Crosby Farm Regional Park hugs the north shore of the Mississippi river as it winds through St. Paul. Tall limestone bluffs separate the park land on the river flats from the traffic and buildings of the city. Maps and descriptions of the park I found online showed about 5 miles of paved trail snaking through the park. Friday afternoon after work I drove there on the way home to give it a ride and see what it is like as a unicycle destination.
The entry to the park is just past the Ford plant where they are sputtering out the last of the Ranger trucks before shuttering the buildings. The park has lots of parking which made me think at first that it is heavily used, but in reality I think it is a hidden gem. Very few cars - maybe 5 or 6 - were in the lot that afternoon. Maybe the cloudy cool weather was keeping others away. The 6' wide asphalt-paved trail ran alongside the parking lots and was easy to find before it headed out into the bush.
Back in the lot by my parked car I tried three times to mount, and realized it would be one of those rides where I always feel awkward and never quite settled on the seat. Finally I caught my balance and was off and riding. I literally rode the first mile without seeing anyone. During the whole ride I saw perhaps three or four couples walking, a woman walking her pit bull (the only dog that has ever growled at me passing by) and a group of high school kids at a picnic shelter.
The path, as you can see by the map, follows the river. I had long stretches of the Mississippi to myself in the middle of the Metro Twin Cities! Two short, but steep, abrupt climbs beat me both going up and coming back down. There were other hills, but manageable when I focused on keeping my feet firmly planted on the pedals during the upstroke, and particularly just before applying power on the downstroke. I would have preferred packed dirt like the Gateway, but really this was fine. The site and trail actually felt very remote at times.
What did I learn on this ride? Well, maybe it was that when riding a new path more of my attention is spent thinking about route options, distances, and discovering new surroundings than on technique. From the parking lot I knew this wasn't going to be a technically adept ride...I wasn't feeling balanced and pavement isn't my favorite...but I was very pleased that so much of the path was on or within sight of the great river. I'd like to figure out a way to cross the river and continue the ride on paths on the souther side. I also realized that I prefer to feel the resistance of a dirt path to the hard roll of pavement.
View Hidden Falls Park Ride in a larger map