Small Escapes

Memorial Day means a break from normal life; a trip down the shore, grilling on the deck and watching the sun set over the bay (what my father-in-law refers to as “the daily miracle”), hanging out on the beach making sandcastles and digging in the surf, walks to the park to look for birds and bunnies in the wetlands, and an extra long, four- or five-day “weekend” with the in-laws. Aye, there’s the rub: four or five days of full family immersion, with all meals and outings shared together, unprompted advice and life guiding suggestions, labor intensive chores usually reserved for misdemeanor punishment—all done as a family.

A quick search of Google Maps and some mental notes and I’m out. Cruising down to Cape May on the Straggler is just what I need. The Lizard Tail Swamp Preserve seemed like the perfect ride to zone out and take a break from the weekend. Some easy road riding to the trails, with what I figured would be some fun, but mostly boring South Jersey trails, should easily make quick work of the couple hours I had to myself. Turns out the trails are awesome! The Nature Conservancy built great, tight, twisty single track that pierces through pine-oak forest, scrub oak filled coastal plains, and rooty red maple swamp lands. The three miles of trails are so well marked that I only needed to soft pedal for a moment to find a blaze on a tree or a sign post telling me where to go. The trails have quick rolling hills, banked turns, tiny narrow wooden bridges, long stretches of rooty swamps, and enough ticks and mosquitoes to kill an elephant.

I posted some pics to Instagram documenting my sweet find and was instantly hit up by Pete, telling me he was down the shore and we should meet up for a ride. We planned on riding inland to the trails at Bellplain State Forest and making a longer trip of it, as Bellplain takes a lot more road riding to get there. Pete and I rode through the backroads and towns of South Jersey to get to the trails at Lake Nummy Recreation area. A quick stop at the local motorcross trail on the way, hitting some sweet jumps and berms was definitely in order. Back on track, we jumped on the super tight ribbon trails at Lake Nummy. The trails there seem to go on forever. Pete and I had planned on riding a full loop of the trails, but after an hour or so on the trails and 500 spider webs to the face, we decided to bail at the access road and head back to the shore. In the end we did around 50 miles and cruised on the road, explored sleepy small towns, got buzzed by a giant eagle on the bike path, got rad on some sweet MX dirt jumps, and ripped some super fun single track. These impromptu trips to Lizard Tail and Bellplain were the perfect respite from the “fun” of the family vacation.

Lizard Tail Swamp Preserve - A Nature Conservancy protected habitat

Pine forests

Tick filled plains

Roots in the swamp lands

The bridge had steps on both side and was barely wider that my bars

Trails are excellently marked with trail signs and blazes on trees

Bike ninja skills employed to avoid creaming this little guy in the middle of the trail

Glazed cherry pie and coconut water for the ride home

Dawn over the ocean

Dawn Patrol long shadows

The Port Townsends Inlet Bridge - first day open after the post Sandy rebuild

Found Pete

Catching some air

Mountain laurel

Bellplain trails at Lake Nummy

Cruising home on the bike path

Golden eagle swooped out in front of us, this is the best picture I could grab