Trail Talk: Iliff Commons

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Topeka (WIBW) - Hosting the Sunflower State Games cross country 5K race is a dream come true for Dr. Doug Iliff, his wife Dorothy and land that had humble beginnings.

Dorothy says they didn't want the property to be developed with houses, so they decided to put trails through it.

What started as a place where Doug could run and Dorothy could walk kept getting bigger. Dough says as Dorothy kept cutting trails, they soon realized they'd be able to carve out a 5K course.

The result, Iliff Commons, is tucked in northeast Shawnee County, just west of K-4 on NE 31st Street.

Dorothy says the initial route followed deer trails through the woods. Now, the path follows mostly prairie for the first mile, a loop around mowed grass. The highlight of the section is Ad Astra Ascent, which offers a view of downtown Topeka, including the Capitol dome.

The second time around, you'll head into the woods, where wood-chipped paths will take you up and down hills and over creek crossings. Dorothy described the three main hills as "substantial." In fact, the first of them, dubbed Santee Ascent, has a rope alongside because some people need assistance to make the climb.

Maintaining the course is a workout in itself. Dorothy uses a 21-inch Snapper push mower. Doug says it takes her eight miles of walking every week, sometimes every five days. She also spends hours cutting back any brush, low limbs or vines. She says a type of honeysuckle on the property is a particular problem.

"It takes a bit of work," she says, "but it's all good therapy!"

You don't need to wait for a formal event to take on the challenge. Iliff Commons is always open.

Doug says that, as a physician, he encourages exercise, so this gives people a nice place to do it.

Dorothy agrees, saying, no matter what a person's fitness level, they can elect to walk the prairie trail for an easy effort, to challenge themselves with a jaunt into the woods to explore.