Yesterday Eric and I checked out the newly opened segment of the Southern Walnut Creek Hike and Bike Trail in East Austin. When completed, the trail will span from Govalle Park to Johnny Morris Road and will eventually connect to a planned path all the way out to Manor.
The trail is well east of our house and doesn't really go anywhere I need to be. Still, it's an awesome recreational amenity that winds through a somewhat neglected part of town.
I'm especially excited about it because I know lots of people who enjoy riding bikes but (understandably) aren't comfortable riding in Austin traffic or on the completely-packed-with-humanity trail along Lady Bird Lake.
This trail is perfect for casual riders. It's wide, smooth, safe, and well graded. Major roads and the railroad tracks are avoided by underpasses. There are a few hills, but they're manageable and add some interest to the ride.
We felt kind of lame putting our bikes in the truck and driving over to the trailhead instead of riding there, but crossing 183 on a bike is no damn fun at best. We parked at the back of the lot at the YMCA on East 51st. The trail is right there, along the soccer fields. (You can pick it up at Loyola Lane too, but the Y seemed easier.)
Most of the trail runs parallel to Walnut Creek...
...which is admittedly not very lovely. The creek isn't visible for most of the way, though, and the trail is lined with trees that will provide beauty and shade in spring.
Riding under 183 was kind of cool. I have crossed that bridge on my car many times and always liked looking down at Boggy Creek. It was fun to finally get down there.
It only took us a half an hour to zip from 183/51st to the current terminus at Jain Lane, so on the way back we decided to take a detour on a wooded path that split off the trail just west of Jain.
I don't know who maintains the decomposed granite path there, or why, but it was fun as hell riding through the dim, slightly creepy woods.
We saw a ton of birds on the ride, too. Hawks (BEEEEE-Yaw!), black vultures, cardinals, jays, doves, crows, and an egret. We also heard a critter crashing around in the brush so clumsily that it had to be an armadillo.
If you want an easy, somewhat secluded place to ride in Austin, I can't recommend this trail enough. I'm looking forward to riding it again already.