posts tagged with 'biking'

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!

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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?

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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

ouch

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!

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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!

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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!

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riding in Fairhaven

Yesterday we introduced another family to the joys of cycling by Fairhaven Bay. They have a fourth-grader and a kindergartener who are kind of into mountain biking, but not totally sure about either the risk or the energy requirements involved... and one parent who would really like to get them into the woods and moving. So I thought the Fairhaven trails would be perfect—they're practically designed to introduce folks to the fun of trail riding. The landscape between Fairhaven Bay and Walden Pond is beautiful and varied, and there are lots of fun spots to stop and play off the bikes. And on the bikes, there are steep hills where, for a second or two, you can feel like a real downhiller. And most of all, the paths are almost entirely smooth and free of roots and rocks—super rare for woods around here. So the little ones can ride for way farther than they would be able to otherwise! We managed four or five miles, which felt about right, and which took in the cliffs, the boathouse and its lawn, a stop at Walden Pond, the train tracks (where we waited for a train to pass and the boys successfully signalled the engineer to sound the horn), and the old race track. Then back at the car there was plenty of Halloween candy for a recovery snack. Good times.

a morning out

Cooler weather rekindled our enthusiasm for adventure last week, so on Friday we loaded up the bikes for a trip to Fairhaven Bay. I was interested in seeing how high the water was after the recent flooding, but mostly I just wanted to get out and moving! The boys were amenable.

Elijah climbing up the chimney by Fairhaven Bay

adventure

We've been there plenty of times now, but but it's a big place and there are still paths we've never explored, so we were able to try something of a different route. Elijah is constantly improving as a cyclist, and I was very impressed at how easily he handled the hills—sure, he had to walk up a few of the steepest spots, but he did it with a will and without hardly any complaining at all! Of course, the other boys are awesome as well. It's a great place to ride if you don't mind hills: the ups and downs are exciting, and the paths are mostly smooth and free of rocks and roots.

The river was a little disappointing: it was high, but less so than last time we visited. Never mind, there are other exiting things to visit—like Walden Pond, up on the other side of the woods. Some of us were a little nervous about crossing the train tracks to get there, but we all did it and were rewarded by getting to put our feet in the water. We didn't stay long though, because staying still we started to get cold, if you can believe it. Crossing the tracks again I opined confidently that trains came by very infrequently, so of course less than a minute later, as we were still putting on our shoes, there one was. They're always exciting to watch up close, especially when you're on the same side of the tracks as all your stuff.

Zion and Elijah watching a train go by

whoooosh!

Of course, the best part of adventuring is the snacks—and especially getting to eat them in all kinds of fun spots. Elijah enjoyed half of his on the cliffside perch pictured in yesterday's post and saved the other half until we found this shelter.

Elijah eating a granola bar in a stick shelter

we're not sure it would keep off the rain, but it sure looks cool

All that, and we made it home in time for lunch!

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camping 2021 part 3

the boys asleep in the tent

cozy

Our first day's hike was hard work, so the tent felt super comfortable for a long sleep. And there were no worries about sleeping late, since the boys had requested breakfast at a restaurant for our second morning—or should I say the restaurant, one of the central pieces of our Bar Harbor vacation experience. Knowing how hard it is to park in town, I cleverly had us pack the bikes, so we could leave the car out by the playing fields and ride to the cafe. We arrived to a 15-20 minute wait, but there was also a giant connect four game so no worries at all. Before we knew it, we were sitting down to a tremendous feast.

our laden table at Cafe This Way

camping is hungry work

After we ate we headed down to the shore (experiencing some difficulty navigating the bikes through the extremely crowded streets and sidewalks; now we wished we didn't have them). We played on the cannons, threw rocks into the ocean, and climbed on cliffs. Like you do.

Elijah posing atop a rock tower

he climbed up twice as fast as last time

On our way back through town we stopped at the department store for the boys to buy some fuzzy souvenirs. Then we did something new (a rarity when we go on the same vacation every year) when we stopped at the skate park and rode some lines. It's a great spot, and I wished I had a BMX bike! I borrowed Elijah's for a few minutes but it's not quite the same.

