Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chasing Peaks and Trails

Saturday's Rain Avoidance Ride

Seriously considered racing again this weekend. The weather wasn't very cooperative though. Some mountain bike racers are highly principled. They commit to a race come hell or high water. I admire their commitment. A low pressure system parked off the eastern seaboard for about 36 hrs and brought copious precipitation to coastal areas, including Wompatuck State Park, the venue for the Landmine Classic MTB race. Needless to say, having taken a beating last weekend during the SM100, I did not relish the idea of slogging 25 or 50 miles over brownie mix covered rocks. I did what any sunny day racer would do. Wimp out and head to drier land for some riding.

The weather system barely made it up to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. I was dismayed to see a little rain up there when I got up Saturday morning. I waited until the Kingdom Trails office opened to get status. Word was light misting, and conditions were so dry they really needed the rain anyway. That sounded like a go to me. It poured half the way up, then some intermittent blue sky, but then light rain again just as I pulled into East Burke. I had trouble finding a place to park despite the dreary skies. It was nuts, easily more riders there than on a weekend in all of Durango. The Kingdom Trails continues to gain fame.

I was getting a late start, around noon, and risked running out of daylight. I wanted to get in a comparable ride to the Vermont 50 miler coming up. Plan was to hit a bunch of KT singletrack, then hit a big dirt road loop that included the summit of East Mountain.

I rode the new trail cut from Rt 114 by the cemetery to above the ski base area. It cuts out a lot of pavement when riding up to hit Upper Moose Alley. Sweet stuff, nicely climbable, but clearly designed with the downhill rider in mind. Of course, I was heading to the summit of Burke Mountain first, a 2500ft climb from town. I was still running the Kenda Nevegal's I used at the SM100. It is so much harder to climb Burke on a knobby tired MTB than road bike, and a heavy dualie at that. The wall measured 28% max grade, and above 20% for about 0.3mi. Much of the remainder of the climb stayed above 15% grade. Being wet and humid, my rear tire would slip when I stood.

The view from the summit alone was worth the drive up there. Layered clouds below in all directions from the lookout tower. No cars passed me going up, but seven riders on MTBs were coming up as I bombed back down. Nearly brought a tear to my eye, as I know how most MTBers detest pure hillclimbs, and on pavement to boot. The last few guys were in total struggle mode to keep the pedals turning. They get my kudos just for trying.

I hit the all the trails with Moose in the name on the way back down. It had stopped sprinkling, and it never really got wet under dense cover, but most of the roots and rocks were nice and greasy. Really kept me on my toes. I had hoped for dryness, but what I got was still pretty good. My plan was to go right into the East Mountain loop once back to Rt 114. I did this on a prior trip but bonked severely due to running out of water and carbs. I opted to go back to car first and top off supplies. I hit White School and then Kitchel on the way back. I heard they were working on Kitchel, but I had no idea what. We're talking a track worthy of a world cup dual slalom course here. Huge six foot high berms, table tops 6-8ft tall and 10ft long, and many sets of doubles, 6ft tall and maybe 10-12ft apart. There were many sets of each down the lower half of the run, and they are still working on it with heavy equipment to the side. I did not dare go fast enough to clear any of the doubles or table tops. I might have gotten nearly horizontal on a couple berms. Sidewinder will be small potatoes when Kitchel is done. The sandy base might be hard to maintain during dry spells though.

I topped off the Camelbak and headed up Rt 114 to pick up dirt Victory Road. It gained steeply at first. A little ways up, a huge black Labrador joined me. He scared me at first, but he just wanted to ride. I could not get him to go back home. I was afraid he'd get hit. He ran along side me for three miles and about 1000ft of gain. I was humbled by his ease of climbing ability. Either he got tired or he reached the perimeter of his turf at the top, as he final gave up running with me. Only three cars went by the whole time.

The next couple miles dropped steeply into Gallup Mills, a village consisting of a couple mobile homes. Radar Road was taken next, climbing gradually along the highly scenic Moose River with many small waterfalls. This went for about 4-5 miles until a gate on the main radar access road that goes to the summit of East Mtn. No cars or people out here. Getting later in the day, the thought of having a major mechanical, no cell service, and no lights crossed my mind.

Burke and East Mountain peaks.

The climb to the summit of East Mtn is almost as steep as Burke Mtn. The road is rarely traveled here. Parts are intact asphalt, fully decomposed asphalt, or loose gravel. The last mile or so averaged around 15% grade, and the asphalt there was still in pretty good shape. It was slicker than snot. I could not stand to pedal whatsoever. It was pretty much as slippery as one inch of snow. I would have to be extremely careful coming back down this sucker. The legs were getting weary as I reached the summit, over four hours into the ride. A truck was up there, but no people in sight. I suspect they were servicing the solar powered communication equipment up there, maybe ham radio stuff. The radar installation was dismantled many decades ago, leaving behind gigantic rusting structures with asbestos warnings all over the place.

View from near East Mtn summit looking down skinny single lane road.

It sucked having to descend like riding on ice, as I essentially was. Going off into the trees and getting hurt bad would likely be fatal. Nobody would find you. The trees are very dense here. The descent wasn't all down. Half way down there is a 500ft climb, the same ridgeline I climbed on Victory Rd. This ridgeline effectively blocks the view of East Mountain, or Radar Mountain as some call it, from Rt 114. This out of the way location may have been picked for this reason, as I'm sure this was a highly classified sight back in the day.

