spiraling steel frames represent the supports used in coal mines. Giant towers with designs depicting veins of coal found in limestone greet those about to cross. Bridge overlook areas provide spots for taking in the view of the river valley or reading the education signs posted. At night the bridge is illuminated with LED lights.
Once upon a time I found riding across the the High Trestle Bridge scary. Eyes focused straight ahead I would purposely avoid looking over the side. My stomach in knots with the knowledge I was further up in the air than cars crossing the bridge just to the north. That was me, pedaling at top speed while thinking “Out of my way I need to get across this thing!!”
Did I see the pelicans swimming in the waters below or the folks in their canoes? Nope. I missed it. I was always too focused on the nutty notion of falling over the edge. I was missing out on a lot. Views of the Iowa horizon, changing water levels each season brings, and the artistic elements incorporated into the bridge itself. I was being ridiculous! A conjured fear was preventing me from fully enjoying rides on the trail. Time to get over it.
While out on a family ride I made a point to stop at one of the bridge’s overlook areas and force myself to look over the railing. I did this each time I rode the trail until I finally felt comfortable. Now pedaling my bike across this 140 feet tall bridge is no big deal.
Just the other day I took a leisurely ride from Woodward to Minburn stopping along the bridge to appreciate the view. The frozen river snaked it’s way south and cars the size of a Hot Wheels passed over the highway bridge nearby. A family was spending quality time together on a walk and cyclists were getting in a winter biking fix. No one was afraid. Including me.