Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Take the Light Rail To Folsom and Ride the American River Parkway

Monday I took my bike on Sacramento's Regional Transit light rail train to the last stop in historic Folsom and then road it all the way back home, some 30 miles along the American River bike path.

If biking holds any appeal for you whatsoever, I highly recommend replicating some or all of this adventure. Some of my readers will be the sorts that can ride 60 miles in a day, in which case, enjoy riding both ways (uphill and down). But up until Monday I had never ridden more than 20 miles in one day, so this was a stretch for me.

It took me an hour and $2.00 to get from Sacramento to Folsom on the train. It took me 4 hours (even on my killer (borrowed) custom-made road bike I bike really slow) to bike back. A fit fast pedaling individual would probably do it in half the time.

There were some challenges presented in planning the trip. Nowhere online could I find an address or description of where the light rail station is in Folsom. The RT website confirms that it goes to "historic Folsom" but declines further information. Various friends of mine speculated as to where I would get out, most visualizing that I would be on the south (wrong) side of Highway 50, needing to cross it to get to the river parkway.

The reality is that it couldn't be easier to get on (I almost said "access" but I really think that's an obnoxious verb) the bike trail from the train stop. The Historic Folsom light rail station is located at Sutter and Reading in old Folsom. When you exit the train, you turn left, go to the end of the parking lot and there, to the left of the American River Bridge, is a little path that dumps you directly onto the parkway. It's maybe a total of 150 yards from the train to the river!

The ride from Folsom to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery is breathtaking. You're on the south side of the river, right down by the river seeing and hearing no traffic. On a gorgeous fall day, with my ipod blaring (hmmm, traffic?), I was completely blissed out. If riding all the way from Folsom to Sacramento intimidates you, consider doing just this stretch and then peeling off and crossing over the fairly obvious pedestrian bridge at the Fish Hatchery to return to Sacto from the Hazel ave.

Once you circumnavigate that part and the recreation places at the base of Lake Natoma (all easy and obvious on bike path that takes you slightly away from the river), there's another great stretch down to Goethe (inexplicably pronounced by the locals "Gay-tea") Park where you are forced to cross the river on a nice bridge. The whole rest of the way is very nice but less compelling than the initial stretch since you are often separated from views of the river by bushes or trees. If you're like me, you may spend the last hour thinking mostly about how sore your butt is.

Living right downtown, 5 blocks from the Sacramento River, I, of course, road to Discovery Park at the junction of the two rivers, crossed back over the American and headed down the Sacramento through Old Sacramento to get home.

Most importantly, I remembered along the way and at the end to be grateful for my health, the bike, the time on a weekday, healthy kids at school, the great weather, the river itself and the years, money and imagination it took to build the parkway and the light rail.

All in all, a day well spent.

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