Mossy descent. Like ice.

I got back to East Burke after 5pm. There were still a lot of mountain bikers milling about. I logged 53.6 miles, 6960 feet of climbing, in 5hrs, 3min. The mix of trails and dirt roads I think will be what I'll see in the VT50 in two weeks. I tried to ride a nice steady endurance pace, although 3mph on 20% grade is pretty much VOmax effort. No cramps, no bonking. The pizza from the deli hit the spot. It was piled high with peperoni, sausage and ham. Salty as heck, exactly what I needed on this sticky day.

Sunday's Great Brook Horse Poop Ride

Begin rant. I have a knack for hitting Great Brook on horse days. The parking lot had at least 50 horse trailers in. After seeing the mess they made a few weeks back the last time I rode there, I was not feeling very charitable toward equestrians. As expected, areas visited by equines were thoroughly churned up and fertilized. So why is it, per DCR rules, dog owners are required to clean up after their dogs, but equestrians are not required to clean up after their horses? Really. One pile of horse shit is equal to about 50 dog dumps. Put a hundred horses down a trail, well, you get the equivalent of about 5000 dog piles. Don't the walkers have anything to say about this? I see babies in strollers there all the time. You'd have to hose down and scrub the stroller after coming out of there. Most city folk would have to double bag their shoes and through them in the trash, because that stink doesn't come out easily. I don't mind the stink so much as the damage they do to the trails. I think to force the issue, the DCR should have the horse clubs do a clean-up day after their weekends at parks. It is not too much to ask. I see an arbitrary, double standard here. Dogs usually poop off the trail anyway. Horses? They never miss filling the width of the trail tread. I'm sure I got my daily dose E. Coli supplement. I had to wiped off my Camelbak bite valve every time I went to take a drink. End rant.

I booked out of Great Brook for Russell Mill. I dropped my tire pressure ridiculously low to contend with the greasy rocks. It wasn't muddy, but recent rain and high humidity kept everything slick. The Nevegal's hooked up much better running low psi but still rolled reasonably fast on pavement. I cleaned everything with ease in Russell Mill, despite tired legs and slimy conditions. I was having one of those rides where I couldn't do anything wrong. That was a far cry from earlier this summer when I ramped up my off-road riding.

Russell Mill pump track.

I managed to find more bits of NEMBA build singletrack in here I haven't hit before. Small area, but it really feels big with such a variety of trails, terrain and features. I stumbled upon a pump track, which was actually right by the soccer fields. I was quite large and extremely well built. I don't really know how to ride one of these things, but I went around a few times. Some jumps were obviously meant to be doubled, but I couldn't get enough speed to do it. Call it wuss factor.

Stone Rowe drop.

I hit more of Great Brook, not encountering any more horses as they were all packing up. I cleaned Stone Rowe with ease. That rock plummet scared me though. Normally I inspect it before committing. This time I just went for it. The bottom half was a mess. The slabs of rock are loose and move around, the the best lines change each time I hit it. Nearly soiled me chamois.

Whitetail deer on Heartbreak Ridge loop.

Still going strong, I hit dirt Old Morse Rd, then Towle Forest near Carlsile center, a fast 2 mile loop off Rt 225. That was good to get my mileage up to 32 miles, with 1990 feet of climbing, in exactly three hours riding time. That's 85 miles, 9000ft vert in 8hrs over two days on dirt. Not only a superb training weekend, but I'd say one of my best trail riding weekends in New England ever. How do you top that off? A Clover machine Kenya AB Auction Lot coffee. I think this one tops the Panama they had for a while.

The last planned dubious training value ride is Friday, a Catskills epic. Looks like five of us are in so far. Starting from Woodstock, expecting around 100-110 miles with ~10,000ft of climbing. Drop me a note if you'd like to join.


rick is! said...

nice weekend indeed. those moss covered roads may be slick but the look beautiful.

DDYTDY said...

Swampatuck: Some of the trails were more suited to kayaking!

Mookie said...

I take it you didn't make a special trip over to Sidewinder. I'm going to head up there in a few weeks.

C-BOMB said...

So you can ride dirt all the way from Curve St (on Old Morse?) down to Westford St and then into Towle? I guess it hooks through the "conant land" right? Russell Mill is technically in chelmsford it appears. Is is obvious to access those trails from Great brook? Having grown up in Westford and learning to mtb and xc ski at Great Brook, I'm curious. I'd like to start getting back out that way.

Hill Junkie said...

Yep, you can follow the Old Morse Rd to Conant land, but you will cross a few driveways or ends of culdesacs. By the Carlisle highway dept buildings, it gets tricky to find trail back, but it is marked with hiker tags behind one of the buildings off the dirt drive. Then is is rolling singletrack the next mile or so. From Curve St, you go down dirt private road as if accessing the GBF trails to either side a ways in, but just keep going straight, as that is Old Morse Rd. Have to take a couple turns to get on the straight and narrow though. So not so obvious. Explore a little, you'll figure it out. Nothing is marked with no trespassing signs, so I believe it is fair game for passive recreational use. I see other bike and horse tracks on Old Morse Rd.