Evansville State Park was a wonderful bike/camp trip and our 3rd – or was it our 4th? – with our intrepid friends. That year, the Fantastic kids were 5, 5, 8, and 11 and the twins could ride bikes! This is noteworthy as they were about to turn 6 and had learned to bike as 4 year olds. Fiercely, by comparison, had not learned until just after her 7th birthday and Cleverly around her 6th. At this rate, if we had more kids, they’d be biking at birth!!
Heading out on Philadelphia’s Kelly Drive, closed to cars on summer weekends. Papa has Really on the crooked tagalong (on right).
Bikers on Kelly drive with Philadelphia Zoo Balloon in the background
We were thrilled that all the kids were bikeable, and the 4 kids from other family were as well. We packed our camping and cooking gear in bike trailers and brought 1 twin bike alternating between a twin biking and riding in a trailer as she tired out. We also had a car as a back-up and to carry some gear. Parents took turns driving.
Really taking a break
This trip involved riding with most of our gear about 35 miles to the park from Philadelphia and back. We had done parts of this route in previous years but decided to bike it all in one day, camp a few nights, then bike back to Philadelphia. The day was long as the pace was leisurely, if you can call motivating 8 kids leisurely! It took about 9 hours including several stops for snacks and breaks. The older kids sped along singing [charming? irritating? lively?] kids songs like the self-explanatory “this is the song that never ends” and “I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves” and suchlike. The younger members tended to go more slowly so we parents spread out along about a mile to escort them.
Bike trail heading North
The trail is the Schuylkill (pronounced ‘skoo-kill’) River Trail and is 130 miles from Pottville, PA to Philadelphia, PA with some sections pending. The part we rode goes through downtown Philly, north through Valley Forge National Historic Park, and into Collegeville, where we went off-trail for a few miles to the park. The trail is well-used, often by the bike-gearheads training for something or other, speeding by us on bikes worth more than our car, with the spandex outfits and specialized water bottles, etc. So we had to be aware of their warning bells and calls of “on your left!” as they whizzed by and left us in their wake. Of course, we did have the moral high ground since we had 8 young bicyclists-in-training but that doesn’t get you much love if you’re blocking the trail.
We could really slow down a biker like this! Sorry, dude, just trying to instill a love of cycling with our EIGHT kids, ok? And trying to get our gear to the camp site without a car!
Luckily, though the trail is rather narrow, there are bump-outs with benches for resting and once at Valley Forge there are bathrooms, water fountains, picnic tables, and plenty of space. The bus station at Norristown is another good pitstop along the trail. Also, one may venture into Conshohoken, Norristown, or other towns en route.
Really and Truly at the campsite
Papa cooking at the camp stove
Truly with a toad
Evansburg has camping only for groups, defined as 5 or more people. This served us well, since it appears to be seldom used and we were the sole campers each time we went. The campground included a bathroom building with flush toilets, a water pump, picnic tables and fire pits. Once we set up our tents, we had access to miles of hiking and biking trails, and also could bike back to Collegeville if we chose. We hiked to a playground, a river perfect for wading, and a historic home near remnants of a mill.
Friedt visitor center – an historic building in the park
We stayed several nights and biked the same route South back to Philadelphia. We did this on a weekday, so there was less bike traffic but we also lost the benefit of the carless Kelly drive for the last couple miles of the trip. The bike path instead goes next to Boathouse Row and the Philadelphia Art museum with its flower gardens bursting in the early summer, so it was a great end to a great trip!