How about taking an hour for a bike trip? Not an all-day, bring-your-lunch-with-you kind of trip. This one is for clearing your mind, taking a mini vacation all by yourself.
This is an easy ride. It starts right outside of downtown South Haven and ends in Van Buren State park. The Van Buren Trail, just three years old, is a beautifully paved 10-foot wide asphalt-surfaced biking and walking trail (also for other non-motorized transportation like roller blades and skate boards), that also is used for cross country skiing and snow shoeing in the winter. Like so many bike trails around the U.S., the Van Buren Trail Spur began as a railroad grade, acquired from Consumers Energy in the mid-1990s. It was used to help construct the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Covert (now planned to be closed in 2022 with wind energy and natural gas to offset the energy requirements).
Of course, you can certainly take someone with you, or your whole family if you want. But a solitary ride is when one can really savor every small nuance along the way. The trail starts in a residential area, and then winds by industrial buildings, crossing several country roads. But then you’re in the forest and native wildflowers, grasses and trees line the trail. If you travel the trail early enough, you might see deer, a yellow finch, a warbler, a pileated woodpecker or even a grey owl. You are certain to see plenty of butterflies in the summer.
If you need to rent a bike, head over to Rock ‘N’ Road Cycle on Broadway, mere blocks from the beginning of the trail. Ben will hook you up with an easy-riding 10-speed bike and helmet for $20. He’s been there for over 15 years as manager of the store and he rides the trail every morning to work. He’ll direct you to the trail head, across Broadway, down Michigan Ave. to Maple St., where you’ll take a left leading right to the spur.
Four and a half miles later, the trail ends up at Van Buren State Park. Then you can bike just a bit further and end up at the beach where you can park your bike (a lock comes with the rental), have a drink of water or purchase drinks or snacks from the vending machine, use the modern, well-maintained facilities and take a short walk to the beach. Or, you can hike up the back of the dune and run down.
Stopping to smell the native flowers
If you have your own bike, and a season pass to Van Buren State Park, you can start at the park, ride into South Haven, and then even hook up with the Kal-Haven Trail. Or, if you are looking for an all day ride and are more of a mountain biker, the full 14-mile Van Buren Trail with surfaces of grass, packed dirt and old dirt-covered railroad ballast, ends in the City of Hartford.
But if the quiet, meandering smell-the-flowers kind of bike ride is the one you’re looking for, the Van Buren Trail Spur is just the ticket.
About the Author
Nancy Backas has been writing, mostly about food, for more than 30 years. South Haven is a favorite place, and she and her husband Terry visit as often as they can. The rich food and art culture, along with opportunities to explore South Haven's magical natural surroundings is what draws she and her husband to SoHa. She looks forward to sharing her South Haven discoveries. And, while they currently live in Chicago, with moving plans in the works, South Haven will soon be their new home.