Saturday, July 23, 2016
The forces to be conspired against Dave and I getting a decent trail ride in today. For starters, a pick-up lost control on I-93 and nearly took us and a few other cars out. Presumably distracted driving. The forecast was less than perfect. At the very least, it was going to be gross hot. Maybe the pop-up thunderstorms predicted would be a good thing.
Our planned route would hit four major climbs and several lesser climbs. Not a minute into the ride, we stopped, A cub bear was along the road. Where was mama bear? I'm seeing more bear these days. The first climb was Campton Mountain, nearly all paved now. Starting from the Campton dam, it is always a kick to the groin with no warm-up and grades approaching 20% with 1200ft gain. Chamois was already saturated just a few miles into a nearly 50 mile loop.
After bombing down Campton, we headed over to the Welch Ledges. There is an alternative trail up to the ledge that starts out on an old logging road. The grade is just manageable in the lowest gear. It had rained on Welch-Dickey overnight, and with the humidity, some of the slab was still wet and uber sketchy. A number of hikers were on the ledge taking in the view.
After a treacherous descent back down to the valley, we headed into the Smarts Brook area to hit some established and not so established trails. No sanitized trail here. Very rough wilderness feel to the riding, every rock, root and slab felt. A dismount every now and then was required. After passing by scenic Atwood Pond, we popped out on seasonal Sandwich Notch Rd for a few hundred more feet of climbing before cresting the notch.
Bombing down the other side of Sandwich Notch is so much more fun on full-squish mountain bikes than cyclocross bikes I often ride on this road. Can pretty much ride WFO, that is until a jeep comes around the bend and the road is only wide enough for a jeep...
We followed the Beebe River for nearly 10 miles down stream on the gated Algonquin Rd two-track. Love that section. Minimal pedal input can net you 20-25mph speed much of the time. The skies were looking more ominous by the minute though. That 30% chance of rain was looking more like a certainty.
We next wrapped around Mt Prospect on Perch Pond Rd. This is an open auto road that we hoped would recoup some of the excess time that went into the challenging trails thus far. But 3500ft of climbing in 15 miles put a dent in the legs.
On the way to Mt Prospect, we cut through on Town Farm Rd, another two-track that eventually necks down to a narrow trail. It is here where the thunder started booming and the skies opened up. Dave and I were so hot and gross by that point, the rain was welcome. The temp dropped a bunch too. We were surely going to run out of water before the end of the ride, and anything to cool the body down would help preserve limited water reserves. I did pack my filter just in case.
The small storm cell petered out just as we got to the Mt Prospect climb, another 1000 footer that I have never ridden. Some photos suggested it would be a buff cruise to the top, where there was a nice outlook to the lakes region. It sure started that way, albeit steep approaching 20% grades. Then it got steeper. Then it got rocky and rooty. It is one of those climbs where, if you are in the right stated of mind, you grit your teeth and just get it done. I didn't clean it to the first outlook, but rode maybe 98% of it. Dave was less enthused with that kind of material placed late in the route. I think I heard him cursing the Hill Junkie.
Upon reaching the outlook, Dave commented he wouldn't need to do this ride again if this climb was part of it. I thought wow, that was super hard, not a whole lot of fun, but rewarding by cleaning so much of it. That was before we started to take the little lollipop loop around the summit. Ugh. Lots of hike-a-bike. Hmmmm, perhaps when I ride this again, I do not need to ride the summit loop.
The descent was a test of brake caliper heat handling. Wow, don't think my wrists ever got so sore from brake pump. Popping out on road we had only one more "wee" bump to hit before final plummet to cars: Page Hill. I think Dave was all set on climbing for the day, and I may have heard more HJ cursing when I turned right for the two-track Page Hill finish instead of just following paved Rt 175 all the way back to the car. At least Page Hill is manageable, steep, but not crazy, and well maintained. I've ridden my cross bike at least a few times over that bump.
Parked along the Mad River, first order of business was a soak to remove 48 miles of grime and bring the body temp back into normal range. The water was so warm it almost wasn't refreshing. Was hoping for more of an ice bath sensation. But it was heavenly nonetheless.
The short drive back down I-93 was not without issues either. Near Hooksett tolls, traffic stops, and all manner of rescue vehicles fly by. Accident. Great. I think most trips coming back from the Whites have me hung up by an accident. Looked like single pick-up roll-ever, very nasty, maybe passengers thrown from vehicle. Another distracted driver like on our way up? Don't know. I'm becoming increasingly leery of driving on that road.
Anyway, it was a great exploratory ride, if not a bit of a boondoggle. GPS logged 48mi with 7200ft of climbing in just under 5hrs moving time. I really enjoy getting off the beaten path once in a while. Good for skill maintenance, good for the psyche, and makes you appreciate the work NEMBA puts into other trail systems around the state.