Sunday, February 3, 2013

Eau Claire River Trail

We had a great hike today... then I got home and realized all the photos I took were terrible! The settings were off and the pictures are all "washed out" from too much sunlight. Ugh. I have to keep telling myself to be patient while I'm learning how to use my new camera.

Even though my pictures didn't work for this post, I still want to tell you about this super-awesome trail. (And I'm going to cheat by inserting photos from a hike we took back in December along with some of the crappy ones I took today).

Trail leading from parking lot

The temperature got up to 14 degrees today but the windchill was still below zero. The sun peaked out from the clouds intermittently and I tried to take advantage of the sunny interludes with my camera. The snow was so sparkly! Oh how I wish some of those photos turned out! Okay... I'm letting it go.

One of the entrances to this trail is off Schofield Avenue on Ryan Street in Weston. There's a tiny parking lot and a long walk back into the woods to the river. The trail follows the winding river for a a little more than a mile and then ends in a neighborhood, where you can turn around and head back to explore the other fork. The trail is surrounded by marshland and prairie, in addition to the river. At Jaeger Prairie, there's a boulder with a cute "map" etched into it; this will help you visualize the rest of the trail.

Because of the cold weather, there were no other people on the trail today. Just the "caw" of the crows, which always seem to be there no matter what time of the year. The Weston Dog Park is also nearby, and we could hear the faraway bark of a dog.

I don't think too many people know this trail is even here. I remember the first time I found it a couple of years ago... I was on my lunch break from work and looking for a quiet place to park my Jeep while I ate. I found the parking lot, saw the sign and decided to walk down the trail and see where it went. I was so mad that this trail had been here all this time and I had only just found it!

There are park benches, tables, garbage containers and cute little bridges throughout the trail. The babbling of the river over rocks and logs is so peaceful and relaxing in the summer. There's a rope swing over a shallow part of the river where kids go swimming. Kayakers and canoers can languidly float downstream. I've personally seen many deer and even a coyote once. It's been reported that a black bear is also in the area, although I've never seen it myself. The tapping of woodpeckers can be heard all year long, as well as the chirping of many other birds. It's a slice of nature right on the edge of a subdivision.

Near the trail head at Ryan Street is the Mountain Bay Trail, where you can walk or bike for miles. Between the Eau Claire River Trail, Mountain Bay Trail and the Weston Dog Park, there are so many opportunities for hiking in a relatively small area. Get out there and explore!

Happy Hiking!