posts tagged with 'biking'

a Tuesday at the bridge

I can't remember right now if we bike to the Old North Bridge other times of the year, but we certainly like to in November! That was our outing yesterday, and unlike last year all the boys came along. Leaving midmorning, we made our way down the highly-contested portion of the bike path in Bedford into Concord and reaching the bridge just in time for a chilly picnic lunch in the sun.

the boys eating lunch on the gravelly beach by the Old North Bridge

lunch and history

After lunch we left our bikes to walk across the bridge, try and climb the tree in the field, and play in the amazing overgrown evergreen garden down the hill from the (closed, we tried) visitor center. Last year the we played hide-and-seek there so of course the boys wanted to do it again; at first I was reluctant, but once we got going I had to admit it was a great idea. We played four rounds and we all had fantastic hiding spots each time—well, fantastic except for all the sharp pine needles that made their way into my underwear! Still seemed worth it. We only wondered why we didn't bring friends!

the boys in the limbs of a large evergreen bush

we could fit a lot more kids in this tree!


rocky rest

The last time we were in the Middlesex Fells it was a major hiking expedition. And there was a time before that when just the boys and I explored for a few hours before going to dinner with friends, but I don't remember exactly when it was and I can't find it here on the blog. Both of those times we did lots of walking, and the woods felt giant. Yesterday we were back again, and this time with bikes. And we managed to get a lot further in a lot less time!

Harvey and Elijah coming out of the woods onto an overlook above Spot Pond

running out of woods

In the end we only went about two and half miles, but it was over varied enough terrain, and we made enough stops, that it felt like a real adventure. Plus we went up some serious hills. There was also a high school cross-country meet going on, and we were able—in one case were forced to—stop and watch a couple of the races.

Among all the delights of the outing, my favorite was our stop at a rocky outcropping that's actually in Stoneham's Whip Hill Park (which was our entry point to the Fells). With our eyes on the adventure ahead we barely glanced at it on our way in, but coming back tired and a little ahead of schedule for our next engagement it seemed like just the spot to stop and rest. Especially since it came with a ready-made chair.

Zion sitting on a big natural chair in the woods

the throne of a mountain troll

Besides sitting, we also climbed and explored and found a scattering of feathers where a bird had been killed. Only I have no idea what kind of bird: black and yellow and spotted? Zion and Elijah made crowns with the feathers, to go with their rocky throne.

Elijah with yellow and black feathers in his hair

one of the kings

We never managed to climb the cliff itself, despite some serious attempts. But on the other hand, Harvey didn't knock Zion off to his death when he threw a shoe over the edge and hit Zion on the head, so we can count that as a win! And as much fun as all the biking and moving was, it was also delightful to stay in one spot for half an hour or so in a beautiful spot in the beautiful late-afternoon light. The outdoors are pretty awesome!

Elijah and Zion relaxing in the late-afternoon woods



a little hard ride

I still haven't managed to write about the 4H fair, to say nothing of our camping trip back in the end of July. There's just so much to say! And in the meantime we keep on doing more things. Today the boys hung out at my parents' house while I had a meeting at work, and then we went to Backyard Farm Club. But my favorite part of the day was a ride we squeezed in between those two engagements, at Whipple Hill in Lexington.

Harvey and Zion with their bikes atop Whipple Hill

made it to the top!

Whipple Hill is a challenging place to ride. It's a hill, obviously—the biggest one in Lexington—and besides that the trails are extremely rocky, and rooty where the rocks aren't. The challenge is super fun if you're into it, but young people would be excused for maybe not being entirely thrilled by the type two fun. Especially Elijah who, with his 20-inch wheels, had to walk a fair amount of the way (even downhill! the rocks are just that big). To be fair, the rest of us weren't going that much faster in the saddle, but it probably wasn't what he signed up for when he agreed to go for a ride. But he did great—they all did! I was so proud of the effort they put in, and told them as much more than once.

