Slaughter Creek trail offers 5 miles of unintimidating terrain for mountain bikers
Pam LeBlanc, Fit City
I feel like a modern-day rancher, scampering up gentle hillsides and bouncing down a short cascade of limestone rocks at the Slaughter Creek Preserve. Instead of a horse, though, I'm riding a mountain bike.
My two-wheeled steed and I dip into a few rock gardens; we clamber up a section of trail that's been girded with rocks to prevent erosion. We weave into pastures of blooming Indian blankets, then wind through shady groves of cedar trees.
I pause to guzzle water, let the sweat drip and gaze out over a pasture of greenish-golden grass waving in the breeze.
This five-mile trail, built by volunteers from the Austin Ridge Riders, serves up the perfect amount of summertime challenge for intermediate riders. It's doable for those of us who can't quite tackle the gnarly terrain at City Park or parts of the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
Instead of bone-cracking cliffs and steep drop-offs, it's mostly smooth dirt and gravel pathways that unspool over gentle hillsides. It's not too easy, though, and it takes me about 45 minutes to make the loop.
I want more, so I do it again. This time I notice the old stock pond, and I half expect a steer to amble out. Though cattle don't inhabit this property anymore, you might come across a horse or two, because the Slaughter Creek trail is open to equestrians.
To minimize surprises, riders are asked to travel the trail counterclockwise while cyclists go clockwise. And cyclists, if you do encounter a horse and rider, slow down, step off the trail on the downhill side and talk to the animal gently as it passes.
The trail is also open to hikers.
The singletrack trail cuts through a 100-acre swath owned by the City of Austin and set aside for water quality. Unlike better-known parks, the Slaughter Creek Preserve doesn't usually attract big crowds.
The Austin Ridge Riders manage the trail, which is open from dawn to dusk daily. You have to drive through an automatic gate to get to the trailhead, which is next to the old Trautwein homestead.
A historical marker at the house explains that a widow raising three children bought the property in 1858. She later married a man who added on to her one-room home. They drew water from a hand-dug well next to the limestone house.
The well no longer functions, and there's no water at the preserve, so pack in what you need.
And channel Ben Cartwright as you ramble the old ranch.
Contact Pam LeBlanc at 445-3994
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