Peterson Pits - Bridging the Gap - CycleBlaze

April 30, 2020

Peterson Pits

Today is my brother-in-law’s 70th birthday and we have scheduled a small mid-afternoon zoom celebration. It’s something I don’t want to miss, but I’m also keen to ride as this is one of the best days we’ve had in a while. My plan is to explore some of the off-road trails in Peterson Pits, a 200-acre former gravel pit located along the Skunk River Greenbelt.

 I headed north through the Ada Hayden Heritage Park, taking the upper gravel trail and stopping at the Medicine Wheel, which was constructed to honor the First Nation people the Great Plains. This wheel lacks the spokes that are common in most Medicine Wheels, but does include a central stone cairn and colored flags denoting the four cardinal directions. Joining me at the wheel was a very well-behaved Brittany Spaniel – whose human sister was somewhere in the woods taking a nature break.

Gravel trail along the upper section of Ada Hayden Heritage Park
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Ada Hayden Heritage Park
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Medicine Wheel, with bike and dog
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Trinkets placed in the central cairn include a Virgin of Guadalupe candle, incense, sunglasses, pine cones and a peace button
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Good dog!
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Rachael AndersonIt’s nice to see a well behaved dog!
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2 weeks ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rachael AndersonIndeed! She was a real sweetheart - reminded me of the English Springer Spaniel we had when I was growing up
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2 weeks ago

Leaving Ada Hayden, I skirted the residential areas of northeast Ames before reaching the entrance to West Peterson Park, located on the west bank of the Skunk River. I’d not been here in years, back when I would bring my dog out for long walks or cross-country skiing. The gravel road passed by fields and a small prairie before arriving at the 31-acre Peterson Lake, where many local residents enjoy swimming and fishing. Today, geese were the only ones sunning on the beach or enjoying a swim in the lake. The areas beyond the parking lot were accessible only by trail, which started off wide and well-packed but narrowed as it entered the woods surrounding northern and eastern sides of the lake. The surface quality varied as well - sometimes grass and sometimes softer dirt or sand. The experience flooded me with memories of the Canal du Midi (without the threat of falling into the canal) and other route (mis)adventures during my first self-contained tour of France. It was a nervous excitement that left me wanting more. Due to time constraints, however, I was hesitant to explore the full network of trails so I just circled the lake to the west side of the prairie and back to the park entrance.

It is officially West Peterson Park, but we all know if as Peterson Pits
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Entrance to Peterson Pits
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Beach looks empty from here
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But geese are sunning and swimming
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Taking the young 'uns out for a swim
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Vincent enjoys hanging out in the sun while I explore the beach
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Trail starts out wide...
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...narrows a bit through the woods
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...before turning to grass along the power lines.
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My off-road trail adventures ended at the small prairie near the Peterson Pits entrance
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Not quite ready to return to Ames, I headed north just before crossing the Skunk River. A small gravel (mostly dirt) road led up to an old farmstead nestled amongst trees, overlooking verdant pastures along the Skunk River Greenbelt  – the kind of place I’ve long been attracted to. Then it was back to the heavy gravel where my sole companions were the postman and farm vehicles. I crossed US Hwy 69 and was back on pavement, soon heading south on the Gilbert bike path. I arrived home in time for a shower and lunch before settling in for the birthday celebration, capped by the off-key singing of the three Carpenter girls. Cheers, Ken!

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Silo and sagging roof
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Looking northeast towards the Skunk River Greenbelt
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Looking east towards the Skunk River Greenbelt
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Looking south toward Peterson Pits
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Sharing the road
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Wings spread, working the field, kicking dust
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A trio of my favorite barns along the Gilbert bike path
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Home
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Today's ride: 21 miles (34 km)
Total: 389 miles (626 km)

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