The first stretch, like the road, is level and easy. It passes woods, well-kept farms, and fields, as well as the park's riding stables and equestrian day use area. We reached a sign that said three miles back to the park and two miles on to town. This was a piece of cake, so we might as well go on, right?
There are parts of the trail that you can't see from the road. The reason being that in those areas the trail climbs hills, winds back and forth in hairpin turns, and crosses ravines. Fallen leaves cover much of the paving, peppered by areas of black walnuts, acrons, and hedge apples. We stopped frequently to rest, and I walked my bike up most of the hills.
And you know how it is when things get tough--you think it won't last and you can muddle through it. By the time we realized it probably wasn't going to get any better, we knew we must be close to town and the idea of turning back without lunch and a refreshing beverage was even more daunting. We soldiered on.
Grafton is 650 people, and stretches along the river with several bars and eateries catering to the summer and fall tourist trade. The bike trail crosses the highway right before town and runs behind these establishments beside the river. The heavy rains the night before left shallow puddles and thick mud along the path, causing a few precarious moments. We finally reached a road leading back up to the highway and decided The Hawg Pit looked like a good place for lunch.
It's obvious from the structures on stilts and building materials that flooding is a frequent occurence. The Hawg Pit is not on stilts but built entirely of cement block with a cement floor. Even the bar is cement block, painted a hot pinkish red. But the sandwiches were excellent as were the sweet potato fries. As we ate, the weariness in our legs and soreness of our rear ends became more insistent. We debated our options. Tugs pushing empty barges regularly passed going upriver, and we considered hitchiking on one but the chance of success seemed a reach. We didn't know anyone at the campground we could call for a ride. We thought about pleading for help from one of the other patrons, which were few, and we dismissed that also.
Finally we faced the inevitable--and a headwind--and started back. We did more walking than riding in some areas and wished we had a hot tub at our camper. We dreamed of our recliners and tried to recall whose idea this was so we could lay blame. Inthe throes of desperation, we finally made it.
It is a beautiful trail, especially in the hilly parts. For someone who is younger, in shape, and ride hardened, I'm sure it is a piece of cake. We are none of those things. Perhaps in the future we will recognize our limits sooner. Perhaps not.