I'm discovering more and more that Minnesota has a really robust trail system, especially in the area around the Twin Cities.  I've known for a while that the Gateway State Trail goes from right near my apartment out to Stillwater, on the MN/WI border, but I hadn't had a chance to explore it yet.  With Minnesota's fall colors at near peak, last weekend seemed like the perfect time to get out there and see what it had to offer.

I was joined by two friends, Emily and Allison, and we headed out nice and early for the 20 or so miles to Stillwater.  We only had to do about 5 miles on surface streets before we hit the trail, and after that we were treated to a gorgeous canopy of color, and a nice paved path with overpasses or underpasses for any major street crossings.
Eventually we got off the Gateway, and onto a nice paved path along a back road that would take us right into town.  Stillwater is a small town right on the St. Croix river, known for a million antique shops and a pretty good brewery.  Being a beautiful Sunday, the whole town was hopping, but we managed to get a table at the excellent Smalley's Caribbean BBQ.  The place smelled amazing, and their pork ended up being just about the best I'd ever had.  I also tried a little of their house-made rum, which was excellent as well, and definitely got me warmed up for the ride home.

Photo Credit: Chilkoot website
On our way out of town, we stopped in at Chilkoot Cafe & Cyclery,  I needed some air in my tires, and Emily had a loose brake lever, plus we were hoping for a route out of town that wouldn't require any extraneous hill climbing.  Chilkoot is a beautiful little shop, located in a historic building just a couple blocks from the river.  The owner, Lee, was more than helpful, giving us directions and getting both mine and Emily's bikes ready for the ride home, and showed us his ultra-high-tech 3D bike fitting setup.  The food in the cafe looked great too, but I was too full from the BBQ to sample any.  The place is definitely worth a visit if you're in town.
The ride back was much easier for me, courtesy of an extra 30psi in my tires, although I think I did gain a couple pounds worth of BBQ!  Total distance ended up being 43 miles, and you can see the route and all the cool stats here.  I'm definitely planning to explore the Gateway a little more this fall, as it extends another 10 miles or so to the Northwest past where we got off it.  And I'll be headed back to Smalley's at some point, possibly after a day of climbing in Taylors Falls or some canoeing on the St. Croix!  Below are a couple more photos from the ride if you like.
Stillwater Lift Bridge

Glamour shot of Alli's bike. I attempted the same with mine, but missed the focus...  Next time!