Cape Trail Riding
After having a spectacular day on snow yesterday, I was feeling hungry for some dirt. I've heard rumors that the trails out on The Cape have been dry and tasty this winter. Hard to believe, as we've had the snowiest winter on record so far in south-central NH. Singlespeed'n extraordinaire Rich Brown has been hitting The Cape a lot this winter, and I wonder if he was just telling a tall trail tale. I pinged Rich to see if he wanted to head down today, but he's busy moving into a new house. With miserable riding conditions at home, I decided on the spur of the moment to head down alone and check it out.
A few Cape webcams indeed showed there was no snow there despite getting several more inches overnight at home. The sky even looked blue there, while it was heavy overcast out my window. I printed off some trail maps from the web and split with two bikes - one geared with studs just in case, the other my singlespeed. On the way there, I got that uneasy feeling I forgot something. I did. The maps. The two areas I wanted to visit were a maze of trails, and even with a map would be difficult to navigate. It took only 1:45 to get to the Trail of Tears trailhead in West Barnstable.
Kitting up, it was so warm, dry, and pleasant that I did not use my balaclava, booties, or fender. It must have been 50F. I chose the singlespeed steed for the ride. I was amazed by how good the riding was. The trails were not very technical for the most part, but chocked full of steep ups and downs. It was a serious workout on a 1x1, many of the climbs requiring total muscle fiber recruitment. This is one of the reasons I singlespeed. You won't find me doing boring 3x10min 60rpm strength intervals in my basement!
After riding for about 90 minutes, the sky suddenly grew black. Then it hailed, sleeted, and rain. The temp plummeted about 15 degrees in 5 minutes. My ears froze, as I had nothing on my head but the helmet. But as quickly as this burst moved in, it moved out and became sunny again. At this point I perceived I was not making progress on finding my truck back. I popped out on a road and asked for directions. I was about 3 miles away by pavement. In a way, I was glad I forgot the maps. I would have been stopping every 10 minutes to look at them. Without the maps, I was lost the entire time and just kept hammering out mile after mile of great singletrack. I did 19 miles including pavement back to my truck in 1:50 riding time. The Trail of Tears was anything but tears.
I cut the Trail of Tears ride short so I could hit one more area nearby. A rider I encountered on the trail said the Otis trails were even better. He was on a 29'er singlespeed. I perceived better to him meant smoother, less technical, and less climbing. Fortunately, I remembered where the trailhead was without my maps. It required about a 20 minute drive.
The Otis trails (adjacent to and partially on Otis AFB land) were sweeeet! Perfect singlespeed riding. The sun was out again, the trails dry, and zero mud. There were occasional rocky sections, but for the most part it was buff singletrack marked by long climbs with ripping descents. I could have ridden all day on stuff like this. But my quads were ready to explode. The ski race on Saturday had a lot to do with this. I rode another 13 miles in 1:30hrs here, never encountering another rider, for 3.3hrs total riding time. I wouldn't have lasted 45 minutes on the trainer.
My bike was cleaner than my truck after the ride. So Rich has not been telling tall trail tales. Have I been missing this great winter riding for 10 years that I've lived in New England? Cape riding is a well kept secret. Now I'm torn. Each weekend I'll have to choose between epic trail riding or cross country skiing. I'll just have to do both each weekend. Old guys shouldn't be allowed to have this much fun!