Sunday, August 26, was a magical night. As the sun set, about 400 nightriders arrived at Mercer Meadows, a park nestled in the heart of Mercer County’s suburban rolling hills. Under the slowly emerging glow of the August full moon, the cyclists wended their way past ponds illuminated by lanterns, rode under a tree canopy with tiny, sparkling lights and cycled on through open meadows for their six-mile ride, all the while being serenaded by local musicians at various spots along the route.

LHT Treasurer Alan Hershey of Pennington, Volunteer Sreeni Nair from Ewing, LHT Co-President Eleanor Horne of Lawrence, and Julie Blake, Hopewell Township Committeewoman, check in riders while enjoying live music and the opportunity to meet with friends and neighbors before the 5th Annual Full Moon Bike Ride

The brainchild of Jay Watson, an avowed environmentalist with a romantic streak, the Lawrence Hopewell Trail’s fifth annual Full Moon Bike Ride was a night like no other.  The event has drawn big crowds every year since its launch. But never before have trail and biking enthusiasts been treated to the combination of trail riding with the new amenities designed to make it a magical night.

“We were thrilled to offer a blend of nighttime experiences that tickled the senses,” said Watson, a board member of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail as well as vice president of the D&R Greenway Land Trust.

Co-sponsored by the Mercer County Park Commission, the ride was also special because for this one evening of the year, the Park Commission extends its hours past dusk.

Wanda McNeill, Director, Marketing and Community Outreach Mercer County Park Commission, welcomes the moon at the 5th annual Full Moon Bike Ride at Mercer Meadows 

“For those who know and love the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, this annual ride offers a way to discover the splendor of the trail in a different light,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes.

And for Watson, the night also delivered an unplanned element. As he checked on the floating lanterns in a pond, he slipped on the wet surface and plunged into the water. “I found myself surrounded by croaking frogs and pond fronds,” he said as he recounted the mishap.

The event is the LHT’s showcase event of the year, although by no means its only activity. Also each fall, the LHT hosts a Trail or Treat Ride in Lawrence Township, catering to a much younger crowd than the bike riders aged 12 and up who come out for the Full Moon Bike Ride. At the October event, toddlers to pre-teens and their families decorate their bikes and some come in costumes for short bike rides, face decorating and other fun events.

The Lawrence Hopewell Trail, which is the farthest northeast segment of the Circuit Trails, stretches across public and private lands through Hopewell and Lawrence Townships. Created as a citizen-led non-profit organization in 2002, the LHT will be more than 22 miles long when completed in the next few years. It’s about 89 percent complete now.

For more information about the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, please visit www.lhtrail.org