Happy Trails in Gilbert

Most of the time I ride a road bike. On a road. My mountain bike hasn’t seen a mountain for the better part of a year, but I’m lucky to have trails near home that give me a good excuse to ride it to Pilates class.

In the dozen years that I've been riding along the canals, the Town of Gilbert added a number of upgrades, including on-demand traffic lights at busy street crossings. Most of the canal trails are paved now, although with some connecting sections of gravel, a mountain bike is still the best choice.

Today was an experiment of sorts. I wanted to ride a little more than the four miles from my house to the gym, and I wanted to play with my new DSLR camera. After using film SLRs for many years, and then getting spoiled by the convenience of pocket-sized point and shoot digital cameras, I worried that going back to a larger camera and long lens would be cumbersome when hiking, and impossible to carry on a bike. An online search turned up several backpack/camera bag combos, but the Case Logic TBC-307 looked to be exactly what I wanted: easy access to the camera, even with the long lens attached, a separate compartment for lenses and other items, an internal pocket and an external water bottle pouch.

One of the best features is the top zipper that gives you easy access to just the camera, without having to open the entire bag.

I ordered it on eBay, and it was shipped from WalMart, of all places. I’m amazed at how much I love this bag! It’s easy to carry using the handle if I’m taking it somewhere by car; and with the chest strap snapped, it was very comfortable when riding.

I left home 90 minutes before Pilates class and headed toward the Riparian Preserve, hoping to take some wildlife pictures in the morning light. I took those pictures and more.

With overhead power lines, and an often dry canal filled with litter, the trail isn't very attractive.

Often I dismiss the canals as a boring ride. They’re flat, dusty, and slow. But today’s ride wasn’t about speed, and that made it the perfect way to start the month of May.

When you stop and take time to see the flowers on a bush, it changes the scenery altogether.

I’ve seen many of the sights along the canal every ride, but never really paid attention to the details. Today, with my camera, I found lots of details.

I wish I knew the story behind this memorial along the railroad tracks. Then again, maybe I don't want to know the sad story.

Gilbert may seem like all the other Phoenix suburbs that popped up in the last housing boom, but once you get off the streets and onto the trail, its farm town roots are evident.

Believe it or not, just across from another stucco and tile subdivison, someone raises peacocks along the trail.

Gilbert's Riparian Preserve is an oasis just off the main trail, with a network of paths open to bikes, horses, pedestrians, and dogs.

The water recharge basins at the Riparian attract all types of birds.

Various structures encourage nesting, but this one looks vacant.

Saguaros bloom in May, and this one is ready to pop.

I was tempted to stay all morning to find more birds, bees and flowers. But I gave myself a deadline so that I would make it to Pilates on time.

This tortoise isn’t part of the wildlife at the Riparian. I spotted him visiting a group of preschoolers at the Freestone Recreation Center after my Pilates class.

I'm not the only person who rides a bike to the gym. I've seen this one before, and although I don't know who owns it, I picture some guy with gorilla arms who lifts the heavy weights.

The absurdity of driving somewhere to exercise isn’t lost on me, although I do it more often than not due to convenience and time constraints. If I can leave the car at home once a week and enjoy the trail, I’m happy.

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