Early morning. You're riding through a wildflower pasture under the power of your own two legs. The first beads of sweat begin to form. Reach for the water bottle, take a swig. Shift to a lower gear for a better workout. You're alive.
The Katy Trail -- its name taken from the now-defunct Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, one of whose routes it traces -- starts in St. Charles and spans more than half the state. Country towns are spaced nicely apart, and wildlife encounters are not uncommon. We've got a number of good trails around here, though. The North Riverfront Trail is very doable. From the Arch north to the Chain of Rocks Bridge, the twelve-mile trek wends through urban, industrial and natural settings. Ride past scrapyards, fields of restored prairie grass, men fishing from the banks of the river. The Great River Road Trail, starting in Alton, heads northward with the shining Mississippi on the left and towering bluffs on the right. Barges, laden with coal or grain or salt, ply the river; egrets, gulls and, in winter, bald eagles soar overhead. The spirit of the mythical Piasa bird is strong here. None of the trails should be missed -- you like living, right? -- but it's the Katy we ride when we're searching for natural beauty.