Monday, August 12, 2019
Eating Cedar Valley Nature Trail
Colorado or Bust, Days 46, 47, and 48:
It's harvest time. Iowa's food basket is overflowing. This means a lot of free, sweet, juicy treats along the trail.
After seamlessly transitioning from the Hoover Nature Trail, I was hiking the Cedar Valley Nature Trail through Iowa's second largest city, Cedar Rapids, and on north to Waterloo. This is a popular, well maintained trail, running more than 60 continuous miles. The only Hoovering here was me, sucking in all the ripe, juicy wild black cherries I could eat.
These were a bumper crop this year: surprisingly juicy, plenty sweet and with a balanced astringency (kinda makes your mouth pucker a little). I stuffed my face with the plumpest, sweetest ones. In places I could stand under one tree, reach up, and eat until my stomach was full. Just have to put up with spitting out lots of pits. The pits are more than half of these little fruit.
I passed just one heirloom apple tree in all these three days. They were perfectly ripe, as shown in the photo up top.
This was the highlight of my day, on this hot sunny hike. Super sweet, with all the flavor of the big industrial, market-ready apples, but packed into that little gem--juicy, and succulent. Wish I could have found more. Worms are not as big of a problem as you think, just eat around them or use your pocket knife and cut the affected parts away.
Mulberries normally bear fruit in June, but some trees here were bearing a second crop.
The mulberry is extremely sweet and packed with juice. They make good wine. My Great Aunt Ellen always had a couple barrels of it brewing in her basement. But the fresh fruit has a strong grassy finishing flavor, just like you're eating grass clippings.
Blackberries--king of the wild fruit.
You have to get through the nasty brambles, but these are as good as any berry fruit on the planet. No down side. Just be careful not to eat too fast or you'll get a bug or two along with your punch of fruity goodness. Even a stinging bee at times. Yes, it has happened to me.
The wild plums here had a great taste, but were hard as rocks.
In Colorado 40 years ago I used to harvest wild plums in the washes and arroyos of the foothills and make jelly that was first class if you picked the right trees. They had a lot of variability in flavor from tree to tree.
Last treat from the fruit kingdom along the trail was the wild grapes.
They were being stingy this year. Something about the conditions that kept most vines from producing any fruit at all. Maybe it was the Japanese Beetles, that were ravaging the leaves. But the grapes that I found, the ripe purple ones, where nice and sweet, but with a mix of sourness that puts people off. They're also full of seeds, of course.
Now... the food theme isn't over yet. In downtown Cedar Rapids, the unexpected fare was trout!
The trail runs right through downtown Cedar Rapids, including railroad yards, the Quaker Oats mill, which filled the air with a wonderful toasted oat fragrance, and a nice up-scale downtown river-front. It passes beside the right of the two lakes you can see in the aerial photo above. Lots of variety.
North of town I had to bid farewell to the Fifty Trail route. At the crossing of Lafayette Road, the Fifty Trail heads east to the Heritage Trail and then Dubuque, as it starts its swing east into Wisconsin, where it picks up the route I hiked and reported earlier this year at the Military Ridge Trail in Verona. That route was covered in my Day 22 through Day 1 reports. If I'm confusing you, just check the Fifty Trail guide info I've posted elsewhere on this blog.
Here is the nice trail rest area just north of Lafayette Road, and the trail underpass where the Fifty Trail drops down off the road via one of two 'ramps', one on either side.
Okay, one final note on the 'Eating the Trail' theme.
Ha, ha, ha.
Anyhow, here are the GPS Tracks for the three delicious days covered in this report.
Fruit harvest means fall can't be far away. I can't wait until the weather actually begins to realize that.