I’ve been watching Interstate 15 grow nearer for the past 10 minutes, and now I’m cycling through the underpass with the noise of trucks and cars roaring down from above. When I emerge on the other side, I see a signpost with the number zero. I wonder what it might be marking.
A few minutes later, I pass a sign stamped with a two, and realize that it’s tallying mileage—but I still don’t know what for. Seeing a kiosk with some shade, I pull over to discover a display that reads Legacy Nature Trail. I think back to the Interstate 15 underpass, the sign with the zero, and realize that I’m no longer on the Jordan Parkway Trail. In fact, the Jordan River is nowhere in sight.
Last fall, I rode this same section of bike path northward on a Sunday excursion with friends. The memory of a cool breeze and peaceful farm fields brought me back to the trail, but this time in the heat of summer.
I begin this ride at the Day-Riverside library (1575 W. 1000 North) in Rose Park. At that point part of the Jordan Parkway Trail, the path winds through residential North Salt Lake. I peer into backyards; chicken coops, rabbit hutches and plentiful vegetable gardens abound. A gallery of cottonwoods and elms shelters me from the sun.
A mile into my ride, I cross the border into Davis County, and onto the newest section of the trail. My tires roll from concrete onto a beautiful, red-stained boardwalk. Completed in spring 2012, the wooden path skims over the top of a patch of wetland that looks just a bit crispy in the 90-plus-degree heat.
Leaving the boardwalk, I notice that the peaceful residences of North Salt Lake lay behind me. To my right, the steel and flames of oil refineries and asphalt lots full of semi-trucks replace backyards, but there are still trees along my route, so I don’t mind. Then, I hit mile marker zero.
It’s easy to say that the trail changes entirely upon passing that first mile sign. While the paved track continues north, the Jordan River recedes to the northwest. In its place, the commuter lanes of the Legacy Parkway begin to parallel the bike path. At least it is paved with “quiet” pavement, and surprisingly silent despite constant traffic that’s close enough, it seems, to reach out and touch.
Other things disappear at mile marker zero: trees and birds. Once-upon-a-time attempts to shade the trail now exist merely as brown skeletal twigs lining the path, would-be trees dead for lack of water. And there is another change: Along the east side of the Legacy Nature Trail, suburbia begins. Looming gray houses push up against the path, some still in various stages of construction.
To the west of the pathway lie open fields, but they are the unkempt wild fields of the Legacy Nature Preserve, a chunk of 2,225 acres between the lake and the Legacy Highway set aside for wetlands and wildlife. I start to think I had imagined the farm fields during my previous ride, when I come across mile marker three, and the gray houses fall behind me. A half-mile later, I pull over again. I find a field, with cows.
I am almost out of water and there’s no place to fill up along the path. I don’t burn easily, but my shoulders are starting to feel singed. It might be better to ride the Legacy Nature Trail during the cooler afternoons of autumn, I begin thinking while standing in full sun, staring through a chain-link fence at the group of cows. The group of them—about 10 in all—stand in the shade of some Russian olive trees. Even the cows don’t want to be out in the sun.