Adventure awaits at Hellbender Bluff

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Hellbender Bluff
Hellbender Bluff County Park, in Lisbon, Ohio, features a pump track, perfect for adventurous boys and girls. (Julie Geiss photo)

The Wright brothers are famous for the first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903. But before their infamous flight, they owned a bicycle shop in Dayton.

Sometimes our garage looks like a family-owned bike shop. We have mountain bikes for every person, some road bikes, and then some bikes for when our kids move up after a growth spurt.

We also haven’t purchased a brand new bike in more than 20 years. Locating bikes second hand is almost an adrenaline rush. We have found good quality bikes on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and even at thrift stores.

Bumpy track

My youngest son had seen videos of a new type of biking. I call them “bumpy tracks” but the official name is pump track.

Basically, a BMX bike course is created with asphalt or other natural materials. Turns, banks and rollers mirror the experience of trail riding on a smaller scale. A pump track is like a playground for bicycles.

I thought we would be able to find a pump track to visit this spring. After some research, I found out there are pump tracks in Sandusky, Cleveland, Rudolph and Ashland. While these locations might be possible in the future, I didn’t have enough time for traveling and biking.

I actually found a pump track by accident. It’s a little embarrassing because it is located in the same county I live in, yet I didn’t know it existed. Another family had shared with us that there is a great park for hiking near Beaver Local Schools in Lisbon, Ohio.

We have spent a lot of time at Beaver Creek State Park but had never heard of Hellbender Bluff County Park. When I looked into hiking at the park, I noticed pictures of a pump track. I couldn’t believe we had missed this treasure somehow. I knew that had to change and planned a trip to the park.

We pulled into the park and drove another quarter of a mile through open fields and brushland to reach the parking lot. The pump track is located on the right before the parking lot. A new pavilion is next to the pump track. It is a great place for a picnic after riding and provides shade.

The pump track is in direct sunlight. We were there on a cool day, but it is probably hot in the summer.

In our family, we inadvertently divide into boys and girls. My husband often has the two boys and I have the two girls. On this day, however, I had the two boys. It was a rare treat.

Boys on bikes

They took off downhill towards the track. One had to go back and get his helmet he had conveniently forgotten. The nature of the paved pump track makes helmets necessary. The boys had a few tumbles and I was thankful for the plastic and foam protecting their heads.

Pump tracks are for all skill levels, but riders need to be experienced on their particular bike. My youngest son had recently moved up to a larger bike and the bumps and sloping sides made him a little wobbly.

We were fortunate to be the only people using the track, and he had time and space to improve.

The pump track created by PumpTrax USA at Hellbender Bluff was made possible in 2016 by a Nature Works grant. It is uniquely built into the hillside and blends into the landscape of the park. It adds another dimension in which to enjoy nature at the park.

Once the boys were done riding their bikes, we checked out the map of hiking trails. While we didn’t have time to explore at the time, we definitely made plans to come back and hike. The trailheads were clearly marked around the perimeter of the parking lot.

Like Orville and Wilbur Wright, these two brothers have a creative streak. They began discussing how they could recreate the pump track at home on the farm. Their imaginations took off as they thought of new ways to make Farm Trax USA.

Now they just have to convince their dad to use the backhoe, and they will be in business.

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Julie Geiss lives with her husband and four children in Unity Township, Ohio. Faith and family are first in her life, but she also loves hiking, biking and camping. You can contact Julie at juliegeiss1414@gmail.com.

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