Exploring the Hardwood Trail

The wife mentioned going for a longish bike ride today, and so I took a look at some trails that we hadn’t ever explored before. I settled on the Hardwood Trail that starts in Hugo, MN. As you head north the trail eventually changes to the Sunrise Prairie Trail near Wyoming, MN, before continuing on all the way to North Branch, MN. All total it’s about 25 miles one direction.

We were interested in something shorter, so we parked in Hugo and headed south for a half a mile before hitting the southern end and turning around. We then proceeded northward until we turned around at 11th Ave. The ride north was really nice and pleasant, for one simple reason. The wind was at our backs.

We knew that there was a bit of wind from the south, but what we didn’t know was how incredibly strong it was. It turns out that 20mph sustained wind with gusts over 30mph really isn’t that much fun. Whereas we had been cruising along at an easy 14mph on the way up, the return trip barely registered 10mph. My average heart rate jumped 20bpm on the trip back, which was a pretty big indicator of how hard we were working.

It took us 47 minutes to get back to the car, and it was hard earned. That was one of the more difficult rides I’ve done, and I think in the future we should probably check the wind on the weather report before picking our route. However, besides the wind, the trail was really lovely.

IMG_0954It’s a railroad grade trail, meaning it’s pretty much flat. It’s rather exposed to the elements (which didn’t help in today’s wind), but on an overcast day I could see this being a wonderful trail to ride. Granted, we didn’t get past Forest Lake, so perhaps it’s a bit more shaded to the north.

The pavement was well maintained, and all of the street crossings were easy to navigate. Because it’s a straight line it was really easy to follow, and it meant we could just ride and enjoy the scenery. Today’s wildlife spotting’s included a couple of beautiful swans grazing in a farm field, as well as a bald eagle riding the wind currents.

I’m excited to try out more of the trail, and maybe get a group together to ride the whole 50-mile out and back distance sometime.