It had been another night in the low 40’s, and for the first time this trip, we actually felt rested. Marc had finally gotten some sleep by supplementing his sleeping bag with a small throw blanket that he’d found at Dollar General. I slept fine, but only did so by wearing everything that I’d brought clothes-wise. We could stay an additional day if we wanted, as it was only Thursday, and we had nowhere to be until Monday. What was holding us back however, was the fact that it was going to be in the mid-30’s that night, and it was only going to get to the upper 50’s on Friday. A cold night, coupled with a cold day, was unanimously given two thumbs down; way down.
No camping Thursday night, would mean that we’d have to finish it up. There was 76 miles to Machens, the eastern terminus of the trail. We’d then have to ride the 13 miles back to St Charles, as this was where our cars were parked. Marc was fine with the 76, but when I told him 90-ish would do it all, he was comfortable with ending his ride the first time through St Charles.
We packed up and headed over to a coffee shop that had been recommended to us at the pizza place the night before. The route to the coffee house took us on streets we hadn’t ridden, so it was an easy way to see more of this unique town. The coffee was good, and the coconut macaroon that I had with it was divine.
It was still in the 40’s when we rolled out of Hermann, and we were layered up with almost everything we had. Once back on the trail from the Hermann spur, we were happy to find that the trail was open to the sun from time to time, and not totally tucked underneath the canopy of the trees. The day warmed up nicely, but we knew there was a strong NW wind waiting for us on the approach to St. Charles.
We made it to Marthasville, and decided that we should split up, as I had an extra 24 miles to ride with Marc deciding to stop short in St. Charles. The trail drifted away from the river for a bit, and became lushly planted farmland. Rolling into Weldon Spring, I took the time to read the information board about the location, and found out that there was a spur that went to a large radioactive waste disposal site that the government had contained, and then covered it with a large mound of white rock. There’s even steps in the mound so you can climb to the top. I made a mental note to check this out next time.
The trail became a lot more busy the closer I got to St. Charles. Many people were out biking, running, and walking. There were also several trail crews out through here pruning trees, and at one point the trail was being graded.
I made it to the main TH in St. Charles, and knew that I had about 13 miles to Machens. The sights were urban for several miles, and then the trail climbed up on top of the levy. Here’s where I was ambushed by the wind, and it was debilitating for several miles. I’d later read where it was 15mph, gusting to 30mph. I made it to Machens, snapped some pics, and then headed back to St. Charles, where my car was waiting.
Day three started with a much warmer night than day two, and with the forecast calling for a high in the upper 70’s, we were looking forward to the day. The night did however cover everything in a thick layer of dew, so we spent some extra time that morning drying out our tents before heading east.
The trail was chock right full of people this morning. A large group passed, and then another, and then another. There were also many people out around Jefferson City, running, biking, and walking. The state capitol stands out in the distance as you roll across the north side of Jefferson City. The town itself is never approached by the trail, so if you’re thinking that a gas station or a store will be close by, you’re rather bummed when you’re suddenly back into the woodland.
We’d only eaten whatever we could find at the golf course last night: hot dogs, snickers, chips. Nothing but quality right there. We were starving now, and running low on drinks and snacks. We rolled into Mokane to find absolutely nothing in town. There were some closed restaurants, and a gas station that only had gas pumps, no sort of store connected with them. Luckily there was a man pumping gas, and he was able to tell us that there was a Dollar General less than a mile north. Tah-Dah! We headed north, dreaming of a cokes and sandwiches. We loaded up at Dollar, and sat out front on a low retaining wall, eating and enjoying the quickly warming sun.
Our destination that day was Hermann, a town of Germanic influence and flare. Well known in the Midwest for its lively Octoberfest, Hermann has some unique architecture, and more importantly, a really nice camping area right in the middle of town. Hermann is not officially on the Katy, but there’s a spur trail that will lead you there. This trail quickly spits you out onto a well used highway. There is a very wide shoulder, but after the serenity of the trail, finding yourself being passed by trucks snaps you right back to reality. This highway takes you to a protected bike lane on the bridge over the Missouri River, and then the traffic through Hermann is slow and controlled.
