I spent an afternoon on the Amish Trail last weekend, which was a lovely thing to do on a day where the sun had finally decided to show up for spring.
And the truth is there is no better place to be but on a country road in the spring. That is true everywhere in the world. The backroads near Randolph take you through the checkerboard fields where things are just beginning to wake up, and there’s a kid riding a pony over there, and the trees are waking up over here, and the breeze is gentle and has already forgotten winter, and people are standing outside like they’ve just returned from Mars, rubbing their eyes in the sunshine, and emerging from their dark cocoons into the newness of a fine day.
Country roads. The Amish Trail offers up some lovely ones.
I hadn’t traveled the Amish Trail before last weekend and I thought it was lovely, although I do have a few suggestions to make it more tourist friendly. But as a weekend drive in the sunshine, what a wonderful way to spend a day.
It turns out that the thing we did the most on the trail was eat: candy, cheese and chicken wings. I loved the local toy store, but I spent more time playing with a puppy than I did playing with the unique and hand-crafted toys. There is a great rocking horse in the shop that is affixed to the ceiling by ropes and I took a spin on it because no one has reminded me of my age lately. At least, I reminded my mother, it wasn’t a mechanical bull.
I had read reviews about the Amish Trail on Trip Advisor before leaving and I had to agree with a few of the reviews that felt the trail was a bit confusing and sometimes difficult to navigate. There are some signs, yes, but if you have no idea what you’re doing, it’s possible to get lost. Signage should be affixed with the frame of mind that a tourist has absolutely no idea where they are and may even get lost two miles from their own homes on a regular basis.
The Amish Trail website provides a map and a list of shops but it’s not easy combining that information in a way that helps you plan a viable itinerary. And you really need to know how to read a map since your GPS isn’t always reliable on the backroads. It took me awhile to get my bearings.
Having worked in the travel industry for two decades, I know people want to set off on adventures with confidence and I think more confidence could be built by way of the Amish Trail website. I suggest offering two or three viable itineraries that people can print and bring with them that are very, very detailed. One itinerary could be called, for example, “Half-Day Itinerary,” for those who only have a few hours. You’d write the itinerary in a conversational and friendly way, such as “Start in Randolph at the corner of these streets, have lunch at one of these four restaurants, then take a left here to visit the following three shops.” You could also offer a full-day itinerary or itineraries that begin at different starting points on the trail.
Bi-monthly, an update to the website could give the lowdown on specific shops or restaurants by way of a blog post that details their offerings, some photos, their history, what makes it special along with its hours and addresses. After two years or less, you’d have a blog post on every shop and restaurant on the trail. That would assist tourists in planning. You could also offer a survey to pinpoint areas for improvement and better understand what people truly enjoyed.
Just food for thought.
The trail is a local treasure and I’m impressed with the folks who created it and put the time and effort into making it accessible. The sharing of culture is a way to preserve what makes our region special. That trail is a gem.