I finally pulled my bike out of the garage Tuesday for the first ride of the season. Normally, this would be early for a first ride. But we were spoiled in Milwaukee this year with not only a mild winter, but also the warmest March on record. With highs in the 60s and 70s for most of the week, I’m cautiously optimistic I can store the winter jackets until November and start preparing for my Elroy–Sparta trip.
The Elroy–Sparta State Trail was the first rail-to-trail route in the country and celebrates 35 years this year. What draws most people is the fact that the trail passes through three train tunnels that date back more than 100 years. And because it follows an old railroad route, the grade is slight and easily biked by even the most recreational biker. Roundtrip, the route is about 65 miles. This wouldn’t be impossible to do in one day, but it would certainly be challenging, even without hills. Plus, I’d prefer to take it at a leisurely pace and actually enjoy the ride. I’d like to do the entire route and make it a two-day trip, so I’m thinking I will start in Elroy, bike to Sparta and camp there, then bike back to Elroy the next day. This means I’ll have to do a little more planning of where I’ll leave my car, when I’ll set up camp, if I’ll carry my gear on my bikes, etc.
The only catch is the campsites in Sparta are non-reservable, which means I might have to drop off my camping stuff in the morning to make sure I have a site before I start riding. This creates a little extra driving, but ensures I have a site at the end of the day.
The other challenge will be getting my camping gear back to Elroy in the morning. I’ve backpacked before, but I’ve never carried my gear with me on my bike. I think you can rent bike trailers in Kendall, so maybe I’ll go with that.
Have you biked Elroy–Sparta and camped at one end of the trail? Any suggestions for how early we should plan on getting there to get a site?