Biking Cape Henry Trail…

#2 Ratchets work the best...

Each trip to Walmart or Target towards the end of 2011 included a side trip to the bike department to look over the bikes on display.  When you consider that the last quarter of each year includes a cluster of holidays that require copious amounts of shopping – you’ll realize that we looked at a lot of bikes!  Or rather, we looked at a bike, a lot.  A purple one, of course.

The bike that we selected actually came in a box, and after a detour to Papa Gene’s for quality assembly it appeared Christmas afternoon when Papa Gene and Uncle Mark arrived for Christmas Dinner.  So as the New Year began, it seemed a good time to begin working on Grace’s American Heritage Girl Bicycling Badge.  

Pumping the tires!

A focus on hand signals, safety, and proper clothing for day and night are the initial badge requirements, and from there, girls must learn to use tools to do basic bike maintenance and repair, and last, complete some lengthy bike trips.  This Kids Health Bike Safety web site article hits all the major points!  Ralph worked with our Explorer on adjusting her seat height, and pumping tires.  He also showed her how to put a bike chain back on the track! 

Next up was looking for appropriate locations for 5 mile and 10 mile bike ride.  This requirement has taken a little longer to meet, partly because of the weather, partly because of our hectic Saturday schedule, and partly because we wanted a good ride that isn’t streetside.   In our city, there aren’t many locations for long rides that aren’t on a major road at some point.  Looking farther afield at Virginia Beach we were reminded of a great option! 

Our first venture out for a long ride was to Seashore State Park (aka First Landing State Park).  The park has many trails, but only one for bikes, a multi-use trail called the Cape Henry Trail.  Ralph and I rode this trail years ago with friends, and then again with Ian when he was little.  Grace had never been, so this was a new adventure for her.  We headed out to the park late morning after getting a few chores done.  Turning in to the Southern portion of the park at the Trails entrance off of Shore Dr., we paid $5 for parking ($4 on weekdays, and $40 for a season pass according to another biking family), unpacked the bikes and set off!

Map of the various trails at First Landing (aka Seashore) State Park.

The trail is just over 6 miles, but it is not a loop! So, if you ride the full distance, you must turn around and ride 6 miles back to the parking lot!  12 miles sounded like a lot first time out on a longer ride, so we decided to play it by ear and see how we did.  Riding a bike on a woodland trail is a little more demanding than riding the flat streets of our neighborhood.  When we reached the 2.5 mile marker (it was really more like 3 miles from the parking lot), we saw that our water bottles were already low, and faces were a little pink.  We decided to turn around and just plan to meet the 5 mile requirement this time.  Everyone agreed that it was way fun!

The trail goes up and down alongside bogs and marshland,  the still waters are studded with cypress trees draped with Spanish Moss.  The sun filters through the upper canopy lighting up new green leaves along the path, but doesn’t penetrate enough to be too hot.  In the summer we suspect it will be a tad steamy and buggy, so note to self, “pack the Sawyers.” There were lots of walkers, joggers and other bike folk, and we found that everyone was quite cordial, sharing a greeting and the path.  Back at the car, Ralph and I looked at each other and asked “Why don’t we do this more often?” After loading up the bikes, we drove over to the North side of the park (it is bisected by Shore Drive) to show Grace the campsites, and to go dip our feet in the Bay.  The water was still very cold!

We’ll be striving to massage our schedule to allow for more time on our bikes in God’s great outdoors!  The Cape Henry Trail is only one of several wonderful hiking trails at First Landing State Park, and we hope to return without our bikes to enjoy Kingfisher Trail, or Osmanthus Trail, or Fox Run Trail!  We are really grateful for our local American Heritage Girl troop!  Working with our Explorer on these badges has been a lot of fun, and has nudged us out of our stodgy routines! 

In about two weeks, we are hoping to visit the Dismal Swamp Trail in  Chesapeake for the 10 mile ride – we’ll let you know how it goes!

A few photos: 

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