Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Little Miami Scenic Trail -- Day 1

One day last week I was reading a post by Larry Varney, Co-Editor of the excellent recumbent website "Bentrider Online".  In the post A Week On The Katy Trail Larry talks about long rides on bike paths.  While his post concentrated on the Katy Trail in Missouri Larry also mentioned the Little Miami Scenic Trail that is here in Ohio.  The LMST is a path I've wanted to check out for a couple years.  

Larry's post spurred me into motion and everything seemed to be lining up perfect to make a weekend of it.  I checked the availability of campsites at Caesar Creek State Park located at about the half way point of the 75 mile paved bike path that runs between Springfield and Cincinnati, Ohio.  There was a few tent site still open so I used satellite maps to reconnoiter the campground and made reservations for Friday and Saturday nights.  I spent the rest of the week preparing my gear and worrying about this and that.  I hate making plans and commitments but exploring a new place on my bike is just too big a draw for me and I will accept a little trouble.  

I had everything ready to roll except my cooler which I quickly filled when I got home from work.  I loaded the recumbent on the rack and hit the road.  If I'm leaving on a Friday afternoon I like to arrive with at least an hour of daylight left to set up camp and maybe cook a late dinner.  What should have been an easy two hour drive stretched to three when I spent an agonizing whole hour just getting through the Columbus, Ohio area.  A combination of rush hour and construction bottle necks had the flow stop and go for miles.  Instances like these remind me why I really don't care for big cities.

Eventually I did make it to the park as night was falling and my heightened state of irritability was ratcheted up a yet few more notches when I pulled up to my reserved campsite and found a couple already set up enjoying the evening by the campfire.  I couldn't believe it!  I parked my car and double checked that I was indeed looking at the correct site.  Putting on my happy mask I approached the couple and showed them my reservation and informed them that they were set up on my site.  I dislike confrontation and I always try to go out of my way to be a gentleman in cases like these.  They were apologetic and made an offer to quickly move but I asked them to sit tight and I would go back to the front gate and see if there was any other sites open.  An excuse was made that the little post at the front of the campsite had no "Reserved" note clipped to it.  If that was the case then the park operation screwed things up.  Explaining the situation at the check in desk the clerks apologized for the mix up and said they would have them removed from my site right away.  I told them that if they had another site still open I'd be happy to take a substitute.  I just needed a place to put down my tent. 

Lucky for everybody there was an open spot around the corner and finally I could set up my camp.  At least I had a partial moon shining down to make it a little better than operating in pitch blackness.  If I'm travelling solo I have a small dome tent that I've owned for twenty years.  I've set it up and taken it down so many times over the years that I can practically do it in the dark.  

By this time I was tired; my nerves frazzled by the long drive and I considered waiting until the next morning to cover the picnic table and unload my stove and cooking gear.  After a second thought I decided to get out my stove and warm a little water for some tea.  Evidently fate wasn't done with me yet and when I went to pump the piston to generate pressure in the Coleman stove's fuel take I found the plunger had no resistance and would build no pressure.  At this point my despair sunk to new lows.  The thought of getting back in the car now was out of the question.  I would have to go out in the morning and find a solution to my problem.  The one draw back with this scenario is that I don't like to do any problem solving until I've had my coffee and now I had no way to even heat some water.  Dejected and beat I went to bed.  Adversity builds character I kept telling myself.

I slept very good my first night which is a rarity waking first light in a much better mood.  Without too much trouble I found a Walmart and got a new piston for the stove for $10.  Now I really can't complain about my stove.  It has served me faithfully for twenty years without a single problem.  And good on Coleman for supporting a great design that's been around for a couple generations. My parents used Coleman stoves as did my grandparents who were campers way back in the day.  I love the fact that I could pick up a part in a local Walmart swap out the worn one and be cooking in just half a minute.  Once I compared the old and new pistons side by side I could see that the little dish shaped rubber gasket on the original stem had simple lost its ability to expand and create seal inside the cylinder.  

After coffee and a big bowl of oatmeal I was feeling ready for some adventure and the stove episode had only cost about an extra hour of the day.  

I like reading accounts of bicycle touring.  It's always been something I've thought seems interesting but I'm just not crazy about about loading down my bike with racks or towing a trailer.  I like the comfort that comes along with car camping so I don't mind integrating the two by setting up near a trail or riding area then biking out a different direction each day of my mini-tour.  For that reason I chose Caesar Creek which is near the small village of Corwin which would be my staging area. 

Little Miami River south of Corwin, Ohio

I rolled out a little later than I had planned but still had plenty of time to cover as much of the southern end of the trail as possible.  The weather was picture perfect early fall; warm and sunny with a light breeze coming from the north east.