We haven't been doing much riding this summer, which I regret. Too many other things to do, I guess? My thought was we could get back into it now that it's getting cooler. Unfortunately today was not cooler, and in fact was about as humid a day as you could imagine, so we sweated some. But the theory is good, and the boys are strong, so I expect we'll keep it up in the days to come!


ready for adventure

This morning our friends invited us to Berry Pond, which is in Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover. It's about half an hour away, so not someplace we usually go by ourselves, but definitely worth a trip with friends. I wanted to make a real outing of it, so I packed up a big picnic in the cooler, told the boys to bring clothes for hiking along with their swimming things, and loaded up the bikes on the new bike rack. I knew our friends were just thinking about a relaxing couple hours on the beach, but it never hurts to be ready for anything that might come up. Like maybe the pond might be closed? It was! Our friends were dismayed and apologetic, but we didn't mind a bit. With all our prep and packing, we were all set to lead a short hike and then set a beautiful, full table for a lunch picnic.

our picnic feast on a picnic table


And then after we ate the kids went down to the beach anyway. They figured there was a lot of fun to be had even without swimming, and they weren't wrong. Especially when they decided that even wading quite deeply would be fine. They spent a happy hour or so hunting for pond creatures to stock the aquarium they built by digging a hole in the sand and lining it with plastic sheeting. Delightful!

the kids wading in the pond with nets

they aren't swimming

After that our friends were done—with a one-year-old you sometimes have to limit your outings—so they headed home. But we hadn't used the bikes yet! So we made contact with some different friends and arranged an off-road cycling outing at Great Brook Farm. We went an extremely round-about route in order to get in some errands on the way, but that was fine because it gave the boys' clothes some time to dry (we helped by hanging them out the windows). So they had something to wear when we hit the trails.

the boys and friends riding on a dusty trail by a cornfield

high summer riding

It was hot, and the second adventure of the day is always harder than the first. So once again Great Brook proved a good choice for a ride, because it let me buy everyone ice cream at the end. Now that's how you end a full day of outdoor excitement!

Zion eating a giant blue-and-pink ice cream cone

cotton candy flavor


I get a ride

While it's super fun riding with the kids, I also like to get out on my own every once and a while. Like yesterday. After church I felt so tired I could barely keep my eyes open, so obviously the thing to do was head out on my bike for an off-road excursion around Walden Pond and Flints Pond. Well, it couldn't be off-road the whole way: as much as I pore over OpenStreetMap looking for ways to connect trail segments, it does take some time on streets and bike paths to actually get anywhere. But maybe not as much as you'd think! Of course, I put the ride on Strava so I would be able to know where I went—you can look at my course here. I will say, I wish Strava would recognize a difference between trail riding and road riding: it's not fair that my 24 miles on swampy, rooty singletrack is compared straight up to someone riding on smooth roads! It's no wonder my average speed was just 8 mph! On the map of my route the straight lines of bike path and road look like half the route, but I can tell you they were less than ten percent of the effort. Oh well, I guess I do it for fun, so...

the best rides don't always go the farthest

On Friday we left our school group gathering a little earlier than we would have otherwise, to keep a date to ride bikes in the woods with people we didn't know as well. In theory, anyway: I issued an invitation to all the homeschoolers I know how to contact en-masse in the Greater Boston and Greater Lowell areas to take a ride with us at Great Brook Farm State Park, in the interest of maybe finding some other people to ride with on weekdays. As it happened, while we had a fine group of four adults and seven kids, all but one adult and one kid were people we already knew very well indeed—including the folks whose house we'd just been at. Oh well, that's good too.

some kids in the distance riding beside a farm fence

riding at the farm

Since our party included two adults without bikes and one three-year-old on a balance bike we weren't exactly chewing up the miles. Instead, we proceded around the wide and smooth Pine Point Loop at a reasonable pace, with the older cyclists zipping ahead and then stopping to ride steep slopes to the side of the trail or climb big rocks or leap over horse jumps as the spirit took them. At some point a few of us did one actual mountain-bike trail, which was a chance for the old MTB hands Harvey, Zion, and Elijah to show off, and for a couple kids newer to the enterprise to experience how much fun it could be.