We find the city park that contains the campground, and there are several RV’s, but only one tent. We were able to snag one of the tent sites that had a small covered picnic table, and wasn’t too far away from the rather small shower house. We set up camp in 2 minutes flat, and then go off in search of our first real meal in 24 hours. A local points us to a pizza place that has “the best pizza I’ve ever had.” We each order a pizza, shrugging off the servers insistence that the pizzas are large, and that we could probably just share one. “What we don’t eat, we’ll have for breakfast.”
We hit a Casey’s on the way back, shower, and relax at the campsite. This was the warmest day of the trip, and we were sad to see it end. Another cool night was ahead of us, and we cursed the cold front, but were happy that there was no rain.
Katy Trail – Day 3 – Hartsburg to Hermann – Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Supply points are thin on this section. Your luck will greatly improve on weekends, as most of the small town diners are open, and there’s a small store in Claysville. You can stop at the golf course in North Jefferson for a small assortment of snacks and drinks, and there’s a Dollar General one mile north of Mokane.
We camped at the Hermann City Park for $15/ tent. (573) 486-5400. Keep in mind that their extremely popular Octoberfest takes place every weekend in October. If you’re arriving on a Friday/weekend during this time, expect the campground to be full. The campground is flanked on the east side by the main road through town, so road noise can be an issue as well.
Overnight the temperature had fallen to 44 degrees, and I was up shortly after 4, shivering. I’d brought a 50 degree sleeping bag, because 9 times out of 10, this would of been plenty of bag for the end of September. I hurriedly put everything I’d brought on, and slowly started to warm up. I can remember thinking to myself, ” Do I really need leg warmers? Will I use this puffy?” Thankfully, I’d packed both. I drank about 6 cups of coffee, walked all over the camp ground, and even stomped my feet, to keep the blood flowing and to hold onto some warmth.
Marc got up, and I soon found out he had shivered the night away as well. He grunted and groaned, and then disappeared back into his tent for another layer of clothing. The sun finally arrived, and we broke down our camp, hanging our tent flies in the sunny spots to speed their drying. Today wasn’t going to be a long day, as we were going to drop down into Columbia for lunch, and then continue on to Hartsburg for our overnight.
The scenery changes greatly on this part of the trail. The large swaths of farmland and prairie get replaced with the Missouri River on one side, and large rocky cliffs on the other. Sometimes the cliffs are towering over top of you, and other times they’re subdued, hidden behind the canopy of trees.
We take the side trail to Columbia at Hindman Junction, and start day dreaming about food. The closer we get to Columbia, the more runners, dog walkers, and cyclists start appearing. We eventually reach the town, and find a diner within sight of the trail. Food devoured, we hit a Walgreens that was visible from the diner, and then head back to the Katy.
Unbeknownst to us, when we left Columbia, we were also leaving behind trail side resupply. There would be no easy access to stores of any sort for the next 70 miles. “Easy access” is the key word here. Sure, you can go off-route in N Jefferson, and we eventually found a Dollar General a mile north of the trail in Mokane, but these involve a decent amount of navigation, and you really have to hunt to find them. The Dollar General didn’t appear on Google Maps, a local eventually told us about it. If you come through here on a weekend, your chances improve some what, with a small store available in Claysville, and most of the town diners open for business. Nothing was open in Hartsburg when we arrived, other than a bar…where everyone smoked inside. After setting up camp, we rode the 20 miles round-trip to North Jefferson, where if you look off to your right after seeing the town sign, you’ll see a golf course. Head to that golf course for snacks, hot dogs, beer, etc.
Day 2- New Franklin to Harsburg – Tuesday, September 29, 2020.
Morning temp: 44 High: 68
Coffee and a small bike shop available trailside in Rocheport at the Meriwether Cafe. CLOSED WEDNESDAY. https://meriwethercafeandbikeshop.com/
The trail to Columbia is well marked at Hindman Junction (9 miles each way.)
