Strange Sightings on the Great Western Trail

The Trail

A former railway for Chicago Great Western Railroad this trail begins at Park Ave/George Flagg Parkway in Des Moines and travels 16.5 miles to Martensdale.  The asphalt trail winds through Willow Creek Golf course and under Highway 5.  Tree canopy buffers wind and provides shade on a hot day.    Construction on the new tunnel at Army Post Road looks to be complete.  Sections of the trail have been patched and portions have been replaced with concrete.  There are several gravel road crossings with some flanked by short but steep grades.

Trail Map


The Ride

Leaving the trailhead for an out-n-back ride to Martensdale I decided to "just ride" and not plan on writing about my experience.  I didn't anticipate anything overly new or interesting on this ride.  There's the new tunnel to ride through at Army Post Road, and a new park just off the trail in Cumming, but that would be it, or so I thought.

This ride ended up being one of the strangest and I ended up compelled to share. Unfortunately I don't have photographic evidence of the majority of sightings, so dear reader, you'll just have to trust me. If only I had a GoPro!

The weirdness began just south of Cumming when I noticed something dangling from an overhead tree branch.  What the heck?  It was a raccoon carcass swaying in the breeze.  It had been there quite a while.  Weird...and gross!  

Riding this trail you'll often see cows grazing in fields between Cummings and Martensdale.  These are pastoral scenes worthy of Iowa postcards.  Pretty stuff.   I noticed a cow laying down napping along the fence near the trail.  Slowing down I quickly learned this cow wasn't going to be waking up...ever.  Dead as a door-nail.  The farmer had either yet to notice he was missing a cow from it's herd, or just hadn't found it yet.  Here's hoping he does because this is not desirable scenery.  Double weird...double gross!

Reaching Martensdale I was looking forward to taking a break and eating the breakfast I had packed.  Pulling up to a picnic shelter I was startled to discover a teenager sleeping on a picnic table bench.  It was a school day, so obviously he was skipping class to catch up on his sleep.  I didn't feel like dining next to a dozing stranger so I chose a different picnic area.  Weird!

Was it skip day for students at Martensdale St. Mary's?  Back on the trail I pedaled past the party bus business in Cumming and noticed another young man.  He was sitting alone inside a parked trolley bus and looked to be reading a book. At least he was doing something educational if he was skipping school too.  Weird!

Much of the Great Western trail travels through tree lined areas where you're guaranteed to see either Chipmunks or Fox Squirrels.  A pudgy squirrel with a death wish ran alongside my front tire for several yards before darting across to the other side.   I've almost run over Chipmunks before, but not a squirrel.  Weird!

Back in Des Moines on the trail segment flanking the airport I saw two women ahead of me walking their dogs.  As I approached they kindly moved to the shoulder so I could pass.  Slowing down I noticed on of the dogs looked to be a Golden Retriever, but what was the other strange looking dog?  Wait!  Is that a goat??!!??  Yep! A women had her unique pet on a leash and was taking it out for a stroll.  What kind of bike ride was I on?  Double weird!!

Returning back to the trailhead I took a picture to document my ride for 30 Days of Biking.  That's when I realized I had ridden a trail 16 miles in length on the 16th day of April.  Weird and wacky stuff indeed.

Happy Riding!