One positive about this ongoing pandemic is that I have had to become very creative in finding activities somewhat close to home as traveling isn’t quite safe and convenient at this time. Many of my frequented parks and paths have been overrun with people trying to find ways to get out of the house. Though I am always promoting getting outside, at times it has become impossible to properly social distance. As a result of escaping the crowds, I have found some hidden gems.
As a cyclist, I tend to ignore paved trails unless they are at least ten miles or more as I normally will ride 20-30 miles minimum. I may have read about this path and thought oh, it’s only 2.25 miles (now 3.25 miles) then promptly forgot about it. But a few weeks ago, I was driving up S. Vandemark road from River Road and noticed a small parking area with a paved trail I hadn’t noticed previously. A few days ago, I parked at this spot and walked my dog a bit down the south end of the trail. The canal feeder is on the west side of the trail which isn’t too far from I-75. You can hear the highway noise and on the east side of the trail, sometimes you can hear a train but for me, I was just happy that there weren’t many people using the path.
Yesterday, I returned with my road bike, parking at the S. Vandemark trail head. I first rode south on the newest mile of the path. The trail seems to go downhill and when I got to the end, I-75 loomed high above me and on the other side, lower down was the Great Miami River. Hopping off my bike, I followed the mowed path down to the water for a nice view of the water. When you drive I-75 south of the Fair Road exit for Sidney, this path ends at the dip/valley of I-75 where it of course, crosses the river. I’ve never noticed the bike path in all my times going north on 75, next time I will look to see if I can see it from the bridge.
Back on the path and heading back the way I came, the path is uphill a bit. Back across S. Vandemark road, the path slips back into the shade as it leads north toward Sidney. Eventually, on the east (right) side the trail is bordered by a wood split rail fence and you can look down for glimpses of the river through the trees. I was a little surprised by how far up I was. Eventually you come to a ‘S’ curve in the path. At the second curve, a path goes off to the left. I stopped for a moment to see where it went and it goes very steeply up a hill. Dismounting, I pushed my bike up that hill only to find it ends in newer subdivision. I was disappointed, I thought maybe it would a new city park I’d not visited.
As I reached the top, a dad and his teenage son rode by me on mountain bikes then proceeded down that steep hill. You’d need disc brakes for that one, so I did the smart thing and walked my caliper-braked road bike down the hill. In road cycling shoes, that was interesting as this footwear isn’t known for their great traction or walking agility but I did make it down without falling on my butt. On my way down, I noticed that someone had dropped their honey bun on the side of the trail. Considering the drastic climb or downhill, whoever is bunless is probably lucky they didn’t lose anything else. Needless to say, the side path is great for people who live up there but I will not be traipsing up it again.
As the curve straightens out, a port-a-potty stands in the most random place but it’s nice to know facilities are available. Along the path there are benches every so often and placards with historic information about the canal and the area. I didn’t read them when I was riding but I read a few when I was walking the dog. They are a nice touch and I saw several people stopping to read them at different points.
At another curve in the trail, another side path goes up into another neighborhood but I skip that one. There is a sign and parking area there that announces to be cautious as this is a shared roadway. As the trail curves back to head up into southern Sidney, on the east side are three older homes almost touching the trail and indeed there are vehicles at these homes. Once you pass the last house, you are greeted with an old concrete tunnel that is a railroad bridge.
After you pass through the tunnel, the trail goes to the right and pops out into Graceland Cemetery which for some reason surprised me. I’ve never had been on a path that went through a cemetery. I only had glanced at the map that was tacked up at the information kiosk . The cemetery (if you like such things) is very interesting with some very old graves and stones.
There is a small parking area and a bench close to an old willow tree at this end of the trail. You can ride on down through the cemetery and onto South Main/County Road 25A. Across the street from the cemetery is Roadside Park and if you go left, the road leads to downtown Sidney. You will pass under the impressive Big Four railroad bridge. In the downtown square the Shelby County Courthouse resides, along with the Great Sidney Farmer’s Market (on Saturdays during the warmer months) as well as The Spot Restaurant and other shops, etc. You can also choose to park in the cemetery and walk/bike from the north end as well.
I love these little finds and adventures. For years, I’ve gone to Sidney but have completely missed this trail. It never ceases to amaze me the wonderful things you can find in essentially your own back yard.