Sunday morning was meant to be a beautiful ride around the NW metro area with my wife, clocking in a 50 mile distance. However, as the forecast started to develop it became apparent that we might be looking at a very wet ride instead. When I woke up I took another look at the forecast and the impending storms sealed the deal, we were not going to do the ride we had planned. I started googling and checking weather maps and before my wife had even crawled out of bed I had a new option on the table.
The Old Abe Trail is a 20 mile rail trail that goes between Chippewa Falls and Cornell in Wisconsin. Because of its railroad origins, the only elevation is slow climbs and descents, usually never more than 1% grade. The trail has long straight segments giving rides a view of what’s ahead for miles at a time. This monotony is broken up by the changing terrain, from pedaling along a lake to farm fields and small towns. We parked at the north end of the Riverview Reserve Park and picked up the trail from there.
One of the highlights of this route is riding along the Old Abe Lake. This widening of the Chippewa River is scenic and beautiful, and we found many different spots to stop and take in the view. This lake was formed by the damming of the river in Jim Falls and has since created a picturesque spot where fish are plentiful, and the topography creates lots of small islands and peninsulas.
For those that are curious, Old Abe was the mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the American Civil War. Old Abe was captured near Park Falls, WI, a little ways north of where this trail goes. Needless to say, she became a cultural phenomenon in the area, with a giant monument in Jim Falls, in addition to the trail and lake namesakes.
Upon reaching Cornell we found a gas station to get some snacks and then began the journey back. Despite being ‘ever so slightly’ downhill, we did face a bit of a headwind. That made the return journey slower and more taxing than we would have liked, but overall it gave us more motivation to stop and pull over and take in the sights more often.
We ended the trip with just over 40 miles, a bit lower than our original plan, but given that we were 90 minutes from home, we were OK with it. It’s crazy how less than a hundred miles can make a difference between staying dry or soaking wet. Plus, we got to experience a whole new area that we had never seen before.
We ended the day with a stop at The Brewing Projekt in Eau Claire, WI before driving home and trying to recuperate from a long weekend.
The Old Abe Trail was a lot of fun and was a great way to spend a day avoiding weather. It’s an easy drive from the Twin Cities and if you go just another mile up the trail from Cornell, you can spend some time at a State Park. We didn’t go all the way to the park, so now we have a reason to go back and do another day on the Old Abe.