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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Riding the MCT Quercus Grove Trail

Despite not being able to go on RAGBRAI this week as I had originally hoped, I decided to get as many good rides in as I can this week.

As one of those, I decided to check out the new sections of Madison County Transit's Quercus Grove Trail, which links the Illinois communities of Edwardsville and Staunton. I wrote about the dedication of the new sections early last week,

Taking advantage of the delightful temperatures Monday afternoon and evening, I took off from Collinsville on the MCT Schoolhouse Trail, took the Goshen Trail into Edwardsville and hopped on the Nickel Plate Trail to the Quercus Grove Trail.

Navigating the trails through Edwardsville can be somewhat difficult. MCT has plans to build an underpass for the Nickel Plate Trail underneath Troy Road/South Buchanan Street in Edwardsville that will simplify things considerably. Until then, you need to do this:
  • Coming from the south on either the Goshen or Nickel Plate trails, you will need to go left on the spur that takes you to the Nature Trail.
  • Instead of turning right on the Nature Trail toward Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, turn left and go through the underpass.
  • Turn left onto the Nature Trail.
  • A short distance north, the paved trail goes to the left. Stay straight on the crushed limestone trail.
  • Take the limestone trail to Troy Road/South Buchanan and use care in crossing the busy street.
  • The Nickel Plate Trail resumes to the right side of the concrete barriers. Take the trail to the intersection of Springer Street and Schwarz Road.
At that point, the Quercus Grove Trail begins to the north; the Nickel Plate Trail continues to the east. You'll navigate some sidewalks and alleys to the intersection of Illinois Routes 143 and 157. Cross the intersection, turn left on the sidewalk, then turn right onto the Quercus Grove Trail.

The Quercus Grove Trail has an asphalt surface between Edwardsville and Hazel Road. After that, you'll travel 2.75 miles on crushed limestone trail to Jerusalem Road. Turn right on Jerusalem, which is an oil-and-chip road, cross Route 157 and turn left on an asphalt stretch of the trail and ride into Hamel.

Once in Hamel, the off-road trail ends for a little bit, and you'll want to turn onto Route 157 -- an old alignment of U.S. Route 66 -- and take that to the intersection of Illinois Route 140. Route 157 ends there, but the old alignment of Route 66 continues north as a frontage road to Interstate 55. Take the frontage road one block to Schroeder Ave., turn left, then immediately turn right onto the trail.

For a short distance before reaching Worden, you'll share the road under a railroad overpass, but the trail resumes and skirts the eastern edge of Worden on its way to Staunton.

Before reaching Staunton, there is a 0.6-mile stretch of limestone trail between Spangle Road and Illinois Route 4, but the the rest of the trail between Hamel and Staunton is paved.

A round trip from Collinsville to Staunton is about 60 miles, a good day ride I recommend. You'll have to get off the trail for a little bit, but there are places to get a snack or perhaps a full meal in Edwardsville, Hamel, Worden and Staunton. You can navigate the limestone sections of the trail with a road bike. If you don't want to take a road bike out on limestone trails, then a hybrid's your best bet.

If you want to ride on a road bike, make sure your tires are in good shape before riding those sections. I found out the hard way on the way back from Staunton in the evening. I got a slow leak in the rear tire -- of course -- on the limestone stretch between Jerusalem and Hazel roads. That pretty much assured that I was going to be pushing the edges of dusk by the time I got back to Collinsville.

While the Schoolhouse Trail is downhill from Maryville to Collinsville, the dusk brought out the deer along the trail. I met up with three of them along the trail -- close enough to startle me, but not close enough to run into me.


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Roger 3 comments links to this post 12:16 PM

Nice. More info here on your blog than on the MCT trails website!

And many months later, the MCT STILL does NOT have any new trail info on their website, nor does the HQ have any maps newer than 2007.

I love the trail system and ride it often, but simple map updates on the MCt website would prove helpful.
I'm not sure why MCT hasn't updated its Web site or printed new maps. I'll have to talk to one of my MCT sources about that.

I have posted the Quercus Grove extension to Staunton on the Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society site.
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