Monday, April 14, 2014

Tunnel Hill State Trail

We are extending our time here in Illinois for another couple of weeks, as we are continuing to enjoy visiting with our daughter Melissa, husband Spencer and grandson Nathan.  Ordinarily the days of cool damp weather would bother us and we would move on.  However, it does not seem easy to leave little Nathan!
Saturday was a warm day, albeit very breezy.  We decided that it was about time to get out on our bikes once again and try a section of the Tunnel Hill Trail.  The trail, once a railroad line, was developed by the state of Illinois for hikers, bikers and joggers in 1998.  Pictured above is the tunnel for which the trail is named.  From 1870, and for the next 100 years, trains traversed through this tunnel and across southern Illinois carrying products from the fertile farmland of the area, as well as coal and timber to distant markets.  It was Ambrose Burnside, a Civil War General, who at first encouraged the building of the railroad to transport coal.  As a side note here, the way the General wore his whiskers gave us the word burnside, or sideburns.
There are 23 trestles along sections of the Tunnel Hill Trail.  Pictured above is the Breeden Trestle. the longest and the highest of all of them ( 90 feet high and 450 feet long).  It is a little over 2 feet south from from Tunnel Hill.   Our goal was to bike through the tunnel and go a bit beyond to the first trestle.  Going through the tunnel was a bit disconcerting because on a small portion of it we were in absolute darkness.  It was such a strange feeling to bike over a surface which I could not see.  Fortunately, about the time I was ready to panic, a glimmer of light came through from the opening at the end of the tunnel. 
I can well imagine that you are not impressed by the gray, wintery appearance of the trail.  However, the lack of foliage on the oak, hickory, cottonwood and sweet gum trees brought the river valleys and rocky bluffs into better view.  At this time of the year there are a few trees with white flowers on them, also some red bud trees in bloom.  We also were thrilled by a large patch of violets blooming along the trail.  Spring has to be coming soon!

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