May 31, 2008
Hikers and mountain bikers alike can find a mixture of geography and native creatures along a nearby trail.
The Radiant Trail, a three-mile hiking and mountain biking path, opened about two years ago at Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site north of Sedalia. The trail took nearly a year to construct, said Jill White, site administrator at Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site.
Barney Knight, of Sedalia, came up with the idea after hearing about the unused land at the site.
“I like to ride mountain bikes a lot, and I’d always have to travel to do that,” he said.
White said park officials thought it was a good idea, but they needed help. The park has one full-time maintenance man, so construction and maintenance of the trail required a volunteer effort.
A trail coordinator from the Department of Natural Resources mapped out the trail, which begins and ends in the day-use area of the park. The trail winds through the southeast part of the park by a pond and through woods and open fields. The state purchased the land as a buffer area after the original Bothwell acreage was acquired.
Knight and other volunteers helped carve the path and assist with ongoing maintenance, such as picking up trash and cutting down branches.
Volunteers and site officials hope to see the trail expand.
“Some more bikers would like to see the mileage increase by creating more loops. ... three separate, small loops that would hook back onto the main loop. They could do as much or as little as they want,” White said.
Knight said he would like to see the trail span six miles. That would be a good length for the trail to be used in events and attract more users, Knight said.
“That’s my goal is to make it a destination for people,” he said.
A core group of 10 to 20 bikers use the trail regularly, White said. Several others also hike it on a regular basis. In June, the trail was featured in the Department of Natural Resources’ “Trail of the Month” program.
Commentors on the Department of Natural Resources Web site gave the Radiant Trail good reviews. Many said they enjoyed the mixture of woods and meadows on the trail and appreciated seeing the flowers, turtles, frogs, lizards and deer along the way. Some did mention to watch for rocks and tree stumps that can trip hikers.
It’s hard to track the number of trail users, White said. Although, she does think the park feature is gaining in popularity.
“It’s increased in the last few years, I think there’s more of a focus on getting back into nature,” White said. “When folks find those opportunities they latch on.”
The Radiant Trail compares well with mountain biking trails across the state, Knight said. It has a good combination of hills, fast spots and rocky areas, he said.
“If offers pretty much everything Missouri offers as far as mountain biking trails go,” Knight said.
The only exception is that the Radiant Trail lacks a creek crossing.
Knight describes the trail as “between beginning and intermediate” in difficulty.
“I really didn’t want it to be highly technical because I wanted youth to be able to ride it, and I didn’t want to scare anyone away,” he said. “What’s out there could be ridden by a 10-year-old.”
T.J. McNamara, of Sedalia, rides the trail a few times a week when it’s dry. He too hopes the trail is extended, but said its quality is just as good as other trails in the state.
McNamara offered this advice to beginning mountain bikers: “It’s not as difficult as you think it is; and it’s a whole lot more fun than they think.”
The park’s three-quarter mile Stoneyridge Trail takes the path of the old road taken by John Bothwell, the man who built the mansion between 1897 and 1928. White said they wanted the newer trail “to relate to (Bothwell’s) life somehow.” The inspiration for naming the Radiant Trail came from a poem Bothwell copied while on a cruise in the Pacific. Bothwell typed out “Life in Abundant” by Elbert Hubbard and placed it on his library mantel upon returning home.
“So it meant something to him,” White said.
White said the trail is “still kind of rough in places” and improvements are needed where it has eroded and is too muddy. Poison ivy is also prevalent, she said.
The trail is a real asset to the park, White said.
“This has given us an added dimension,” she said. “Especially, for those not interested in history.”