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!”


  • Defiitely bicyicling. My daughter is still a baby but when she’s older, I hope she joins me!

  • Our favorite “tradition” is actually a new one for our family – but we have already decided it will be a permanent part of our lifestyle from now on.

    We rented a 20′ x 20′ plot in the Troy Community Gardens, and everyone in our household worked together for days to clean it up and get it ready for planting. (It was a terrible MESS when we got it – we had to haul out about 20 garbage bags of waste after we cleaned it up!)

    After we got everything ready for planting, we were all so excited about the amazing tranformation of the plot that we decided to go all out. We got some inexpensive fencing, built a gate, and even put a garden gnome in the middle to “guard” everything! 🙂

    We all helped with the planting – which was an educational experience for us since none of us had gardened before. Of course, we’re still all helping the watering, the weeding, etc.

    We don’t always walk to our plot because of the extreme heat lately, but we do as often as we can. It’s a bit of a long walk for us, but we consider it quality time spent as a family.

    In the past few weeks, we’ve begun tasting some of the “fruits” of our labors and have discovered that you’ve NEVER really tasted broccoli unless you’ve eaten it 45 minutes after it was picked! And tomatoes are delicious when they’re fresh and sun-warmed. I could go on, but you get the idea.

    Because we live in an upper story apartment building, we recently started a small herb garden in a container on our porch. That’s been fun too, and cooking with freshly picked herbs is a delicious and fun!

    Not only are we eating more fresh vegetables, but we’re cooking at home more often so we don’t waste any of the veggies we worked so hard for, and getting WAY more exercise than we ever have. We are LOVING our new family commitment to gardening!

  • We started a new family tradition in the Northwoods last year. Almost every weekend in summer my family travels to Lac du Flambeau (near Minocqua) to our cottage on Fence Lake. Because swimmers itch is very common on our own beach, our family started taking short canoe trips to a weed, and snail-free sandbar. Now, whenever we travel to the Northwoods, our boys beg to take the canoe out right away.

  • Our favorite family tradition is hiking! We head out yearround to local trails on weekend afternoons and National Parks when on vacation. Just this past Sunday, we hiked the Loch Raven Reservoir in MD.

  • We are newer campers and over the last few years we have found many trails to hike on but our favorite family tradition is a night time walk! When it has cooled down and time for us to slow down and get ready for bed! We bring a map of the stars and will stop in clearings and also the kids playground to admire the amazing light show in! Our daughter especially loves playing on the swings at 11 at night while we are star gazing! She then of course has to play a game of trying to catch the stars as we push her higher and higher! She swears she almost got the moon last time! lol It is amazing the quiet besides our laughter and the animals that are just waking up and beginning their day. It is a nice treat when we sometimes get a quick glimpse of them before they scurry away! After a nice walk and seeing the stars we can snuggle into our sleeping bags and easily fall asleep! Crossing my fingers next weekend is cool enough to pack up the van with the tent and telescope we just got so we can give it a first try!!!