Turkey Creek Nature Preserve
One of the best things about cycling is the people you meet and the places you see. You never know what is going to happen.
Sometimes that can be bad. I was exploring a new route once when the road turned to dirt. My choices were equally unpleasant: Ride through the mud on tires that are designed to have as little contact with the road as possible, or else backtrack about ten miles. I picked the former, and it was not fun. Road bikes do not work well on muddy, rocky roads.
But other times the surprises are pure pleasure. Like the first time I crested Coosa Mountain heading south on Al 25. Just as the road makes a hairpin curve and heads down the mountain, there is a small gravel road shooting off to the west. I turned on it and was rewarded with a beautiful view of the land below. Or on a ride in Arkansas, I was on US 67 headed north when I saw a rider ahead of me. Naturally, I sped up so as to catch him. He was on a recumbant, and on his way from Seatle to Miami.
So it was today. I decided to do some exploring, riding from my house through Woodlawn and Eastlake into Tarrant and from there northeast towards Pinson and then back. I’ve ridden the part to Tarrant many times, but after that it was all new. I’d never ridden, nor driven, nor seen those roads.
After riding on the very pleasant Newcastle Road for five miles or so, I turned on Jackson (?) road, headed towards 79. I was going up a small hill when I saw a sign for something called the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.
“Huh,” I thought, “What’s that?” I turned into it at the entrance. There wasn’t much of anything there, just a one lane road headed in a more or less northerly direction. That was the opposite direction from what I wanted, so I almost went back to the main road and continued my trip. But having no plans for the day, and thus being in no hurry to get home, I decided to follow the road.
It dropped down the side of a hill and then curved to the east along a creek. “That must be Turkey Creek” I thought. It was beautiful. Quiet. Cool. The sun streaking through the trees. Then as I rounded a corner, I saw some falls. I stopped and pulled off the road to admire them and saw a guy down by the water.
I walked down to him, and asked about the Preserve, telling him that until now I had no idea it was here. He told me how it came to be, and explained the historical significance of the area. He said Davey Crocket had come through here once, and that this was probably the home of JeffCo’s first iron works. He said it was also home to some fish – the Vermillion Darter – that lives no-where else in the world. We talked for a half hour or so before I got back on my bike.
From there it was another twenty five miles or so back to the house. Most of it turned out to be great riding: low traffic, nice scenery, and very smooth roads. Combined with the perfect weather, it made for a fantastic ride.
Not every ride is so wonderful. Sometimes jerks in their cars try to run you over, or maybe you get caught by a rain storm, or occasionaly your legs just won’t cooperate. But all in all, cycling is one of life’s great pleasures. Never mind the health benefits, it is just the best way to get to know your town and state. Even when you don’t meet anyone new, or see grand sights like I did today, you still experience the hills and mountains, feel the cool air around the creeks, smell the flowers and plants, hear the birds, and become a part of the neighborhoods and towns you ride through.
Cars make you a spectator, a bike makes you a participant. After your bike takes you somewhere, you’ll always look at that place a little differently than you did before the ride.