Biking Wayne Fitzgerell State Park / by Erin Wade

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Occasionally work sends me out and about and, if I can, I will try to find some way to enjoy the place I've been sent in my off time. Ideally, that will take the form of a bike ride.

Wayne Fitzgerell State Park - which I'd never heard of - is located on the northern end of Rend Lake, a relatively large body of water about a half-hour south of Mount Vernon, Illinois. It's a small park, one of several that sit at the shores of Rend Lake. At least three of the parks have bike trails so I essentially picked the one that seemed to be the quickest to get to, given that I was riding at the end of the day and running out of daylight was a bit of a concern.

Though the park is not big, maps and directions within it were rather challenging to find. I ended up, after several minutes and a couple of wrong turns, first seeing the trail, and then passing a sign that said "bike trail". There doesn't appear to be any real trail head, per se; the trail map (in the picture) is more or less in the middle of the trail.

The surface was mostly crushed stone, and it was mostly fine, even for the narrow wheels of my road bike. There were a couple of spots that were a little soft, but they were brief.

As one might expect of a trail located on a lake in a prairie, it was relatively flat, and so not terribly challenging. Still, the trail offered some delightful features - occasional views of Rend Lake interspersed with views of wetlands. One portion of the trail cuts through the woods in a winding, twisting fashion that was delightful; and it was a true woods path, in that one had to be watchful for branches, pine cones, etc, along the path.

And then there were the deer.

I saw a total of 13 white-tailed deer during my trip down the path - several of them juveniles still with their spots. I wouldn't typically keep count, but after the fourth sighting or so I became curious as to just how many there would turn out to be. Signs in the park, as well as information on the website, indicate that this is a hunting site, and one can see why.

It was a short trail, all told. Riding from the middle to each end and back put me at 8.76 miles, according to Cyclemeter. Or I assume that's the length of the trail. It just sort of stops at each end, without a clear indication that you've reached a terminal point.

Biking these trails doesn't appear to be a popular activity. Granted, I was there on a Wednesday evening, but it was the last third of August - prime summer. I saw only two other riders, and they were on the park roadway, not the trail. On the trail I was entirely alone.

Which, for me, was perfectly fine.

 Had the trail entirely to myself.  

Had the trail entirely to myself.