40.6mi, 6300ft vert, 5:20hrs
Hit the northeast kingdom of Vermont this Independence Day. Buckets of rain fell locally overnight, while northern Vermont got moderate amount. It was enough to juicify most of the trails. I had a 50 mile loop staked out, but plans quickly fell by the wayside when our average pace plummeted with any attempt to climb trails on the Burke Mtn system.
Dave and I had planned to ride up Red Trail, cut across on Kirby, then down J-bar. But the signage was weak in this area and we ended up climbing J-bar. Looks like Colin might have done this too. This is a double black diamond downhill MTB trail that was impossibly steep to climb while covered in early morning brownie mix. Somehow we missed the fork to the left. We got back on track after turning around and climbed Black Forest next. This was also quite steep, following an alpine ski run for the most part. I wanted to hit this initial climbing pretty hard to get some threshold training value out of it. After more climbing on Camptown singletrack, we popped out on the Burke Mtn toll road just before the steep stuff starts.
Even though the grade approaches 20% in places on the toll road, this was going to be easy compared to the snotty singletrack we were climbing. This was good for another 20+ minutes of above threshold effort to reach the summit. It wasn't that hot out, but the moisture content sure was high. We were only about 9 miles into the ride at this point, yet we already logged about 90 minutes on the clock. My legs were already throbbing.
We hit all the Moose stuff on the way down. Since the mountain acts sort of like a rain collector, these trails were also greasy. In fact, I bet if the KT office had know how wet things were out here, they would have closed these trails for a day or two. The weekend traffic was taking a heavy toll on the trails. Riders were creating deeper puddles, ruts, and braiding the trail around mud holes.
After taking the long way back to town, we refueled and went out to the Darling Hill trail system. This is where the mother load of trails are. Since we had time constraints, we had to cherry pick the stuff we wanted to hit. The morning loop took much longer than expected. On the list were Tap and Die, Tody's Tour, and Sidewinder. Of course, each time you bomb down one of the rollercoaster wonder trails, you have to climb back up to the ridgeline to do the next one. You develop full appreciation of the vertical you earn. You can't pass through here without doing Old Web's either, with it's berms and raucous jumps on the way down.
Time was getting really short by now, so we had to pare down further what we planned to hit. Knob and Rim trails would have to wait for another day. Plus our legs were getting pitifully slow. We climbed Ridge and worked our way to top of Kitchel. I have ended every ride at KT bombing down Kitchel back to the village. It is just the right way to end an epic ride. Dipping in the stream after wrapping the ride up was priceless.
Perhaps another ride of dubious training value, but man, there's something addictive about long rides, especially when you don't have to look over your shoulder for cars.