Emilie was agitating to get out. We had hoped to take Isaac to ski something big on Mt. Washington, but the fresh 16 inches of snow created avalanche ratings of “considerable” and “high”. It is also hard to motivate Isaac up hill when there are no friends his age to chase. Everyone we had queried to join us was already committed and could not join us. In contrast to earning turns, there was no difficulty convincing Isaac that it would be fun to take his new bike for an extended ride.
Our destination was to be ice cream. Haywards in Milford offered not only ice cream, but also lunch. Emilie says, “Yeah! We can ride up the rail trail from Lake Potanipo to Milford!” I says, “Ummm…” I pulled up the Strava Route Finder to get distances on rail trails and roads. …about 25 miles round trip! Additionally, it ended with a significant climb back to the house. Last fall Isaac did an amazing job on a 10 mile road trip back home from ice cream in Pepperell, MA. Not only would this be about 2.5 times as far, the rail trail portion was dirt for increased rolling resistance.
I put on my “adult hat” and suggested we need to do something a bit less “committing” with our 5 year old. About half way to Haywards on route 13 is a trail head with short access to the rail trail. It was agreed we would put the bikes in the car and start from there. As a bonus, Isaac’s friend Ian and his father, Jason, were available to join us.
This would be Isaac’s 2nd ride on his new bike. It is larger and, instead of a single speed and coaster brakes, it has 6 speeds with front and rear brakes on the handle bars. To top it off, in addition to learning the new brakes and managing the larger bike, Isaac was having trouble overcoming the spring force in the shifter to down shift to lower speeds. He had no trouble working with the spring to select 6, his favorite gear. With help from us to down-shift, the lower gears proved very helpful for getting up all but the steepest hills. The forest was scenic and passed numerous bodies of water.
Allowing for the regular rocks, roots and unpaved surface, the trail was generally an easy ride. At one road crossing, the map indicated a small jog to the right. We looked at the painted cross walk that went across the road at a diagonal to a gap in a guardrail. There in the gap was a barricade and an indication that the entrance to the trail on the far side was closed. Oh…
Emilie says, “I see it!” An other 100 feet down the road was a new opening in the guardrail with a red arrow pointing in. When we reached the opening and looked down the hill, it was a steep set of wooden stairs to the rail trail about 30 feet below.
The next obstacle came where a housing development had overrun the rail path. A route had been negotiated with the land owners to go around the back end of the development and rejoin the railroad bed on the other side. However, this new route was up a very steep and rooted hill with a couple of switchbacks. We all took our turns failing to stay on our bikes and walk some of the hill. Isaac found more challenges making his way down the far side.
After a couple more road crossings, the trail passed under route 101 through a large corrugated culvert that was large enough to ride through. From here we turned off the rail trail onto the road towards Haywards.
We arrived at Haywards around 1:30. After hot dogs and ice cream, Jason rushed back to his car on his own for some plans he was working on being late for while Ian rode back with us. Isaac voted to take a slightly shorter route back that skipped the difficult single track hill, but was disappointed when he later learned that also skipped the culvert under the highway.
When we reached the side branch back to the car, Isaac declared he wanted to keep going on the bike. Ian, likewise, wanted to keep bicycling. Emilie headed to the car and for grocery shopping. The rest of us continued down the rail trail toward Lake Potanipo and Mason Road. If we were slow and Isaac wore out, Emilie would be able to pick us up anywhere along the final 2 miles along Mason Road back to our house. However, that didn’t happen. With Ian in the lead and Isaac determined to not give up, we made it all the way back home, including the final hills.
17.5 miles. Isaac’s longest bicycle ride yet.