By Don Corrigan
Due to the pandemic, outside recreation has increased. The number of bikers and hikers on trails has accelerated. Safety experts are telling trail users now to be aware and to exercise caution to enjoy trail activities.
Kathy Schrenk of Kirkwood, who writes books for hikers and bikers, puts the emphasis on safety first. In fact, “Safety First” is a section title in her new book, “Katy Trail: A Guided Tour Through History.”
“Before I wrote about all the fun there is to bike on the Katy Trail, I wanted to point out essential safety tips,” said Schrenk. “After a trail user was shot by accident by a hunter recently, I’ve had even more questions about safety.
“I always advise wearing bright color clothing when biking and hiking for visibility,” said Schrenk. “I guess we can say that is especially true during a hunting season.”
The jogger shot on the Lewis And Clark Trail near Weldon Spring was hit by a shotgun blast on May 8. The hunter, who said he was attempting to shoot a turkey, hit the victim in the chest. State conservation officials said the hunter was too near the trail.
Schrenk said the trail incident was probably a freak accident, but it underlined the importance of wearing highly-visible, bright clothes. Also, brighter clothes offer better protection against damaging UV rays from the sun.
Schrenk, a mother of three, is an avid hiker and biker determined to instill a love of nature and safe outdoor adventures in kids. She has lived in Chicago and northern Illinois, the San Francisco Bay area, and now Missouri in Kirkwood.
“I was pleasantly surprised to find the beautiful trails here and support for them,” said Schrenk. “I’ve ridden the entire Katy Trail twice and it has so much to offer with the bluffs and streams and rivers.
“California is where I really got into cycling, added Schrenk. “I will say vehicle drivers are much more aware and pay more attention to bicyclists’ safety there. Also, the cycling community is more established. But it is really growing here.”
237-Mike Katy Trail
Schrenk’s book will, no doubt, add another boost to the cycling community in Missouri. Her book offers nine, separate, detailed rides. St. Louis residents are likely to be more interested in the rides in the eastern half of the state.
Nevertheless, there is much to offer in her Clinton to Sedalia route of 35.5 miles and the longer Sedalia to McBaine route of almost 60 miles.
“Sedalia has a Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival, a museum of contemporary art, the state fairgrounds and Stete Fair Community College – things worth stopping for,” said Schooner. “There’s an Amtrak station and hauling my bike on the train to that station is in my plans.”
Schrenk said she may have to agree with those who contend the trail is prettiest from Rocheport south to the Champion Burr Oak at Mile Marker 171. In the fall, there’s an explosion of color on bluff trees on your left and Missouri River shore on your right.
“That Bur Oak is 350 years old and is tied for the largest in the country.” said Schrenk. “I’ve stopped there to pay homage. It was big enough for Lewis and Clark to take note of it more than 200 years ago.”
After traveling from McBaine to McKittrick and viewing the State Capital, and continuing on from McKittrick to Augusta, bicyclists find themselves deep in wine country with plenty of stops to imbibe prime vino.
Before getting to the Augusta area, however, there are stops at Treloar and the Peers Store. Dan Burkhardt of Magnificent Missouri has spearheaded an effort to repopulate this area with native trees. He’s written an informative Forward for Schrenk’s book.
“Ride 9 in the book is a Winery Ramble,” explained Schrenk. “There are steep grades up to some of the wineries. It’s well worth the push for the gorgeous views, the sprawling patios, the wine tasting rooms.”
St. Charles has the most to offer on the trail in terms of restaurants and entertainment. The final stretch of the old MKT railroad line, now trail, gets a cyclist to Machens and the Mississippi River area.
“I know some people think this last stretch is boring, I don’t,” said Schrenk. “The Katy has things to surprise you all along its length. I was astounded by a blooming lilly pond when I was last on this stretch. It took my breath away.”
Keep Breathing Safely
For those who want to keep breathing while biking Missouri’ longest state park, the Katy Trail, Schrenk offers her safety tips. She said it’s a good idea to monitor katytrail.org to keep track of trail closures because of flooding, rock slides and fallen trees.
“My personal feeling is that 90% of safe biking is wearing a good helmet,” said Schrenk. “And I would venture to say that 90% of serious bike accidents are because someone was not wearing a helmet.
“I also am very big on sunscreen and a visor or hat,” added Schrenk. “I know too many people fighting skin cancer and some who have lost the fight. On the trail, the sun can be brutal.”
Schrenk also emphasized having a flat tire repair kit, if a cyclist is taking a lengthy trail ride. The trail is not asphalt and it’s not always smooth. A flat tire on an isolated section of trail with nightfall near can be scary.
Also, having a cell phone along is important in case of a blowout or a medical emergency. There are parts of the trail where cell phone service is not reliable. It’s important to advise friends or a spouse of bike route plans.
Bring lots of water and energy bars when planning a log bike ride. Even in winter, hydration can be as important as in summer. Do not forget to drink regularly, even when not sweating.
A trip on the Katy Trail can be a totally pleasurable experience with attention to safety needs and logistics. Kathy Schrenk’s trail guide is now available to help with safety and logistics.
For more information, Schrenk will be available to talk about her book at these events: Bike Stop Cafe in St Charles, June 12; Kirkwood Library, June 16, 7 p.m.; Peers Store, June 19, Jefferson City Library, June 21, 7 p.m.; Subterranean Books, June 24, 7 p.m.