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In the print edition and previous Web copy, Carlisle, Pa., was incorrectly identified as Carlyle, Pa. The correction has been made.

Give History a Workout on the Heritage Rail Trail in Pa.

Cyclists on York County's Heritage Rail Trail don't need to stray far off the path to find food or lodgings. The 21-mile route includes historic sites and other amenities.
Cyclists on York County's Heritage Rail Trail don't need to stray far off the path to find food or lodgings. The 21-mile route includes historic sites and other amenities. (By George Becker)
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By Nancy Dunham
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The last thing I expected to do with my bought-at-a-children's-toy-store bicycle was take a half-day jaunt down a serious bike path.

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I am as enthusiastic as anyone else about back-to-basics exercise, but the last time I rode a bike without counting down the minutes to the metaphoric finish line, my age began with a "1."

Yet I discovered that not only did I enjoy a trip on the 21-mile Heritage Rail Trail, part of a path that connects the Baltimore area and York, Pa., but also I wasn't the only non-athlete out there.

The Heritage Rail Trail is part of the National Trails System and runs from the Pennsylvania-Maryland state line to York. It is like no other in large part because of the many amenities, including benches and port-a-potties, and small-town attractions along its length. And many would say the trail is like no other because of the many individuals and businesses that help make it a welcome destination, including the two Eagle Scouts who conceived of the trail and raised $10,000 toward its construction costs in the early 1990s.

Kathy Modesitt and her husband, David, of Highland considered themselves weekend bikers when they first took to the trail. Stopping at Serenity Station, a cafe and day spa that also offers bicycle repairs and rentals near the midpoint of the trail, they were among those impressed with the sites along the way.

"This ride was great, quiet and scenic," Kathy Modesitt said. "It really is wonderful here . . . and quite historic."

Indeed, historic events include Abraham Lincoln's stop at Hanover Junction on his train trip to deliver the Gettysburg Address in 1863. The Hanover Junction train station houses a small museum, open on weekends from spring through fall.

The presence of such historic sites off a scenic trail is what prompted Kate Laskowski of Easton, Md., to visit.

"It was pretty easy, and we also got a good workout," she said.

Tom Brant, executive director of the York County Department of Parks and Recreation, not only rides the trail but also helps keep it safe, tended and, of course, "wonderful."

A 2007 survey that Brant oversees found that users of the 10-foot-wide trail traversed it by bike (71.7 percent), by walking or hiking (18 percent), by running (5.3 percent) or on horseback (0.8 percent). About 60 percent of users come from the York area, with almost 26 percent from Maryland, Virginia and Washington.

But word of mouth brings users from all corners.


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