Zion and Elijah riding in the bike park

every town should have a skate park this good!

Since I hoped to do some slightly longer riding, I persuaded the boys to try a few miles on the carriage road network. I hadn't ridden on the carriage roads for years and years—since Harvey was born, for sure—and the main reason I brought bikes was to give them a go. The boys were feeling pretty tired but allowed me to psych them up ahead what I promised would be a fun and beautiful ride... and then, a quarter mile in, we hit a long steep steady uphill that almost brought on a mutiny. In their defense, it was super hard! But in mine as a cycling instructor and encourager, everybody but Elijah was able to ride up with just a break or two along the way. Lots of the adults we saw couldn't manage that! We paused for a tired picture at the top or so, then everybody enjoyed some downhill miles that made it all worthwhile. If you ask me, at least.

Harvey and Elijah on the carriage road overlooking the ocean

too tired to admire the view

Cycling is my favorite, but you know those boys want to be in the water. So, back at the campground, we finished the day with a good long swim in the pool.

Harvey and Zion in the pool

another day, another pool soak

Dinner was just spaghetti and red sauce, so that was easy. After yet more smores, we went to bed in the tent for the last time on the trip. How was it we were going home tomorrow?! It seemed like we'd just got there!

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adventure time

As well as all the other excitement last week we went on a couple outings close to home and discovered some fun surprises in areas I thought we new pretty well! The first one was last Wednesday, when we brought bikes to Walden Pond so we could ride and get hot before we went in the water. Instead of going on the road (the idea of which made the boys nervous) we took to the paths behind the parking lot, aiming for a spot where OpenStreetMaps suggested that there might—possibly!—be a tunnel under the highway linking up with the Hapgood Wright Town Forest in Concord . After a few wrong turns and some fun short hills, we reached the road... and there it was!

Harvey biking out of a tunnel into the bright sunshine

into a mysterious new world

Thrilling as it was, the tunnel wasn't the only exciting part of the outing. We've explored Hapgood Wright lots of times on foot, but bikes always let you see trails differently. This time we noticed lots of amazing downhill runs that we definitely want to go back to do some more! Of course, downhills require uphills, and there were certainly some doozies. Even before we got back to the pond to swim we were glad of a midway rest stop.

Harvey and Elijah cooling themselves and their water bottles in a brook

cool for feet and water bottles

(If you want to explore the tunnel yourself, just follow our track as shown here.)

Thursday's adventure was a post-strawberry trip to Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest, but that one didn't go as well. Elijah was tired out from the picking, and the other boys have bad memories of riding that woods from when, the last time we tried it, they were feeling a little sick. So their energy wasn't high to start with. The only new discovery we made there was that the paths on the ground are difficult to reconcile with the map—and not knowing where we were or where we were going didn't make Lijah feel any better about the outing! Even though the older two boys had recovered and were having fun, we cut the trip short after just a couple miles.

Then on Friday we were back in Concord for a hike with friends in Estabrook Town Forest. We know it well too, though I will say every time we walk up Punkatasset Hill (88m) I'm surprised at how steep that trail is! Being there with other people let us notice some things more—like stick houses—and some things less, because lots of the time we were deep in conversation. But by far the outstanding discovery of the trip was that they spillway where the pond drains into Sawmill Brook makes a fantastic natural waterslide... but that's a story for another post!

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lost week

Last week was rough. On Monday morning—before breakfast, even!—I made a poor life choice going over a jump and smashed into a tree. Besides cutting up my face wonderfully, I did something to the nerves in my neck that left my hands numb and my arms sore. That slowed me down some, I can tell you! Then just as I was feeling better on Thursday it was time for our second Covid vaccine. Welcome, of course, but when I woke up on Friday I found that the post-vaccine fever had combined with the nerve damage to leave the about the most uncomfortable I've ever been. Sleeping especially has been really hard. And then on top of all that, adding insult to literal injury, the woodchucks and rabbits have been absolutely destroying the garden. It's extremely discouraging.

me, bloodied and bruised

trying not to let the bastards get me down

But we're alive, and enjoying seeing more and more friends in person, and I imagine I may one day start to feel better again. My shoulders don't hurt so much I can't type, at least!