I’ve found another 5-star trail on the East Coast Greenway — this time in D.C.

Back when I biked from Annapolis to Alexandria, Virginia, along the East Coast Greenway in 2014, the route to Washington, D.C., relied on the Northwest Branch Trail. Today there’s another option, and I think it’s even better.

This is the Anacostia River Trail, which runs along the eastern side of the Anacostia River, which feeds into the Potomac River, and crosses back into D.C. nearish to the Capitol. There’s more on the western side (some still under construction) that goes past the old (soon to be demolished?) RFK Stadium and near the pro baseball and soccer stadiums.

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Tour de Pines 2021, day 4: I’m in love with Belleplain State Forest

The calm of Belleplain State Forest

The final ride of the 2021 edition of Tour de Pines may be my favorite yet: so much time bicycling on quiet roads plus my first time in gorgeous Belleplain State Forest. Who would have expected all this in the most densely populated (and can I say most congested?) state in the U.S.?

I’m rarely this far south in New Jersey, so this bike ride of close to 50 miles was a lot of new territory. We started in Estell Manor Park, about 25 miles west of Atlantic City, and generally went south. We were deep in the Pinelands National Reserve — think lots of oaks and pines, plus the occasional small town. That or the route planners did a great job keeping us away from traffic.

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Tour de Pines 2021, day 3: The hunt for the Jersey Devil

Oh I looked for the Jersey Devil on this 51-mile ride on the Tour de Pines, particularly around Leeds Point, the eastern-most part of our route and its alleged birthplace.

No luck.

Was it because it was a warm, sunny day — perfect biking weather, really — and maybe devils prefer nightfall? Or did we need to wander deep into the woods and swamps, rather than head to the end of somewhat deserted yet paved Oyster Creek Road, almost to the Atlantic Ocean and where there’s an seafood restaurant and bar that didn’t try to capitalize on more than 100 hungry, thirsty cyclists? We spotted the Atlantic City skyline in the distance … perhaps the devil prefer doing its mischief in modern casinos?

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Tour de Pines 2021, day 2: Historic Whitesbog Village plus Potato the baby pig

We aborted this bike ride after nearly 5 miles (I’ll spare you the explanation, but all is fine — we’ll find another day to ride the 52 miles, maybe a bit less, and finally see Chatsworth, the heart of the Pine Barrens).

On the other hand, I had time to explore historic Whitesbog Village, once New Jersey’s largest cranberry farm and a place where they apparently treated their workers better than the rest. It also was home to Elizabeth Coleman White, who developed the blueberry cultivar we eat today.

Workers came 100 years ago for the six-week harvesting season, often from South Philadelphia. So read that as Italian immigrants. One of the things that struck me was how many more women than men were in the photos. But I feel like I only scratched the surface; apparently there were two communities of migrant homes, Rome and Florence, and they were segregated, one for those Italians, one for the African Americans. I only saw photos of white people.

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Tour de Pines 2021, day 1: Cranberries and ice cream sandwiches

This is my third year exploring New Jersey’s giant Pine Barrens ecosystem and preserved open space, thanks to the Tour de Pines bike rides organized by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. It’s back as group rides this year, though over four days instead of the five pre-COVID.

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Hurricanes Henri and Ida ripped up the D&R Canal towpath

The remnants of Hurricanes Henri and Ida walloped New Jersey in August and September, and the D&R Canal towpath was smack in the path of both. The Millstone River flooded, Canal Road flooded, all kinds of major roads flooded … it was not pretty.

I dreaded seeing the damage to the canal towpath (also part of the East Coast Greenway).

We finally biked the section from Trenton to Princeton after Sunday’s big rally for the Essex-Hudson Greenway. Here’s what we found:

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Let’s get the Essex-Hudson Greenway built!

Today we joined the tail end of a bike ride from Newark to Trenton to tell Gov. Murphy that we want an old railway line turned into a 9-mile trail connecting Jersey City and Newark — the two largest cities in the state’s most densely populated counties — and on to Montclair.

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My awesome bike summer — make that my awesome bike year

This essay for Rails to Trails is my thanks to my neighborhood — especially the kids — for the highlight of my COVID year. May it bring a few smiles or, better yet, inspire you in some way.

Zeba, I hope you one day bike all of the East Coast Greenway and you’ll let me ride with you part of the way.

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This bike ride hits just about every beach in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

You know how you swipe someone’s ride off Ride With GPS or similar and it’s … not what you hoped it would be? Not this one!

We picked it because it went past a friend’s house and the mileage — about 34 miles — was right. One word: fabulous. A lot of quiet roads, roads that dead-end at beaches, roads with generally respectful drivers (and when they came a bit too close, odds were the cars had out-of-state plates).

Did we miss any beach?

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A lavender farm in New Jersey? You can bike to 2 near Princeton

The lavender plant at my house spills over almost the entire width of the front walkway — a challenge for those put off by the many bees foraging for nectar. But how do I prune it? And what clever things can I do with the stems?

That’s made me curious about a lavender farm between Princeton and Hopewell with 15 varieties. Easy enough to bike there, I thought. Much of it is already the route we take when we want to punish ourselves with hill climbs in the Sourlands. And much closer than the lavender fields in Provence.

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