Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#7: The Nature Trail at Saint Mary's

In late August, the weather in South Bend turns so perfect that you can forget all about the frosts, the snow, the slush arriving in just a couple months.  During these halcyon days, I recommend taking advantage of the outdoor offerings South Bend has, which, for being in an industrial Midwest city, are rather impressive.

The nature trail on the grounds of Saint Mary's College are one of my favorite places to run.  It offers an escape from pounding the pavement, and although you still can hear the distant whir of the toll road, the forest envelopes you.  You can catch a glimpse of the Notre Dame Basilica and Golden Dome, but they seem miles away.

The Golden Dome far, far away
 The dirt trail meanders for several miles through fields and the woods near to the St. Joseph River.   Once you enter the gate at the corner of the Taylor Road and Madaleva Drive leads you to a doubletrack loop, off of which is a singletrack spur that adds another mile.  I prefer to run it, but both are bikeable, and hikeable.

My favorite view of the St. Joe River in all of South Bend
 At two points along the doubletrack, there are guides to the nature trail to learn more about local flora and fauna.  I have never taken the time to slow down and follow along, but it would be a delightful place to picnic or walk your dog.  For a downloadable trail guide, look at the Saint Mary's Biology website.  Be on the lookout for deer, beavers, and other critters!

Location: North of Taylor Road & Madaleva Drive
Best time to go: Sunrise to sundown; through November because it's tough to navigate when the snow falls, although it would be a good place to snowshoe!
Tip: Leave the headphones at home -- the bird calls provide natural music.

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