Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thornapple Trail (Caledonia to Dutton)

Last Fall, I rode a short section of the Paul Henry Thornapple Trail starting in Middleville.  A few days ago, I re-rode that section (which was beautiful, with a large number of Sandhill cranes on the millpond) and then decided to try another segment of the trail.  This section started in Caledonia, a few miles north of Middleville.  Since I hadn't planned to ride both parts, I didn't note where the Caledonia trail started but it was easy enough to figure out by considering its history.  The trail runs along an old Grand River Valley Railroad right-of-way which linked industries and businesses that needed freight transportation.  The biggest buildings in Caledonia are in a complex of grain elevators, that were served by the railroad years ago.  Once I saw the elevators, I guessed the trail would be nearby and found it quickly.  (On Main Street, just west of Mill Avenue.)

The trail was smoothly paved asphalt and ran for about 5 miles to suburban Grand Rapids.  The trail seemed to alternate between right-of-ways for the old rail line and current powerlines, so long stretches would be perfectly straight, then a few turns would connect to a new section.  Near Caledonia, the trail offered short connecting paths to Caledonia Lakeside Park  and the Caledonia High School.  Outside of town, the trail passed farms and fields.  Approaching Grand Rapids, new suburban homes sprung up from cornfields and in the distance I could see the airport tower.  The trail ended at the intersection of 68th Street and E. Paris Avenue, next to a Steelcase factory and a landscape supply business.

Future plans are to extend the trail south to Middleville (and beyond) and to connect to the Kent County Trail system to the north.  This will be a great ride when it's complete.

Caledonia trailhead

Caledonia, MI 49316

Dutton trail end
6820 East Paris Ave SE
Caledonia, MI 49316

[Addresses are approximate]

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