With the season end near, I decided to hit the White Mountains one last time before snow arrives in earnest. Driving up to Lincoln, I noticed a dusting on Mt Lafayette already. It must be deer season. The hunters were out in force hoping to bag a buck during my mission to bag as many bumps as possible before forecasted rain moved in.
It's amazing how deserted the mountains become after color season ends. Leaf drop is nearly complete. There were no pesky tourists texting on their Crackberries while blasting by at 70mph just inches away. There were more than the usual number of rednecks in pickups though, but they seemed quite courteous today.
It was frigid starting out from Lincoln at 9:30, maybe still in the 30's. I went out with winter layers, including booties and lobstah mitts. It was dreary when I left the house, but there were patches of blue ski and sun beginning the ride. I hit Kinsman Notch quite hard. With a very strong tail wind, it seemed way too easy for a 12% grade and biggish gears. My legs felt fairly fresh despite training fairly hard during the week. Perhaps I'm finally recovered from the Iron Cross race two weeks ago.
When I got to the base of Long Pond Road, I shed the lobstah shells and thermal layer. It was noticeably colder at the pass summits, but it took a descent's worth of cold air to bring the core body temp back down. Long Pond Rd gains 1200ft from either side. It's roughly 4 miles of climbing, mile of rolling, then 4 mile descent, all on gravel. The new gravel on the north side is still very choppy. Well packed, but a monkey butt generator. The south side is smoother, but lack of new gravel bed means many huge rocks still jut out several inches, just waiting to crimp a rim. Our group rides normally ride this south to north, but today I wanted to mix things up.
Beaver Pond at Kinsman Notch
Gonzo Pass (Rt 118) is steep from either side, but I think the west side is steeper over a longer span than the east side. This includes the guardrail chicane section that is at least 12% grade where Bill D. crashed over a year ago. The skies were getting darker as I climbed Gonzo. All of the major peaks were socked in with clouds now, maybe down to 3000-3500ft. The descent back to Woodstock was cold, but I resisted the urge to layer back up. Like coming down Kinsman, no cars passed me on the descent. Only a couple passed me on the climb. It was so nice riding these normally busy roads with only an occasional car coming by.
Going up north side of Long Pond Rd
After a brief refuel in N. Woodstock, I headed south to hit Tripoli Rd. The plan was to ride this as an out and back on the dirt side. It was beginning to sprinkle as I crossed under I-93. I had doubts I would finish this climb, but the sprinkles quickly subsided. The lower portion of gravel was in pretty rough shape. It was heavily pock-marked with pot holes. Still firm, but it meant I would have to use more breaks than I like coming back down. The upper part of the climb was in better shape. I still felt in pretty good shape reaching the Thornton Gap summit. I hung around for a few minutes, thinking back to last year when in the first week of December I was skiing up from the other side. I wonder if we'll get a repeat year?
Russell Crag switchbacks
Next on the docket was Russell Crag. Matt told me about this one a few weeks ago in the context as a mountain bike climb. Russell Crag is prominently visible just before you get off I-93 at the Lincoln exit. It is a steep pointy rock about 1000ft above the highway with a cell tower up top. There is a gated service road to the tower. An open gravel road gains the first portion of vertical. This road was essentially a jeep road despite having residences on it. It was barely road bikeable. Then I carried over the gate and began the switchback section. When I got to the first switchback, I quickly realized why this is a MTB climb. The grade was at least 25%, maybe 30%, and it was loose gravel. It would have sucked just to walk up. I abandoned the rest of the climb. I'll have to save it for another day when I'm up there with the MTB. It should be doable with decent tread and low pressure. I bet the view from the top is nice.
Russell Crag from Rt 175. Switchbacks on other side.
Coming back down from Russell Crag, I could see heavy rain between me and Mt Moosilauke. Feeling pretty cooked, I decided to play it safe, stay dry, and keep a great ride from turning into a misery fest. I opted out of an out-and-back on the Kanc. It started to drizzle while changing, even harder getting on the highway, but then it stopped again. Later at home, radar showed just a tiny patch of light stuff that moved through. The heavy stuff was still a couple hours away. Oh well, it was well worth the trip. I logged 66.7mi in 4:13hrs with 7880ft of climbing. This included over 20 miles of dirt. The bony descents on Tripoli and Russell Crag really sucked my average down, but I got four major threshold zone climbs out of the ride. Its great when you derive premium training value out of rides like this. With constantly changing post card scenery all around, you don't even notice 30 minute threshold burns.
Looking down Cox Farm Rd towards Woodstock near base of Russell Crag
I had hoped to score some wildlife, but all I saw was wilddeath. On the way up, the remnants of a black bear were scattered across the highway. They are so black, I don't know how you'd ever see one at night.
It seems one other rider had same thoughts as I today. A solo rider was getting dropped off at the Lincoln visitor center in the morning. Maybe I should've checked out what his plans were. Ironically, I'm pretty sure I saw the same rider again changing at the Mc-D's parking lot afterwards nearby. I'm guessing he did a Kanc round trip (70mi) since I saw no other riders on my ride.
Next up, NEMBA Wicked Ride of the East on Sunday if I don't have to put pontoons on my bike.