Stower Seven Lakes Trail - Then and Now

Gary Osborn (far right) and family

Guest Author: Gary Osborn
As a young child, my family lived out in the country operating a fishing resort.  Gravel roads were all around us so my parents saw no need for a bicycle for me.  Each winter we would move into Rice Lake, Wi. where my parents would take up part-time jobs.  During the last year before we sold the resort, my next door neighbor taught me how to ride his bike.  How exciting that was.  My folks bought me a one speed, second hand bike and that was the beginning of my love affair with the bike.
        I rode that bike through my schooling and even into college where it was much easier to get to class on a bike than to drive around looking for a parking spot for a car.  Following graduation, I joined the Coast Guard and was stationed at a light house at the source of the St. Lawrence River in New York State.  
My wife and I lived in a small village 3 miles down river.  It was there that I bought my first multi-speed bike; an Iverson 10 speed with center pull brakes.  I would ride it from our apartment to the light house and back.  Returning at midnight was a little hairy with the river and rocks right next to the single lane road I was on and my lite blinking on and off. I was always most grateful to get back to the village and safe.

Im,ature Eagle viewing trail
After my enlistment was over, I got a job teaching in Amery.  In 1984, I decided to buy a good bike to replace my all steel Iverson.  My Ross was a cro-mo frame, with aluminum wheels, all aluminum components and a 12 speed.  It even had toe clips.  I rode that bike all over.  I purchased my first bike computer that was as big as the present day auto GPS that sits on your dash.  I didn’t care for it told me how fast I was going and how far I had gone.  It was great motivation for me to go faster and farther.
        We had a family by this time and our vacations were comprised of loading up bikes in a trailer and pull that behind our pick up camper and travel all over Minnesota and Wisconsin riding the trails.  It is what we did.  The trails were great: safe and no hills.  To this day all five of our kids have and ride bikes.  One commutes from St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis every day when weather permits. They all like to camp too as a side note.
Living in Amery with the train traffic dwindling, I would fantasize of the old trail bed becoming a bike trail.  Trains stopped coming and an all purpose trail was made to the east of Amery.  It was a a beautiful trail but unfortunately, not practical for bicycles.  I tried once with my mountain bike.  I rode from Amery to highway 63 and returned by paved road.  It was too difficult to ride because it was so loose and rocky.
        The bed to the west remained just that; a bed.  Efforts were made to turn it into a bike trail but came up against a powerful motorized contingent that wanted it to be motorized to extend their Cat tail trail.  A legal battle was to be and a decision was made in our favor.  Then stimulus money came into play and our Stower Seven Lakes State Trail came into existence and for me a dream had come true.
Beaver  along Stower Seven Lakes Trail
It gives me such great satisfaction and actual happiness to visit with people that are riding the trail and hear then state how much they enjoy the trail.  Our small group that maintains the trail take great pride in keeping it up and that effort appears to be appreciated by all that use it.
        As I write this, I am camping with my wife headed for the Root River Trail in SE Minnesota.  Last time we were here, it was with most of our kids during a Labor Day gathering before the Stower trail was in existence.  My wife does not like to ride her bike on  streets and roads but on the trails she feels safe.  What a joy it brings to both of us when we see families on the trails doing what we did 25-30 years ago.  The trails are such a wonderful way to view God’s creation that we have to enjoy.
        And now, we have one right where we live to use any time we want.