The stretch from New Franklin to Hindman Junction is a popular favorite with trail riders/runners/walkers. The scenery goes up exponentially as you approach Rocheport, with the only remaining “real” tunnel on the trail lying on the west side. The cliffs and river views are spectacular through here, and there’s a decent amount of Lewis and Clark history as well. A good day trip from Columbia to the tunnel and back (45-ish miles,) would give you a good taste of the trail in all of its glory.
We camped in Hartsburg at the American Legion Park, which is .3 miles south of the trail. There is also camping available in Volunteer Park, which sits right off the trail, next to the caboose. We chose American Legion Park as it had bathrooms on site, and also had electrical outlets on the west side of the building. There’s also a large pavilion here, so if rain was in the forecast, I’d check this place out. Call 573-999-1016 and let them know you’re camping. They’ll send someone out to unlock the bathroom for you. This place is FREE, but there’s a small donation box in the pavilion for the local Lion’s Club if you’re so inclined.
Marc and I shuttled from St Charles the previous day, and had originally planned on starting the trail once we’d arrived in Clinton. The weather however, had us rethinking that, as an approaching cold front had pegged the rain chances at 100%, with winds at 15-25 mph, and the threat of severe thunderstorms a real possibility. Hunkering down in Clinton made much more sense than pushing our luck with the storm. Starting our trip out with soaking wet gear, followed by several days of below normal temps, wasn’t the sort of thing we wanted anything to do with.
We Priceline’d a hotel, and then proceeded to watch it storm for the next 8 hours. The hotel was right in the center of town, with a Wal-Mart and some Mexican food, all within walking distance. Last minute supplies were gathered, beers were drunk, and we packed and repacked.
Morning arrived, and while the rain had gone, the temperature had dropped by a good 20 degrees, so the first ride in arm/leg warmers had arrived early this year. The hotel was about a mile and a half from the trail head, and we were able to google a route that allowed us to hit a convenience store and keep us off the busiest of the morning roads.
Clinton is the western terminus of the Katy Trail. This trail head has a large parking area, a displayed caboose, and a covered area that resembles a station. These “stations” display the name of the town/station on each end of the roof, and have trail maps and information posted on the wall underneath. The trail information is broken down by east bound/west bound, so it’s always easy to see the mileage to the next station, and any sights that you should keep an eye out for along the trail.
This section of the Katy is often written off as boring, and many times skipped entirely, with riders opting to stick to the scenic cliffs and river views from Boonville to Machens, or vice-versa. This section sees the trail run through farmland and prairie, some wooded areas, and then some urban riding as you roll through the larger towns of Sedalia and Boonville. I enjoyed this section, as the leaves were starting to change, there were many old bridges, and it was the start of a trip that I’d been looking forward to. That being said, I can see where one would find it dull if they’re riding east to west, and would be finishing up on this section.
Clinton to New Franklin. Monday, September 28, 2020.
Morning temp: 50 High: 68
Shuttle: Katy Bike Rental – 1-855-katybike. $90 St Charles to Clinton. Cheaper if you wanted to go to a closer TH. They also shuttle bags if you want to do a B&B themed tour. Ride was right at 5 hours, but may be longer if there are several people to drop off along the way.
Clinton Lodging: Westbridge Inn and Suites. Double room Priceline’d for $75. Location is 1.2 miles from the TH, and close to shops and restaurants. Room was quiet and clean, and would actually be called a motel due to it’s layout. Google map a different route to the TH then going down 52, as it’s a rather busy highway.
Camping in New Franklin: The Katy Roundhouse. A classic campground right on the trail at mile marker 189. $10 for a campsite and a shower. http://katyroundhousecamping.weebly.com/reservations.html A Casey’s General Store is 1.5 miles away in New Franklin. There are electrical outlets on the outside of the shower house, and there’s an outlet on the lamp pole by the water spigot.
Bathrooms at TH’s and services in towns along this section are plentiful.
There was an awkward, unsigned re-route leaving Sedalia. A friend of the trail had drawn a map on a sign and fastened it to a tree right at the closure.
http://bikekatytrail.com is always the best source for updated information on everything Katy: reroutes, towns, etc. The map they sell on their site is cheap and will come in useful when planning/riding.