FAIRBORN — I saw the Wright Brothers – Huffman Prairie Bikeway as one of my first Greene County area bike trails, but I didn’t ride on it just then.
I had an afternoon off, and so I had bolted my bike rack onto my ancient Honda, and strapped my equally ancient Schwinn mountain bike onto the rack, and headed to Eastwood MetroPark to enjoy a ride from the park to Huffman Dam and back on what is called the Mad River Trail. So, I’d pretty much just seen the same trail, but only from the Montgomery side of things.
This time, I parked at the Huffman MetroPark, off Ohio Route 4, and rode from the park, across the top of the Huffman Dam, and turned left onto the Wright Brothers – Huffman Prairie Trail, which picks up where the Mad River Trail ends.
As an aside, the last 100 yards or so of the Mad River Trail is this serpentine path that steeply winds its way up to the top of the dam. I was in my bike’s lowest gear, and felt as if I were almost completely stopped at times. I had to go into gym stair-climb machine mode for most of it, but I made it up that dam path. (See what I did there?)
And then I took some dam photos, too.
Okay, back on the Wright Brothers – Huffman Prairie Trail … I think it’s aptly named, not just because the area is surrounded by modern aviation and the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Huffman Prairie area where the brothers did a lot of their flight experiments, but the route itself kind of rises and lowers much like the turbulence I can imagine Wilbur and Orville probably experienced on their flights.
WB-HP Trail is hilly, but I suppose that’s to be expected when you’re riding along the side of a river dam for a decent amount of it. Soon, the trail takes you to an area where you’re running parallel to Kauffman Avenue, and even that area — at least the southernmost parts of it — are full of rolling hills as well.
At one point at National Road, the bike trail crosses from the east side of Kauffman Avenue over to the west side.
With my keen observation skills for bike trail signs, I missed the change entirely. I ended up taking a trail spur that led me further along on the east side of Kauffman and into what appeared to be military housing. … and you go over a big, long, steadily unforgiving hill and past a disc golf course before you realize that you went the wrong way.
So unless you’re visiting folks over there, don’t do that. It doesn’t rejoin the trail anywhere. You have to go back where you started from to reconnect with the trail.
Sure enough, when I got back to the crossing, I saw that there’s probably 4-5 plainly marked Bike Trail signs with arrows for all to see. I just simply hadn’t looked in that direction, because I saw that the path was continuing beyond National Road on my side. It was my error, and the hill made me pay for it.
So once I got back to where I needed to cross Kauffman Avenue, and found the trail again, I was fine. It’s a well-paved, clean and comfortable trail that rolls between Kauffman and a set of railroad tracks. As a railfan, I was kinda disappointed that I didn’t get to see a locomotive motoring along while I was chugging away myself, but that’ll be something to look forward to the next time.
A few blocks or so further, as the path makes its northeasterly way into Fairborn, there’s a spur that you can take across Kauffman that takes you onto the Wright State University campus.
A few blocks or so more and you pass Colonel Glenn Highway, and there’s a sign along the bikeway thanking the Greene County voters for passing their improvements levy a few years back. That funding helped to pave the remainder of the bikeway, which continues northeast past several restaurants and area businesses, until the path seems to blend into where Kauffman becomes S. Central Avenue. I followed that almost until I got to the Fairborn YMCA, before I decided to head back to the dam.
I enjoyed the roughly 10-mile round-trip ride, but the hills surprised me. If you’re not confident in pushing yourself up some lengthy gradual climbs, I’d work up to this one. But if you are comfortable on hilly terrain, I’d recommend this ride for the Huffman Dam views alone.
ANIMAL COUNT: Being that this is a very urban trail, with either motor vehicle traffic on Kauffman Avenue or trains running on the other side of the trail for almost the entire route, my chipmunk streak was broken. Those little critters aren’t fans of cars or trains. Go figure. Heard a bunch of birds, saw some rabbits and a squirrel. But no chipmunks.
NEXT WEEK: Rolling north on the Little Miami Scenic Trail to Yellow Springs.
Got a question about bicycling on the Greene County area bike trails? Send your questions to John Bombatch, and he’ll try and respond with a good answer. Or he might make something up, not sure. Contact him at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.