Friday, July 24, 2015

Tanglefoot Trail

Friday, July 24, 2015

This article should be in today's Wynne Progress.  Great job Lisa!  (she had some great photos but I couldn't get them to attach here....   -Keeli

Biking the Tanglefoot Trail 
By Lisa Blanton
A few miles down the road from Wynne, the Tanglefoot Trail meanders through 43.6 miles of an abandoned Mississippi railroad corridor. This new rails to trails pathway opened in 2013 and stretches from New Albany to Houston.
We had wanted to bike this trail for a while, and decided this 4th of July to give it a go. On day one, we planned to ride from Algoma to Houston and back to Algoma where we parked the car. This trail uses the old train depots as rest stops and parking areas. These are also called whistle stops. You can find these whistle stops about every 10 miles of trail. They have clean restrooms, water fountains, and tables.
The light rain we encountered kept the temperature in the seventies. Since it was the 4th of July there weren’t many, if any, businesses open in the small towns we passed through, but had it been any other weekend, the restaurants and shops would have been open. The trail is paved and about as wide as a one lane road. There’s plenty of room to pass walkers, joggers and other bikers with ease. The path is clearly marked with stop signs when it crosses a road or the entrance to a home. The path to Houston passed through farm lands, wooded areas, swampy areas and pastures filled with sheep. We were nearly taken out by a couple of armadillos, who apparently have the right away on bike paths. There were squirrels, cranes and one rattlesnake. I do hesitate to mention the snake, but it is the Mississippi countryside and it is a great motivator to ride faster.
After spending the night in New Albany, we began our second day of our journey. You can access the trail from the library in downtown New Albany. There will eventually be a trail head in New Albany and in Houston. In Houston, the trail ends abruptly at the future site of a trailhead. In New Albany, the trail ends just beyond Main Street. We began biking Sunday morning, and rode for a couple of hours. We wanted to make it back before the hotel check out time to take a shower. Once again the trail took us over wooden bridges and through small towns. It passed through kudzu patches filled with rabbits. There were more dogs and cats and less of natures wild critters on this stretch of trail
The trail also has small rest stops between the whistle stops. These rest stops have bike racks, a place to sit for a while and a trash can. There is one man who patrols the path on a golf cart, but this is the only motorized vehicle allowed.
The history of the Tanglefoot Trail begins even before the railroads. Located in the Mississippi National Heritage Area, the Native Americans were the original users of the trail. They were followed by Hernando De Soto, Meriwether Lewis and the Union troops during the Civil War. Finally the railroads utilized this same trail to connect communities to one another. The name Tanglefoot comes from one of the earliest steam engines to travel the trail.
Grab your bike, sunscreen, a snack or two, and some bug spray and prepare to be amazed. Maps and trail information are readily available online at Do a little research before you leave home.
It’s not hard to get lost in the past as you ride by small towns long past their glory years. The railroads were a lifeline between communities in the past. Maybe restoring yesterday will bring new hope for our future. 

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