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  • Writer's picturePatrick Baechle

A rare day on the Raritan

After an enjoyable lunch at Frans Pub, in the quaint and charming town of New Hope, I hit the Delaware River canal towpath heading East. In comparison to some of the other canals I've ridden along, this one has been the most picturesque. Old historic stone cottages sit along side it and are reflected in the mirror like still water. All of the crossing bridges have been reconstructed to replicate the original bridges and where they have been replaced by concrete road bridges they dressed them up with wood structures to match the original bridges. Most of the canal was shaded with large old growth trees.

As luck would have it, I missed my exit from the canal. I was so enthusiastic about the ride that, I completely lost track of where I was. The beautiful bike path eventually started dwindling into a single track foot path that terminated behind a liquor store. This required me to do some urban bushwacking through the streets of Trenton, to try and pick up the next leg.

After an hour of rootin around the city, investigating locked gates and dirt roads, I saw a guy on a bicycle come up on a path from under a freeway bridge. I asked him if he came from the Raritan River canal towpath trail and he just shrugged his shoulders. I knew the trail was in the vicinity and I assumed it was down in the ravine so, I took a chance and road down the path.

There was indeed a paved trail at the bottom but, there were no casual walkers, families with kids on bikes or fishermen. Apparently, in Trenton, they have other uses for these trails. This is where the local hoodlums hang out to practice doing wheelies on there gas powered four wheelers.

As I carried my bike over the tracks and popped out of the weeds, they were just as surprised to see me, as I was to see them. I gave them the univeral 'I'm OK you're OK' head nod, climbed on my bike and headed off down the trail.

For about the first 5 miles, I thought this was gonna be a bust. The trail surface was washed out, rutted and overgrown with weeds. It ran right next to a loud and noisy freeway and it seemed like I was following some kind of toxic waste water channel.

Little by little, throughout the day, things began to improve. The trail became safer and much better maintained. There were more and more people, with families, out walking and riding; and the closer I got to Princeton the more the waterway seemed to be used by fisherman canoists and kayakers. So nice!

I felt blessed yesterday; saved from from the New Hope tornado and saved from having to ride on major roadways the entire day. Essentially, I was on one long bicycle trail the entire 45 mile ride from New Hope to Princeton. I zoomed along mindlessly, enjoying the nature and the light gravely surface. I was free from having to navigate and it made the ride so enjoyable. For being in one of the highest traffic congested areas of the Northeast you would never notice it being on this trail.

I went out and enjoyed a night on the town in Princeton. The students are beginning to return there and the place was full of life. From what little I saw, it was a beautiful place worth some additional visits.

Today I am continuing my journey up the Raritan River trail toward Newark.

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