Bike the Lake Wobegon Trail, Northwest of St. Cloud
Fictional Lake Wobegon is the quintessential Minnesota small town. It was built, character by character, in the imagination of storyteller and humorist Garrison Keillor, who reports the "News from Lake Wobegon" on his public radio show "A Prairie Home Companion." Lake Wobegon is based, in part, in the rural communities north of St. Cloud. Many of these little towns are now linked by the paved Lake Wobegon Trail, allowing cyclists to enjoy a peaceful ride through a quiet countryside of dairy farms, lakes and streams.
In today's bustling world, where even small cities seem to have traffic jams, the towns along the trail are a big step away from the hustle and bustle of city life, reminders of a simpler era. The Lake Wobegon Trail is roughly Y-shaped, running west about 50 miles from St. Joseph to past Sauk Centre, with another arm heading northeast from Albany for about 20 miles.
This northern arm is more secluded than much of the rest of the trail, travelling through farmland, with views of quilted fields, rolling hills, and gurgling streams. A trailhead with parking and restrooms in Albany, a town of about 1,800 right off I-94, makes this a good starting point. Turn onto the northern spur of the trail at the west side of town.
After about 9 miles, you reach the village of Holdingford, which calls itself the "Gateway to Lake Wobegon." Here you'll find the barn-red covered bridge over Two Rivers, built a couple of years ago over an old railroad trestle. Stop for a break at the Holdingford trailhead, with a picnic shelter and restrooms.
The trail continues winding north through the country to the village of Bowlus (pop. 250), and reaches the Blanchard Dam on the Mississippi River four miles past town. (The trail ends at Hwy. 10 a couple of miles further.) The one-way trip from Albany to the Mississippi is just over 20 miles, for a round-trip of about 41 miles; reward yourself with a DQ back in Albany! There's a trail map on the website.