Tristan pulls 16-month-old Elise on the Cross Vermont Trail
The spring-like weather last weekend drew my family outside at every opportunity. We drank our morning coffee in the yard while playing fetch with the dog and took a walk down our quiet dirt road to our neighbor’s sugar house where the sap was flowing like crazy. Of course, being the tremendous biking enthusiasts that we are, we also went on a family bike adventure.
My partner, Tristan, and I are planning to do a few bikepacking trips this summer in which we ride 10 miles from our front door to Groton State Forest, where many miles of trails and five campgrounds await us. The plan is to pull our 16-month-old daughter, Elise, in a trailer, and to pack our gear into frame bags and a second trailer. Our goal is to be self-supported, so we’ll need to carry a tent, sleeping bags, food and more on our bikes. In preparation for these upcoming adventures, we took a shakedown trip on our fat bikes on the Cross Vermont Trail
The day was warm and sunny, with clear blue skies and a light breeze that seemed to call out, “Get on your bikes!” We obliged by packing our bike trailer and gear into our Subaru, loading our fat bikes onto our hitch rack and heading to the parking area on Rail Road Bed East/East Road in Marshfield, a few miles above Marshfield Village, from where the Cross Vermont Trail enters Groton State Forest. Although our plan is to someday ride from our front door to our campsite – no car involved – we decided that on this day we would use our car as a base camp.
We parked in a pull-off by Bailey Pond. Elise had fallen asleep in the car, and we had hoped to quietly load up and transfer her to the bike trailer without waking her so that she could continue sleeping in the trailer. One challenge we’re expecting with family bikepacking is keeping an active toddler happy for hours in a bike trailer. A strategy we think will work is to do most of our miles during her nap times. But on this day, we woke her accidentally as we loaded her in. We tucked her into her blanket and handed her a favorite stuffed animal, and hoped she would go back to sleep.
Tristan von Duntz
Sarah and Elise take in the view at the edge of Bailey Pond in Marshfield
We pedaled away from the car and toward Marshfield Pond, where the dramatic cliffs of Marshfield Mountain drop down to the edge of the water. Peregrine falcons nest on the cliffs and this spot feels truly wild. The Cross Vermont Trail follows an old rail bed on this section of the trail and the going is relatively smooth with little to no climbing; however, on this late winter day we did have to navigate sections of ice and large mud puddles.
I checked on Elise frequently, peering at her through the clear plastic sides of her trailer. She never slept, but she quietly watched the woods whiz by, seeming to enjoy the green moss, soft mud and flowing streams as much as we were. Another strategy we’re hoping will work for bikepacking is to get Elise very comfortable with traveling in the bike trailer. So far, so good.
We continued on the trail, a narrow dirt road that is shared with infrequent cars and ATVs, to a section that passed by beaver ponds. We pointed out trees that had been gnawed on and showed Elise a beaver pond that she could see through the window in her trailer. At the far end of the beaver ponds, we came to a lesser-traveled section that wasn’t passable due to thick ice and snow, so we stopped to take in the view and have some water. That was our turn-around spot for the day.
We pedaled back to the car, back past the beaver ponds, rushing streams, spring-green moss and dramatic cliffs of Marshfield Mountain. We guessed that we traveled five miles roundtrip that day.
We’ll continue to post about our shakedown trips as we travel longer distances and scale up to a multi-day bike-powered adventures with a toddler in tow. Wish us luck and stay tuned!