Suddenly, we are a family of bicyclists. At the end of April, my children learned to ride bikes without training wheels, which prompted me to purchase a bike to keep up with them. My husband quickly followed, and within one week of our new bike purchases we visited three bike trails with the kids. We may be addicted …
Stony Creek Rail Trail (Dauphin County, PA)
This was our first experience riding on a bike trail all together. In fact, we literally purchased my bike on the way to the trail. I have not owned a bike in years, and I’m pretty sure that this was the first NEW bike I’ve ever had. (Thanks for all of your hand-me-downs, sis!)
The ride started off rather ominously. As soon as we entered the trail, a woman warned us that another couple had seen a rattlesnake on the trail. Great! Wobbly children on bikes and venomous snakes slithering close by. What could go wrong?! I was paranoid the entire ride, but I am happy to report we did NOT encounter any snakes. (Of course, my son was disappointed by this.)
The trail runs through the woods and is beautiful and quiet – far from roads and traffic noises – and Stony Creek was visible through the trees during most of our ride. We passed the occasional bicyclist and a few fisherman, but it was not crowded at all.
We road for about 3 miles, and I was amazed at the kids’ stamina. The only negative aspect of our ride was a slight case of poison ivy my daughter picked up from her off-trail adventures.
Heritage Rail Trail – Northern Extension (York County, PA)
We started the trail at John C. Rudy County Park – the very beginning of the Northern Extension of the Heritage Rail Trail. The first part of the trail runs along the road, which made me nervous. There was a high curb separating the trail and the road, but I kept envisioning my daughter somehow careening overtop of it and out into traffic. Thankfully, she did not.
This was our first experience with hills and both kids proved their grit. We rode about 1.5 miles before we looped around some baseball fields, and then turned around under a road overpass. The kids thought it was pretty amazing to be under the road.
Overall, it was a nice trail, just a little busy and nerve-wracking at the beginning with all of the cars speeding by. I plan to pick up the trail where we left off, though.
Swatara State Park, Bear Hole Trail (Lebanon and Schuylkill Counties, PA)
This was our most ambitious ride yet. We ended up going over 5 miles! This also marks the first time I ever heard my son say he was tired while riding a bike.
There were more hills than expected, but lovely scenery. The trail follows a stream, and I imagine we will return here to ride AND splash in warmer weather. Unfortunately, it was chilly, and then it rained our entire 2.5 miles back to the parking lot. The only real drawback was constant noise from the highway, which was not far off for most of the ride. (I think we were just spoiled by starting our riding adventures at Stony Creek, which is so isolated.)
Along the trail is a fossil pit, which was one of our main draws to the location. The pit was only .5 mile from the parking lot. With a hammer and chisel, my kids were content to dig and chip at the rocks. We found a couple of little fossils of shells, but nothing too amazing. It seems the fossil pit has been pretty much cleaned up; however, childhood imagination proved strong and the kids enjoyed the experience.
We rode out to Bordner Cabin, an old log cabin situated in front of a waterfall. The cabin is noted for its craftsmanship. In the 1930s, teacher Armar Bordner, with the help of some of his students, built the cabin using only material found near the site. When Swatara State Park was formed in 1987, Bordner was allowed to stay in his cabin until he passed away in 1994.
The kids loved running around the cabin and pretending they lived there. My husband and I enjoyed relaxing at the picnic table and enjoying the waterfall view. The small waterfall runs only feet away from the cabin. It is a beautiful spot.
I was dreading the ride back due to the fact that my daughter was already complaining when we reached the cabin. The hills were a bit much for her, and on the way to the cabin she panicked going down a hill and ended up crashing. The result: a scraped knee and a new fear of hills. Fortunately, she didn’t let her fears get in the way for long. The 2.5 miles back to the car went rather quickly, and we even stopped to dig for more fossils in the rain.
We were all exhausted on the way home, but my daughter summed it up best: ” I love going on family adventures!” Me, too, girl. Me, too.
I love that my kids are getting old enough that we can all enjoy doing some of the same activities togethere. What is your favorite family activity?