Fat Bike Adventures - Maffitt Reservoir

The Bike

Ah, fat bikes. They seem to becoming more popular by the minute.  I've seen them on the trails, roads, and even my neighborhood streets.  Watching them roll by I'd wonder what it would be like to ride one.   I decided it was high time to give it try and contacted Arik Peterson.

Arik owns As A Dad LLC, located in Des Moines.  He provides fat bike rentals to folks wanting to gain experience but not another bike.   Arik (the Dad) has a fleet of four Surly Pugsley's.  Each is equipped with a flat repair kit and air pump. Bar mits are available during the cold months.  He doesn't mind if you bring back a muddy bike. In his opinion it's proof you had fun.

The Ride

My first adventure was at  Maffitt Reservoir.   It's a popular spot for fishing, hiking, and picnicking.  Maffitt is also a known spot for bird watching.  According to owa ornithologists,  the Common Loon can be spotted here in the spring and fall.  

My plan was to ride the 5 mile nature path that winds around the 200 acre lake.  I would return to my vehicle via park roads and the highway crossing the dam.

The grass path was in decent condition.  Bumpy but not unbearable.  Recent rainfall resulted in a couple of muddy sections but with the super wide tires of the Pugsley I was able to navigate through them easily.

Several small fishing paths branch off from the trail leading down to the water.  A fat bike would certainly come in handy for a fisherman who's eager to get to the water!

Thick foliage made it challenging to catch more than a fleeting glimpse of the lake. Once I reached the end of the nature trail I was finally rewarded with a great view of the water.  Unfortunately no Loons.

Maffitt Reservoir was a great kick-off to my fat biking adventure.  The bike handled great and was comfortable to ride.  It was exciting to explore a trail where bikes aren't typically found and I was eager to see where else the bike could take me. 

Where to next?  

RAVE Ride on The Great Western Trail

Biking and conservation converged for the second annual RAVE Ride on the Great Western Trail.  Hosted by Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Bike Month and both Polk and Warren County Conservation departments, this group ride provided cyclists with an opportunity to participate in a Random Act of Volunteering for Earth.  

Having not participated in last year's ride, I was super excited.  With my sister joining me I knew it was going to be a fun time!

 The ride began at the Great Western Trailhead in Des Moines.  We were given large blue bags to place collected litter in.  Although I was wishing I had thought to put a pannier on the Iron Giant's rear rack, holding onto the bag didn't prove challenging as I pedaled down the trail.  

We leisurely made our way toward Cumming stopping to pick up beer cans, water bottles, gel pack wrappers, inner tubes and even an old glove.  Outside of Willow Creek Golf Course I found a golf ball.  That however, made it's way into my handlebar bag.

At the rest area near Orillia we were greeted by folks from Polk County Conservation and Saving our Avian Resources (SOAR).  We stopped to throw seed bombs into the nearby prairie area and to admire a rescued Great Horned Owl.  It was beautiful and reminded me of Woodsy Owl's slogan "Give a Hoot!  Don't Pollute! 

Arriving at the Cumming Tap we were welcomes by folks from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.  For our trash collecting efforts we were given a ticket for a free drink and a bag filled with awesome swag.  Sam Auen from Tacopocalypse was there personally hand crafting free tacos.  We sat out on the patio and savored our tasty freebies while watching the cycling crowd accumulate.

Cool temperatures, easy cycling, great conversations, tasty treats, and lending Mother Nature a helping hand all resulted in a fantastic evening out on the bike trail.  The Great Western Trail from Des Moines to Cumming is now trash free.  Let's keep it that way!

Happy Riding!

A Springtime Favorite

Washington DC has cherry trees, Pella has tulips, and Des Moines has my favorite, crabapples. Easily accessible from the Des Moines Regional Trail system, the Arie den Boer Arboretum, is my favorite springtime spot.   Located within Water Works Park  it is one of the biggest collections of crabapple trees in the world.  

Visiting the park on my bike I slowly pedaled past trees laden with delicate blossoms.  The flowery aroma was a million times better than any perfume.  I paused several times to just stare up into millions of pastel flowers and marvel at their beauty.  This is a place where I could spend hours just soaking in the colors, the scents and sunshine.  

