I grew up in the Chicago suburbs in the 1950s (Yes, I’m old). Back then, streets were laid out in a grid pattern, and blocks of houses went on and on. Of course, streets were for cars to get to and from the houses. Bikes were what kids rode to each other’s house, and to the baseball diamond, but rarely more than a couple of miles at a time. Even though we were well out of the big city, we were in an environment that was more urban than not.
Now, I’m in the suburbs again, even though my neighborhood is within the Austin city limits. But boy, is it a different feeling than the 1950s Chicago suburbs.
Less than a mile from my house is a large metropolitan park. It’s known for its large number of soccer fields, but it has playgrounds for kids and a disc golf course — and trails.
They’re multi-use trails, popular with hikers and people walking dogs. But mountain bikes have made them home.
The other day, I set off to ride some of these trails. I wanted to get some mountain bike miles in after several days of road riding.
After heading east in the metro park, I reached a small subdivision. I crossed it in a matter of minutes, and set out for another subdivision just a half mile away.
It’s called Bauerle Ranch. It was built in about 2005, so is relatively new — even around here. But for me, the neat thing about Bauerle Ranch is its trail network.
We enter Bauerle Ranch from the northwest corner, and immediately have a choice of two trails. Bird’s Nest goes off to the left, and skirts the north side of the development. Cactus Ridge goes off to the right, and takes the rider down the west side to the south end. They’re criss-crossed by other, shorter trails that give the biker lots of options to add mileage while not straying too far.
In some spots, the trails are a bit rough, laced with rock gardens of varying difficulty. In other spots, the singletrack widens to a nice two-abreast trail — not at all challenging to ride, but a nice respite from some twisty bits.
The west side of the park is in a creek valley, and the trails crossing to the east go up increasingly steep hills. The mountain biker has a challenge making it to the top, fighting a combination of a grade and the loose rocks that litter the trail.
It doesn’t take too long to make a circuit of Bauerle Ranch. I did it in a little over a half hour, including a rest stop at a convenient bench along the trail. But it’s a worthwhile destination for a mountain bike, and it provides relief from the increasingly congested and bike-unfriendly roads in our area. As more developments spring up in our growing city, here’s hoping the developers incorporate trail systems like this one.