The North Judson Erie Trail

The old Tippecanoe Railroad/JK Line (TIPP) served the Buckeye Feed and Supply until the mid 1980’s into the little country town of North Judson, Indiana. The history of this rail line is commemorated at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum just off of Main Street where the wooden rail ties and spikes have been converted to a gravel bike path as part of the American Discovery Trail, a network of trails crisscrossing 15 between from Delaware to California. For 9 miles, the North Judson Erie Trail takes us through forests and fields until the turnaround point at Bass Lake where the equestrian trail connects from the Monterey Erie Trail. We like discovering new places to bike in our area so we made a trip to cross another trail off our bucket list.

North Judson is located 38 minutes south of Valparaiso just east of Kouts, near the Tippecanoe River State Park. A small parking lot is located at the trailhead behind the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum on Main Street at the intersection of North Street and Oakwood. It is such a small town that I would say that it’s hard to get lost, but we did. Website directions mentioned parking at the railroad museum but the trailhead is actually a half mile from there with no passage connecting the two other than crossing over the railroad and taking Franklin to Main Street. We were able to find the Erie Trail by zooming into Google Maps and following Main Street to the parking lot. (See below) This meandering around town gave us the opportunity to find a gas station and stock up on a few kibbles for the ride.

The first mile and half was an exhilarating relief as we were finally on our way, taking a few pictures at the start and breathing in the fresh air on this bike-only trail. Until…I was suddenly caught off guard by the apparent end of the trail without a noticeable sign for crossing. As I was unclipping my shoes from the pedals and slowing down while scanning the area to determine if the trail would continue along the road or connect elsewhere, I came up to the road itself which was actually State Road 39, a major roadway with cars speeding by. I was spooked off my bike when a truck whizzed past with my left foot still hooked in and literally fell to the ground with the bike, wheee-splat! Unfortunately, I’ve had my share of falls and this was one was safely off the road and did not result in any physical injuries like breaking another bone in my hand as I braced myself but the handlebars were a little misshapen after banging to the pavement. Aiyo! Not again. Not a great way to begin the ride but I would not be discouraged from continuing on! We dismounted and waited for an opening in traffic to run across SR 39 with our bikes. (This is the type of sticky situation we prefer not to encounter.) We would have liked for the path to be all connected or to have a bridge over the road in this case, but nevertheless, we persisted.

Yikes=Ashley’s fall at the intersection of the Erie Bike Trail with crossing State Road 39

With the worst behind us, we settled into a comfortable pace on the path away from the road and between the trees. The path ran parallel to an old railroad until it discontinued and became farmland. The trail conditions were a little unkempt with a few major cracks, potholes, scattered debris, and weeds that we were not accustomed to after riding near pristine conditions on Chicago’s Cal-Sag Trail most recently. Even so, it was nice to be out on the trail without much competition as we were a few of the only people taking advantage of the day on this trail. When we got into out rhythm, the Erie reminded me of the days when we used to ride the Pumpkinvine Trail in Goshen with glimpses of fields between the trees and butterflies flittering about our heads.

It was a warm day around lunchtime so we made a brief pit stop on a bridge to enjoy our snacks above the creek before cycling back into the woods.

At each intersection of a country road, the trail warns us with wooden posts to block motorists from entering the trail. There were hardly ever cars on these roads so it wasn’t much trouble to pause for a moment just to be sure.

After our turnaround point, I took a few opportunities to take in the scenery. There were some beautiful wildflowers along the trail including puffy white balls of flowers like tufts of wool in the meadow that faded out into the distance. I was surprised to see these wild hydrangeas as I’d only ever seen them in residential gardens.

Wild hydrangeas

We finished with 18 mile ride on another cycling adventure. The North Judson Erie Trail wasn’t our favorite path but we had a pleasant enough trip, so we will cross this one off the list and venture on to new places. I asked Derek what his best memory from the Erie Trail was and he instantly replied with, “the GIANT bike!” Yes, that was pretty unique, so we will remember this route as the GIANT bike trail.

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