But as delightful as it is to be on a bike, it was the rocks and streams that were the real fun of the day. A couple of non-Archibald kids and I had a great time climbing the biggest of the rocks we came across, and then playing on a gigantic seesaw formed by a 40-foot (maybe? I didn't have a tape measure) white pine trunk that had fallen on a waist-high rock just right. While we were doing that Zion, Elijah, and a friend got very muddy playing around the edge of the pond, and then decided that the only thing to do to get clean was to submerge themselves up to mid-chest in the spillway.

Elijah, Zion, and a friend waist-deep in a narrow spillway

no mud left on those legs

Which they've probably always wanted to do anyways, so I guess it was fine. But Zion at least wasn't totally happy—or warm—for the rest of the ride. Did he learn his lesson? I'm sure he did not. Water is too hard to resist.

So is bicycling. We'll be out again soon!


revisting a ride

On Tuesday I wanted to get out for a ride in the morning before the forecast rain. I was thinking MTB but, as we talked about it, all three boys requested a bike path trip (I think they were thinking fondly of Saturday's excursion). I was worried that would be a little tedious, but they were convincing so after a little bit of farm work we set off up the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway towards Lexington. It was fun: we went at a reasonable pace, we got to talk, and when I got bored I rode over things along the side of the path. But when we stopped by a stream for a rest and some playing, I had an idea. Some years ago we had explored part of the "ACROSS Lexington" trail system, and had a great time... maybe we could do that again? We did, and it was delightful.

Harvey and Zion riding on a singletrack path through a field

dirt under the tires

As I wrote in that long-ago post, the ACROSS Lexington trails connect sidewalks, paved paths, and woods segments all over town. Back in 2018 they went up to "H"—it's all the way to "N" now, but we still stuck with the original "A" route. Because besides a good ride, we also wanted to relive past glories! And see how much more impressive we are now. For example, compare Elijah in that old post to what he's up to now:

Lijah in the cargo bike looking at a wildflower garden and farmy shed

Lexington scenery

Elijah on his bike in a garden spot

now he has his own wheels

(We tried to reproduce the original as much as we could, but April instead of July made it hard!)

Zion was seven the first time, and had been riding for less than a year. Elijah is eight and an experienced cyclist, so he never told us he hated trail A except in jesting imitation. He did have to push up some hills, though; we haven't been riding that much lately and the seven or eight miles felt like a fair lot. Still, we made it in fine form, and quite a bit faster than last time too. Home in time for lunch, even with a stop at the Battle Green visitors center thrown in at the end. Good times. I wonder if there'll be any interest in trying out any of the other thirteen routes?


a spring outing in winter

Besides planting, feeling the ground under my feet again has got me thinking about biking. So on Saturday the boys and I headed out on an expedition to Fawn Lake, where we met some friends, had a picnic, played tag and hide-and-seek, floated boats in a stream, and generally had a lovely spring-like time of it. While enduring bitter cold and, from halfway through the outing, some kind-of serious snow. I guess you could call late February a transitional period.

Zion and Elijah riding on a muddy bike path in the falling snow

so much fun!

Fawn Lake is a pretty cool place. There are rocks and cliffs to climb and eat lunch on top of, a field for running games, and plenty of signs of beaver activity to admire. At first we were disappointed that we couldn't get onto ice—it was clearly thick enough over most of the pond, but less than cat ice close to the shore—but eventually we made our way to a cove where it was solid right up to the banks, and got our sliding time in (Zion was heard to remark that he wished he brought his skates).

the boys picnicing on the cliff above frozen Fawn Lake

good picnics make good outings

That would have been enough for the kids. But what I wanted on an outing after a giant thaw was to see some running water, so before heading home we took a little side trip to Wilderness Park, where the outflow from Fawn Lake forms a delightful stream rushing over rocks. Even though my stick boat didn't win the race, being by running water was a balm to my soul.

Zion and Elijah playing by a rocky stream

nobody fell in too badly

Of course, going to the stream extended the outing a bit, and as the kids pushed their bikes back up the icy hill out of Wilderness Park in a driving snow squall they were kind of questioning my leadership. Luckily they're strong cyclists, and the fact that the bike path home is mostly downhill made the mud and the snow a little less of an issue. Suffice it to say that we all made it home. Being on bikes again was a mixed experience: as we started out Elijah told me how excited he was to be riding again, and he wondered why we hadn't been cycling more over the past month. A few hours later he was ready to never see a bicycle again. And of course, no matter your energy level winter riding has its challenges.

