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Published June 17, 2012, 12:00 AM

Glacial Lakes State Trail more than its length indicates

I’ve spent what most people would consider way too much time riding my bike on the Glacial Lakes State Trail.

By: By Gary Miller, Forum Communications Co.

I’ve spent what most people would consider way too much time riding my bike on the Glacial Lakes State Trail.

For me, the trail is like a small interstate through the heart of Kandiyohi County’s lake country from Willmar in west-central Minnesota to the Stearns County line past Hawick.

That’s 22 miles, but I’ve used Glacial Lakes as the anchor of rides ranging from 50 to 100 miles long.

Built on an old railroad grade, the trail offers an all-paved, mostly flat route through the county’s wetlands, lakes and fields. Much of the trail is open allowing a panoramic view of the country formed 10,000 years ago by glaciers.

Those are the areas where I’ve seen wild turkey, deer, eagles, pheasants and, very recently, a wild canine that may have been a coyote or a wolf.

Other stretches of the trail are lined with trees that, during the summer, create a canopy of leaves offering cool shade from a hot sun.

While I like to bike Glacial Lakes, I see people hiking, in-line skating or riding horseback.

I compared the trail earlier to an interstate and, like that type of thoroughfare, Glacial Lakes has exits.

One of my favorite exits is in Spicer, located a little past the trail’s six-mile marker. Spicer is situated on the shore of Green Lake, the largest lake in the county.

Roads around the lake either have trails alongside them or shoulders designated for hikers

and bikers.

It’s about 12 miles around the lake and back to Spicer, but I prefer returning to the trail about three-quarters of the way to Spicer at Nest Lake.

There’s a bridge on State Highway 23 there and a paved path under it.

On the other side is the public access to Nest Lake and a ramp onto the trail.

An old railroad bridge on the trail crosses Nest Lake that is, in my opinion, one of the most picturesque spots on Glacial Lakes.

From there, the trail continues on to New London, where there’s another exit.

Take County Road 9 past the town’s Mill Pond and through a colorful, old-fashioned downtown and continue on 9 until you reach County Road 148. Ride the shoulder of 148 – designated for biking – for 4½ miles and you’re at Sibley State Park.

One of my favorite exits from Glacial Lakes doesn’t seem to be an exit at all. Cross the road at the Stearns County line and there’s another trail that connects Glacial Lakes to the city of Paynesville.

The additional stretch of trail leads across Highway 23 to Paynesville Area Secondary Schools parking lot. Signs in the parking lot indicate the beginning of a 15-mile bike route around Lake Koronis.

Just pedaling out to Paynesville, around Koronis and back to Willmar is a 75-mile ride. Take a couple other exits and it’s not hard to ride 100 miles using Glacial Lakes as the central path of a day-long adventure.

Gary Miller writes for the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minn.

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