The trees will be blooming for another week, so make plans to go.  Take a leisurely bike ride among the blossoms and enjoy the glory of spring.  

Happy Riding!

Biking the Principal Riverwalk

The Trail

Perfect for a leisurely ride or walk the Principal Riverwalk serves as a crucial link in the Des Moines metro trail system.  It also provides trail users with an opportunity to take in public art, and view the Des Moines River from a series of unique bridges,  The trail was a gift to the city of Des Moines by Principal Financial Group, one of the major employers within the metro.  The project continues to be a work in progress with a new public art installment having taken place recently. The multi purpose trail travels alongside the river bank in a 1.2 mile loop with easy access from the city streets and intersections.

Trail Information

The Ride

I had heard about the latest art installment along the river walk and decided to visit on my bike.  After parking at the Des Moines Botanical Center and a quick photo I made my way towards downtown.

The first spot of interest was the Robert D Ray Asian Gardens.  It’s hard to miss with the bright red pavillion.  Inside the garden area are waterfalls, sculptures and artistic structures all symbolizing the contributions Asian Americans have made to Iowa along with Governor Ray’s work to provide Iowa as new home to Southeast Asian refugees.  This beautiful and peaceful spot links the downtown riverwalk to the Des Moines Botanical Center.

Next up was the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge.  This bridge is a popular Des Moines photo op and shows up often on Instagram.  Only after doing research for this blog post did I learn that one of the pathways on the bridge are for bicyclists the others for pedestrians.  

The new Rotary Riverwalk Park was easily spotted from the bridge.  It’s a fantastic and whimsical touch that gives a nod to the fishing that takes place along the river.  I was surprised to see the fishing rod is actually a structure for a swing set.  The bobber floats in a bouncy play area.  I could easily picture kids having a lot of fun here jumping and swinging.  

My favorite part of the ride was crossing the caboose red Union Railroad Bridge.  I took advantage of the scenic overlooks and stopped to admire the city skyline.  

Making my way back to the Botanical Center I rode past the Brenton Skating Plaza and found one of the city’s B-Cycle kiosks.  For only $6 visitors can check out a bike and see the sites.  (Stations are closed during winter months).

My last stop was the Long Look Garden.  The picture I took does a poor job depicting the creative landscaping design.  The garden is sponsored by Pioneer Hi-Bred (Dupont) and named after their “long look” business philosophy.  

Thanks to projects like the Principal Riverwalk, Des Moines continues to grow as a bicycling community with plenty of character and lots of opportunities for Happy Riding!

Mark C. Ackelson Trail

The Trail

Named after the former president of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation this new 3 mile out-n-back concrete trail winds around the south side of Easter Lake.  It’s a great spot to take the family as the trail provides a safe place for young cyclists to ride without worrying about traffic.  The smooth trail, playground equipment, spots for fishing, picnic areas, and the Owen’s Covered Bridge are a recipe for a fun outdoor outing.  Plans are underway to expand the trail system, looping it around the lake and connecting to mountain bike trails located at Ewing Park.

Trail Map

The Ride

After riding the Summerset Trail I decided to head over to the south side of Des Moines and check out the new trail.  I was only a few miles away, so why not?  My ride began at the parking area along Easter Lake Drive, just west of SE 34th street. 

The park was quiet during my visit except for a couple of fishermen and a large flock of Canada Geese.  I wound my way through the trail surprised at how pretty the park is.  A couple of short steep climbs got my heart pumping.  

I stopped to learn about the Owen’s Covered Bridge.  It’s the only covered bridge in Polk County and was originally location northeast of Carlisle.  Built in 1887 the bridge has been restored with a new roof, siding and floor.  It’s a popular spot for photographers.  Returning through the bridge a young couple and their photographer were setting up to take what I assumed to be engagement photos.

This was a short ride, but definitely worth the visit.  I’ll be keeping an ear open for the continued developments of this trail.  I’m sure local residents are just as excited as I am for the expansion of this trail system.

Happy Riding!