The LMST follows the grade of the Little Miami Railroad which was constructed during the years of 1837 to 1845.  The railway linked up the cities of Cincinnati, Xenia and Springfield to the north.  This railroad was one of the most successful and profitable in the U.S. carrying both passengers and freight. The line changed hands several times over the years and passenger service declined in the mid 1900's while freight service carried on until the line's abandonment in 1976.  A hundred and forty years the LMRR operated.  I think it is very cool that these old right of ways are preserved today as recreational paths.  I find it so interesting to cruise along the path and think of all the history and what it must have been like to travel by rail as a passenger or perhaps make a living working on the line.  If it wasn't for bike trails this early American infrastructure would slowly be reclaimed by nature and fade from memory leaving nothing but some old pictures and a few entries in the history books.

The southern leg of the trail hugs closer to the river because the valley is narrower.  The area is remote with lots of trees along both sides of the trail and the river peeking out once in a while along the route.  Below I took this picture of a horse ranch which was one of the few places where the tree cover gave way.  

Road crossings were also much farther apart than the trails I'm used to up in north central Ohio.  It seemed like four or five miles passed by between crossings at some points along the way. 

It's always a little awe inspiring to come across big bridges after traveling through wild areas and seeing nothing but woods and sky for a time.  This steel bridge carries Interstate 71 over the Little Miami Valley.  The steel construction is old and soon to be decommissioned.  The concrete center section is the new part and I'm assuming a second one will be constructed to handle the lanes traveling in the other direction.

Speaking of bridges I expected to see more old railroad iron but I only found two all weekend.  The first I crossed coming into the town of Morrow. 

Morrow is one of those quaint old towns whose main thoroughfare was the railroad.  The buildings are arranged in a crescent shape matching the curve of the railroad.  Now the town's center is a bike trail.  How cool is that?

As I rounded the bend and passed into town I came to Morrow Station.  Of course laid back on my recumbent I noticed a telegraph pole standing proudly beside the station.

Vintage Hemingrays Awesome!

I like the design of this station with its big overhang all around.  Even on a windy and rainy day a dry spot could be found while waiting for the train.

I took a short break here and checked out this old Pennsylvania Rail Road Caboose that was built in 1905.

As I continued south getting closer to Cincinnati I came into more populated areas but in the sheltered and wooded valley next to the river I couldn't tell.  Suddenly the trees gave way to this old industrial complex known as the Peters Cartridge Company.  I took a couple more photos of this unique looking place so I'll revisit in another post.  

Once past the factory it was back into the woods.  The dappled sunlight through the trees was delightful.  I actually got a suntan in October spending the day on the bike.  I love when I'm out on my bike away from the cars on a day like this everything is right with the world.

Here is a smaller yet picturesque arch bridge I thought I wouldn't be able to get a clear shot of through the woods.  Downstream a bit I did find a spot where I could get down to the water's edge for a better vantage point.

After a couple hours I pulled into the town of Loveland.  Here I found trendy shops and eateries along the trail. 

There was some festival going on called "Tastes of Loveland" or some such but I had already picked a spot I wanted to check out when I was researching the route on the computer.

One of the trail websites I was looking on had an advertisement for Paxton's Grill. I figured with this place selling itself right next to the bike trail I wouldn't be out of place walking in with my stretchy bike suit on.  

The place was packed but I scored an empty table by the window and enjoyed a couple brown ales from the tap while I waited on a cheeseburger.  

Yes there was a patty between that bun it was just hidden under that fresh green lettuce.

After a couple beers and the delicious burger and fries I wandered around the town for a while to let the food settle.  I visited the local bike shop where I purchased a new brass bell for my bike.  I also found the Loveland Station which now houses a runners equipment shop.  I stocked up on Cliff Bars and gel packs there.

I originally planned to ride south for around 36 miles to the town of Millford but the day was getting on and after loitering around in Loveland I decided to head back up the trail.  I wanted to have a little daylight left when I got back to camp and turning around in Loveland I'd still end up with a respectable 55.4 miles for the day.

Here's a couple great shots I got on the way back as the shadows were going long. 

The southbound run was a gradual downhill with a slight tailwind so I had to force myself to take it easy.  Riding back up the trail the uphill grade was more pronounced and my average speed dropped off a couple or three mph.

Once back to camp I got a hot shower and lounged around my campsite while I heated some spicy chili on the stove.  After my meal and dusk turned slowly to night I enjoyed a cup of strong Irish tea and listened to my portable short wave radio.  Not long after the content feeling of a full belly and satisfaction that comes only from a day on the bike I could feel the tired coming on.  I turned in for some well earned rest waking only late in the night to sounds of hoot owls and a pack of coyotes passing not too far off.



  1. What a beautiful ride! Your post makes me want to check out Ohio, of all places. Who knew it could be so pretty?

  2. that's a awesome trip. I did a ride from London ( west of Columbus) on the prairie grass trail and met up with the Iittle Miami in Xenia then rode it south to Loveland. Met the rest of the family at a hotel and went to kings island.. I recognize many of the places you took photos of. Well worth the trip.

    1. Right on James.
      I am so envious of Ohioans down in that part of the state who have that huge network of trails connecting the major cities. I hope to get back down and ride some of the other trails at some point.