“Clap if you believe in fairies….” It’s a line at the end of Peter Pan that we all clap along to, even if in our hearts we aren’t quite sure those fairies REALLY do exist. Well, after my recent adventures along the Columbia Trail in Hunterdon County, I will be clapping with certainty every time I hear that line from now on.
Recently my family of 3 has rediscovered the joy in bicycle riding. We started small, exploring the trail along our local park, taking our bikes on errands around town and simply cruising around the neighborhood.
Once we discovered the fun we could have on our bikes, we decided to explore some of the trails around NJ. Traillink.com is a wonderful website that will provide you with information about trails around the country. They list the trail distance, display a map, describe the material the trail is made of and post many reviews from previous visitors. By using this website we discovered the COLUMBIA TRAIL, which runs from High Bridge to Long Valley. Since we love the beauty of that area, we decided to give it a try. The trail is gorgeous! It is a nicely shaded path along the south branch of the Raritan River. The sun dapples the landscape as it peaks through the many varieties of trees. You might spy a deer, a groundhog or your favorite New Jersey birds as you ride. There are benches along the trail to provide resting areas to enjoy the gifts of nature and there is even a beautiful bridge where you can pause to enjoy the breathtaking Ken Lockwood Gorge and the Lake Solitude Falls.
On our first excursion we parked near Califon and headed to High Bridge. It was 7 miles in this direction and we intended to stop in the quaint town of High Bridge for lunch and a brief respite. After enjoying delicious burgers and a few libations at Mrs. Reilly’s Pub House, we began our 7 mile trek back to our parking spot. This part of the ride seemed harder….our daughter felt tired and mom and dad seemed more winded after a beer or two at lunch. We all questioned how we would make it back to the car. That is when the magic happened.
Suddenly our daughter Kayleigh spied something odd. She slowed her bike to explore it and announced that she had discovered a “fairy house!” As we dismounted our bicycles we were shocked to see a tiny hinged door at the foot of an old oak tress. The sign on the door called it the Gnome Home and there was a bounty of treasures inside! A journal beside the loot asked that the visitors take a treasure and leave a treasure. How neat! We dug into our backpack for a treasure to leave and Kayleigh selected a plastic turtle as her souvenir. Suddenly the ride was a wee bit easier with this happy discovery.
Little did we know there were more fairy houses to be discovered! As we continued along the path we were now noticing little home after little home. Some were intricate, some more simple. All were hidden among the trees, the leaves and the large stones. There were houses with doorbells, decks and even outhouses. Many had themes including one near the Califon Train Station that is modeled to resemble a fairy size version of the train station. As we took photos of each we giggled at the cunning and creativity of the magical imps who must have created these joyful little palaces. Interestingly, we even noticed some statues of fairies, gnomes and leprechauns on our journey. Kayleigh surmised the pixies had been watching us and turned into statues as we ventured closer, all in an effort to remain mysterious.
Our journey had again become joyful, filled with excitement wondering what we would find around the next bend. Having stopped for a water break we shared our photos with fellow nature lovers who had not yet happened to notice the fairy houses on their journey. We are sure they continued along the trail with a new perspective.
Since our first visit we have returned several times. All the original houses are still there and on our last trip we discovered at least 4 new homes. We also noticed many more statues of fairies and gnomes too! There are no signs to advertise the magic along this trail but for those in the know, whether walking or biking, it is a wonderful way to reconnect and bring the magic back into your family!