Yesterday I found myself riding the Prairie Spirit Trail in the eastern third of Kansas for Rick’s Birthday Ride. (Find our riding group at Meetup’s BOB Rides.) The Prairie Spirit is a rails-to-trails ride running about 52 miles with Ottawa and Humbolt as the trial ends. Over the years I have ridden this trail several times in bits and pieces including the 50 mile round trip (almost exactly!) from Ottawa to Garnett and back.
The trail has little elevation, as do most rail-to-trail projects. In fact, my Garmin showed 745 feet of total elevation over those 50.01 miles. Therefore, recreational bicyclists should feel comfortable that they can ride without too much stress and that way they can just focus on the miles, rather than the hills. Of course, in Kansas our winds can definitely make up for the lack of elevation in this part of the state.
On this day, however, the winds were minimal and out of the due north. What I love about this trail is that it is a great trail on which to get back in shape. Through the city limits of Ottawa and Garnett you are on paved bike paths that are well marked. Once outside those two cities you are on well cared for crushed limestone. Even 28mm road tires would perform okay on about 85% of the ride, though I definitely recommend something a little wider and not slick. You will also find restrooms in Princeton and Richmond, though it must be noted that they were closed yesterday and I suspect most of the winter.
As you ride, even in winter, you will see animals scurrying here and there. Mostly cats, dogs, squirrels, etc., though I have seen wild turkey, deer and a coyote or two. In spring, flowers abound and birds chirp happily. Because this is an old railroad line, there are walls of trees that line the trail outside the city limits and can really cut down on the wind, making almost any day a pleasant day to ride.
To all the volunteers that have tended this trail over the years I want so say a hearty “Thank you.” As I understand it, beginning January 1, 2019 I will no longer need to purchase a permit to ride the trail. Hopefully, that means more people will get out and enjoy riding the Prairie Spirit Trail.