Father’s Day has few perks since it is the bastard stepchild of Mother’s Day in terms of history and importance. With few firm traditions, its up to the dad in the family to make of the day what he wants. I used to use my Father’s Day prerogative to force the rest of the family to go on a family bike ride every year. I would pick a family friendly trail such as the NCR, the B&A or the Mt. Vernon Trail. I tried not to push too hard and strove to keep the grumbling to a minimum. A few years ago even this modest activity became more honored in the breach and my suggestion for a family ride would be met with general eye-rolling and heavy sighing. And that was just my wife.
Back when I was doing the Tour Dem Parks ride, the last segment of the ride was supposed to be out to the Gwynns Falls Trail and back to Carroll Park. That day was unbearably hot and I was sagging after 25 miles of ride. That is when it hit me that the Gwynn Falls Trail would be perfect for one last father-son bike ride before he went off to college.
I reminded him several times during the week that we had plans for Sunday, but when he asked to stay over at a friend’s house Saturday night, I figured he was planning to ditch me. But to my surprise, he walked in the door at 9 am, if not eager, at least awake. We carbo-loaded a breakfast and loaded our bikes onto my new bike carrier. We started the ride at Carroll Park which is just fifteen miles up the road from my house in the industrial wasteland of south Baltimore.
The Gwynn Falls Trail goes all the way from Middle River to the Security Boulevard Park and Ride and winds its way through southwest Baltimore and Leakin Park. Leakin Park is to Bodymore, Murderland as the Pine Barrens are to Sopranos, New Jersey. The park is big and little traveled and a great place to dump bodies. The trail is an attempt to give the area a little more purpose than just being an outdoor graveyard for drug dealers that have annoyed someone.
The park FAQ has this information:
Is the Trail a safe place to be?Methinks they doth protest too much. In our two hours on the trail we saw maybe a dozen people total and were often the only riders in sight. Compared to the traffic jam that places like the NCR and BWI trails are, the quiet and solitude were a pleasant change of pace. Make no doubt about it, the tree lined canopy makes for a relaxing cool ride, but the Gwynn Falls Trail is definitely one of the better kept outdoor recreational secrets in Mobtown.
Yes, the Baltimore City Police Department has assigned police officers to patrol the Trail which has experienced no serious incidents since beginning operation in 1999. This is clearly an example of "a used trail being a safe trail."
The path itself is a mixed bag of newly paved dedicated paths and bridges, abandoned roadway, and gravel trail all connected by the occasional detour down or around an active road. Heading upstream there is one long slightly steep stretch that leads to the unpaved part of the trail. This packed gravel section, while muddy, is the flattest part of the trail and a lot of fun if you have good fat tires and don't mind a little splashing.
We went a little past the main trailhead at Leakin Park but turned around rather than go up the last switchback. And like all riverside trails, going downstream was a lot more fun than upstream. When we got back to the car tired and out of water, I asked my son why he came along. He said it was because would have never heard the end of it from Mom if he hadn’t gone since this might be the last chance to do this. I thanked him for the effort.
On the way home, we stopped for gelato and went to a bike shop where he helped me pick out a new rear rack and bag as a Father’s Day present. And I woke up the next morning to find that he had left me a “Happy Father’s Day” message on my Facebook wall. That ride and that message are two of the greatest Father’s Day gifts I have gotten. I want to tell him thanks for the ride. It's been a great eighteen years as a father.