Photos by Valerie Turgeon
I was rolling along the Gateway State Trail wearing my favorite footwear (rollerblades) with intense concentration, as if in a video game, dodging sticks and wet leaves, and trying to predict the obstacles ahead. Note: fall is not the best season to go for a leisurely rollerblade. But when the path was clear and I could relieve my laser focus, I looked up to appreciate the fall scenery, the still and peaceful ponds, the bluebird resting on a branch, the horses jauntily trotting by on the dirt trail running parallel, and the solitude of getting away.
That’s what I love most about this section of the Gateway Trail between Mahtomedi and Stillwater. It starts in St. Paul, so it’s close to the Cities, but the further out you travel, the more rural and woodsy the trail becomes. On one outing, a gardener snake slithered by, and we once rescued a small turtle in danger of getting crushed by bicycle traffic.
But what about when you’re in the middle of your trek and you grow weary and hungry and you realized you forgot to pack that Cliff bar? That’s where the Gateway Trailside food truck in Stillwater comes in. For a trail with sections that wind through dirt roads and tree covered land without a car in sight, it seems like a good idea for a farm to offer food—incredibly fresh, tasty, and healthy food.
When you approach Trailside, located on Spruce Hill Farm, you instantly feel welcomed. Decorative signs and potted plants and flowers catch your attention on the side of the trail that lead up to the food truck. On the brisk October day that I visited, a small fire was crackling and a group of women were laughing and thoroughly savoring their break from biking. A few outdoor farm cats were also enjoying the weather as they monitored the area.
Trailside’s sign on Gateway Trail
The menu is short, but almost everything is homemade, and owner Tamra Hartman says she buys produce locally when she can. Most herbs are grown right on the farm—I saw her hand pick the basil for my strawberry basil lemonade. And the menu is reflected by the season. As an October special, made-from-scratch chicken noodle soup was offered, which was nice and hot, freshly seasoned, and packed with veggies and noodles. We also got a small hummus plate with tomatoes, peppers, carrots, and crackers. It’s food that won’t fill you up too much, but will energize you for all those miles you have left to run, bike, rollerblade, or trot (there’s a designated area for horses to rest at Trailside!). Hartman then sent us off with freshly baked ginger snaps and snickerdoodle cookies.
The only way to get to Trailside is by taking the Gateway Trail. There is not yet a parking lot, so you’ll have to put in a little more effort to get your meal, but it’s certainly worth it—not just for the food, but the hospitality. It’s obvious that Hartman loves meeting trail users who stop by. Since opening in 2015, she’s organized special events, bringing in musicians such as Reina del Cid, and hosted bonfires for trail users to snack on s’mores. Come winter, Hartman has talked about converting an old barn into a warming house for snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
My only disappointment is that I didn’t rollerblade on the Gateway Trail sooner to stumble upon the food truck. Hartman says she will close by the end of October, but with the leaves almost at their peak, it’s a great time to get on the trail.
Follow Trailside on Facebook for hours and special events. Trailside is located between Lansing Ave. and Hwy. 96 at mile marker 15.
Strawberry Basil Bliss
Homemade chicken noodle soup
Gateway Trailside food truck is located on Spruce Hill Farm