Elijah lying under his bike on a big patch of ice on the bike path


The younger boys and I were out for four and a half hours (Harvey went home a little earlier because he had an online engagement with a friend). Imagine what we'll be able to do when it's actually spring!


elevated expectations

We took a bike ride in the woods yesterday, and I turned on the Strava because it's actually the best way to navigate on trails where you're not sure where you're going or where you want to go. And because I like recording things! When we finished up after a couple hours of fun exploring I was maybe a little disappointed to see that our ride came in at under four and a half miles. Is that all we could manage?! But then I thought about it a little more and started to wonder if it wasn't actually reasonable. After all, some kids don't even regularly do five miles on roads! And this ride wasn't on roads.

the boys walking their bikes on rocks across a stream

it wasn't all quite that bad

Well, not paved roads at least. We were in the Estabrook Woods in Concord, and one of the cool things there is the old Colonial-era roadways that still run through the woods: Estabrook Road and Two-Rod Road, straight between the stone walls at either side. As we rode along we tried to imagine what the landscaped looked like when instead of trees it was all fields and pastures, but we couldn't really. It's a big woods, and though we've been there before there are still lots of parts we haven't explored. The big find this time was an old limestone quarry: a gorge eight or ten feet deep and not much wider, with a cave at one end and a cool Pride Rock outcropping overhanging in the middle. Just right for a little chorus of "Nants ingonyama".

Elijah posing on a rock like in Lion King

the helmet is baby Simba

the boys in a pretty deep cave

it's hard to take pictures of caves

We also stopped a few times so the boys could climb glacial erratics, and to have snacks and water, and to consider the world from the heights of Hubbard Hill. And of course in Estabrook woods there are lots of streams and ponds to check out. Sure it was too cold to want to fall in but not cold enough for ice, but that doesn't stop us being fascinated by the water.

Zion throwing a rock into a pond

and almost-midwinter afternoons look like evenings

No, they're good riders and hikers, and I'm lucky to have them as company for such delightful jaunts in the woods. Not every kid would go for it! And if I want someone to do a ten-mile ride with me, there's always Harvey. And probably Zion next year. And Lijah not far behind? We'll keep practicing!


outings with pre-teens

It's interesting being a parent. As soon as you think you're starting to have things figured out, they change. Not that I in any way feel like I've got anything figured out! But this past Saturday I did have notice how much the experience of going on outings has changed with big kids, as I got the boys—well, some of them—out the door for a bike ride to the Old North Bridge.

Harvey and Elijah walking their bikes over the Old North Bridge

can you see them up there with their bikes?

On the one hand, they're all much more capable than they used to be. It's a little under five miles along the unpaved bike path to get out to the river, a distance that used to feel like a major expedition. Saturday we took it at a pretty relaxed pace and made some stops to see the sights—especially the bird sanctuary tower again—and we still did the whole trail in well under an hour. That surprised both boys, who remembered it as being much more arduous.

Wait, "both boys"?! Yes, there were only two. Zion declined to join us, which points to the other difference: going out and doing things doesn't have the appeal it used to. It's easy to get preschoolers psyched up for an adventure—they trust you that it'll be fun, and they don't have the competing pull of preteen activities like sitting on the couch reading books or playing Minecraft.

Oh well, hopefully we had a fun enough time that he'll feel better about coming along on future outings! Certainly it seemed plenty fun to me. We floated bark boats in the river, which is flowing much higher and faster than is typical for fall; Elijah and I rode some stairs; and we enjoyed an early snacky lunch (slanch) at a table on the pavilion above the river. Then, best of all, we explored and played hide-and-seek among the crazy overgrown ornamental trees that cover the bank below the visitor center house.

Harvey and Elijah eating lunch at a table on a lawn over the Concord River

lunch pavilion

the two boys in a crazy tree

just one example of the fascinating vegetation

Then we zipped home in plenty of time for Harvey to play Minecraft with his friends. See, it's possible to adventure AND be a preteen!