Creating Fitness Traditions
A family tradition. Those words inspire a warm feeling. One of my favorite family traditions involves a bike ride that captures the essence of family, activity and our glorious Wisconsin northwoods.
As a young man I spent many summers as a camp counselor in northern Wisconsin. I developed a bond with kids and the northwoods. I love the sound of the loon, the northern lakes and the majesty of ancient pine forests. I wanted to share that same experience with my children.
This presented an opportunity for an outing that would become a family tradition.
We decided to try a family bike ride that began at Crystal Lake State Park (near Saynor). We followed a bike trail that winds thru the woods and skirts lakeshores to sample the best of the WI northwoods. The trail ends in Boulder Junction, a small northwoods town that has somehow defied development and is affectionately called the Musky Capital of the World.
In the early years, my children (just babies) made the trip by riding together in two-seat bike trailer. They slept, giggled and tried to climb out. Over the years they graduated to a tagalong and then began to ride their own bikes.
Regardless of how we make the journey, we make it together and have fun along the way. We also have a few traditional stops. One is to throw rocks in the clear waters of Trout Lake. We love this part. Can you blame us? Trout Lake is one the deepest, largest and most beautiful of all the WI northwoods lakes. We have stone skipping contests as we gaze out towards the shimmering waters towards Haunted Island.
This is followed by my favorite part of our journey as the trail hugs the shoreline with a canopy of towering pines overhead. This portion of the tail is an abandoned railroad line that dates back to the logging era. The South Trout Lake campground was once the Trout Lake Station. Many of the pines here are over 200 years old.
Our next stop is lunch at Cathedral Point. This incredibly beautiful spot lies at the narrows between Upper and Lower Trout Lake and is near the first ranger station in our state. The name is fitting as some of the oldest remaining pines in the state tower overhead and the views of Upper and Lower Trout Lake are inspiring.
Upon arrival in Boulder Junction we dismount and take our traditional stroll down the Main Street to visit a few shops. We may even consider an ice cream cone at a place called Mad Dog Jakes.
To make the return journey more enjoyable, we stop at the Boulder Junction baseball diamond to play “magic baseball”. We don’t have our gloves, bats or a baseball but we pretend we are having a championship game complete with home runs and big plays at the plate.
Arriving back at Crystal Lake offers the reward of a soothing dip in the lake to refresh us. The water can be a little cool, especially in the fall. When I’m reluctant to take the plunge, my 9 year old son Joe reminds me, “come-on dad, it’s a tradition!”
Last fall, my daughter Olivia (7) took a big step and graduated from riding on her tag-along to riding her own bike. It was a big day. I knew she was tired but there were no complaint. She was determined and never quit. When we reached our destination, she was filled with pride. We cheered, celebrated and carried her into the healing waters as she quietly said “Dad, this is the best day of my life!” That touched me deeply as this misty-eyed dad watched his 7 year old daughter ride the 20 miles for the first time. She reached her goal and accomplished something she will never forget. It was a milestone in her young life.
My children have ridden in a trailer, ridden a tagalong and now pedal their own bikes. This simple outing has come to symbolize much more than a bike ride for us. It has strengthened the bond between us. As my son would say, “come-on dad, it’s a tradition!”