Looking Back...Walking and Cycling the Countryside (from the 32nd
by Catherine D. Kerr
|A few days after moving to this area, I
took a break from unpacking, pumped up my bicycle tires, and pedaled off to
explore my new neighborhood. Within minutes I was rolling along Lower Creek Road
near Stockton, riding beside the Wickecheoke Creek beneath a bright autumn
canopy of leaves. Scarcely believing my good fortune in living so close to this
scenic treasure, I made it the first entry on a mental list of great places for
a local walk or a bike ride. I’ve been keeping that list for more
than twenty years now, and I’m still adding to it.
When it comes to scenery, Bucks and
Hunterdon counties have been richly endowed. From the blue curves of the
Delaware River to rolling farms and country roads inland, from Lakes Nockamixon
and Galena in Bucks to the Spruce Run Reservoir and the Red Mill of nearby
Clinton in Hunterdon, there is much to see and enjoy.
An old red barn.
The Delaware Canal at Washington Crossing
|I am convinced that walking and
bicycling are the best ways to experience these delights. Stone farmhouses and
old red barns, fertile cornfields and crystal-clear creeks, patches of bold
orange daylilies and breezes heavy with the scent of multiflora rose growing
wild by the side of the road—these are some of the sensory impressions
you’ll carry away from a day or even a few hours of cycling or walking here.
It may be true that you can cover more territory in a car, but I think you miss
too much when you go whizzing by in a cocoon of glass and steel. Even a good
whiff of a working dairy farm serves to confirm that you are really there, and
when the sights and smells are more agreeable, it’s easy to linger and enjoy
them a little longer because you can simply step to the side of the road without
worrying about where to turn around or park.
Delaware and Raritan Canal
|If you’re new to cycling and walking
in Bucks and Hunterdon, the canals are an excellent place to begin.
Pennsylvania’s Delaware Canal and New Jersey’s Delaware and Raritan Canal
both run parallel to the Delaware River and are accessible at many points along
the way. Both have towpaths covered in fine crushed stone to create an even
surface that is good for walking or cycling. (Best of all, some would say, is
the fact that they are completely flat.)
In places like New Hope and
Lambertville, a canal walk is basically a town walk. The towpaths lead past the
back yards of houses and are only a short distance away from shops and
restaurants. Away from the towns, where there is not as much development, the
paths feel more like country byways. Some sections of the canals run right
beside the Delaware—near Lumberville or just south of Lambertville, for
example—and the towpaths provide broad views of the river.
|It’s easy to plan a walk or ride by
the canal that suits your mood. You can go just far enough to work up an
appetite, for example, before arriving in town for lunch or a coffee break. If
you’re looking for a longer outing, you can use the bridges across the river
to create a loop route following the canals on both sides. The circuit along the
towpaths through New Hope, Lambertville, Stockton, and Center Bridge totals
about seven miles, for example, which may be a little long for a casual walk but
could be covered in a leisurely bike trip of about an hour if you ride straight
Wickechoeke Creek below Green Sergeant
|The canal paths are multi-use trails,
meaning that pedestrians, cyclists, and (in Pennsylvania) horses and mules share
the way. To preserve harmony among all, cyclists should always give way to those
on foot, and both groups should yield to horses and mules. (If you’re
uncertain about how to go past these four-legged towpath users, ask the mule
drovers or equestrians for advice on how to proceed.)
Many local parks have trails that are
good for walking or cycling. The Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve near New
Hope has gravel-covered trails leading through a wooded area that is a showcase
for a collection of nearly a thousand species of plants native to Pennsylvania.
The main part of the preserve is surrounded by a tall fence to keep out hungry
deer. Inside, you’ll find a variety of trails including some that follow the
course of Pidcock Creek. If you’re feeling very energetic, you can walk all
the way up to Bowman’s Hill Tower, which (for a small admission fee) offers a
sweeping view of the surrounding countryside.
Ridge Road farm. Photo: Martin E.
Lumberville from Bull's Island.
Photo: Martin E. Kennedy
At Peace Valley Park in New Britain
Township, a paved bike/hike trail goes most of the way around scenic Lake
Galena, a six-mile route. This is one of the most popular places for off-road
walking or cycling in Bucks County. The park also has fourteen miles of unpaved
nature trails, some near the lake and others through woods and fields nearby.
In Hunterdon County, there are natural
trails at the undeveloped Sourland Mountain Nature Preserve in East Amwell
Township and the Wescott Nature Preserve in Delaware Township.
|Quite a few of the parks in the area
offer walks for those who like to travel in company, leaving the planning to
others. If you’re interested, it’s best to contact the individual parks for
up-to-date information. For cyclists, the premiere organized event is the annual
Covered Bridges Ride sponsored by the Central Bucks Bicycle Club, which draws
some 1,500 cyclists to enjoy a group ride from Tinicum Park on Route 32 near
Erwinna. This year’s event, scheduled to take place October 14, will include
20-, 32-, 50-, and 63-mile loops passing many of Bucks County’s dozen
remaining covered bridges. The bike club also offers a variety of smaller group
rides at all levels each weekend. [Visit their web site at www.cbbikeclub.org
for more information.]
And there are great country roads all
over this area. They take you away from the busy thoroughfares and seem almost
able to carry you back in time. Many are still unpaved, some barely two lanes
wide as they lead through woods and farmland. Though not a comprehensive list,
these are some of my favorites:
The foot bridge at Lumberville
links the canals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Photo: Martin E.
Cuttalossa and Fleecydale
Roads in Solebury Township, which follow the Cuttalossa and Paunacussing
Creeks from the Delaware River up into the hills,
Ridge Road in Buckingham
Township, which takes you through open farmland through a peaceful valley
that lies parallel to Route 232,
Alexauken Creek Road near
Lambertville, which runs right next to Route 202, though you’d never know
Lower Creek Road near
Stockton, the same road I “discovered” on my bike soon after I moved
here; it ends at the Green Sergeant’s Covered Bridge, the last of
remaining historic covered bridge in New Jersey,
Creek Road just outside of
Frenchtown, which starts near a public playground and follows the
Nishisakawick Creek to the little town of Palmyra, passing through
undisturbed woods,and, finally,
Raritan River Road between
High Bridge and Califon, which is well off the beaten path but is probably
the most dramatically scenic of any of these. The road follows the South
Branch of the Raritan River as it tumbles through Ken Lockwood Gorge, a
favorite with fly-fishers. In a car, this
unpaved road can seem nearly as rough as the whitewater beside it, but that
shouldn’t bother you as much if you’re cycling or walking.
Rolling fields. Photo: Martin E. Kennedy
If you do go exploring on these
or other back roads, please remember that even on relatively quiet country
roads, cars pose a potential hazard to cyclists and pedestrians. Keep an eye out
for approaching autos and remember to walk on the left, facing oncoming traffic;
cycle on the right, riding with traffic. When you ride a bike, always wear a
Ready to get going with your own
catalog of scenic places in Bucks and Hunterdon Counties? I hope that this
information will be just a starting point—and that you’ll enjoy adding to
your list as much as I have over the years.