Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chelmsford Meander

Seems last weekend at Bretton Woods was just a teaser. No skateable snow was to be found Saturday, unless you wanted to poach some alpine terrain early morning. I live too far away from open downhill areas to pull that off, actually. So DaveP and I had an LSD (long, steady, distance) ride in mind. I stumbled across a trail data base website for Chelmsford and Carlisle recently. There are many snippets of trails open to bikes on public land in these communities. The ride would be quite urban, never more than a stone's throw from houses or super highways, but mostly on dirt. Rain and snow were expected to move in some time after lunch, so we needed an early start if we hoped to get a 50 miler in.

Lime Quarry upper left, Russell Mill upper right,
rail trail left side, power lines center top

Our planned loop would hit, the Cranberry Bogs (where we parked to avoid Mass tax at Great Brook), Lime Quarry, George Wright Reservation, the powerlines that cut through Chelmsford, Great Brook, Russell Mill, Conant Reservation, and Towle Forest. Not sure this would tally 50 miles, but it would certainly be more than 40.

First surprise of the ride was the rail trail that connects the Cranberry Bogs with Lime Quarry. Google terrain view clearly shows it to be dirt, but they paved the sucker! Apparently, when completed, the 25 mile Bruce Freeman Rail Trail will connect Lowell with Framingham. Looked like a top notch affair with fencing, stripes, etc. It will no doubt be a major commuter link when completed.

Dave bombing buff descent in Lime Quarry

The Lime Quarry trails were swept clean of leaves. In fact, we found all of the trails in Chelmsford, including Russell Mill, to be completely cleared of leaves. Certainly makes riding more enjoyable and the tread clearly defined. Sometimes I wonder though if leaf pack helps control erosion. It was my first time riding in Lime Quarry. Nothing exciting. Some decent elevation change for such a small area, and you could go crazy fast in places.

The loop through George Wright Reservation gently rolled, was wide singletrack, and cleared of leaves. Only a mile or so long, so nothing worth going to by itself. From here we followed the power lines a couple miles to another trail shown on the Chelmsford map. I think this one was wishful thinking. It didn't exist. We tried in vain to find hint of trail from both ends. Churning out miles on pavement was all we scored. That kind of sucked. To make this loop work, many bits of trail are needed to keep it feeling like a trail ride. You lose that woodsy feeling with a long, busy stretch of pavement. To top it off, we actually got yelled at by some guy to stay off the grass and on the path. The town map clearly shows public access to conservation land off that dead-end culdesac. It was more like a vacant lot than grass. Got to keep the loonies on the path.

We were putzing along at a recreational pace for the most part. I think Dave was saving himself for a planned Fred Worlds ride Sunday morning. The sky was getting darker. The wind was starting to kick up. Errant drops were felt every now than then. I was itching for a little more intensity and didn't want to finish in another wet slog like Turkey Burner last weekend.

HJ on a slope-side log in Russell Mill

We got through Russell Mill just fine. Didn't exactly clean all the logs. I did ride a couple things I haven't tried before. It was here this spring that I crashed over the most miniscule of rocks. Hope I keep regained skills through the winter. Like to hit some early season MTB races next year.

Dave dropping into the chute on Stone Rowe in Great Brook

The rain became more persistent riding in Great Brook. It wasn't quite hard enough to soak the body yet. Temp was dropping, and snow was starting to mix in. There are a couple trails in GB that can be hammered at all-out race pace. One is Perimeter Trail. I expended a couple matches on that one. A short bit of pavement loops us out and back into GB at the Trophet/Heartbreak loop. I love hammering this loop too. To loop it from entering on the south, you have to go around one and a half times. Going leisurely, we passed a couple guys going the opposite way on Trophet. I thought crap, now I have to watch out for them when I race-pace a full loop, which takes about 5 minutes. They weren't much further along than the first time I passed them when I went buy, and the one guy went "Whoa! Whoa!"  Not as in "dude, you shouldn't be going that fast," but rather, "holy shit dude, you're hauling-A!" Man I miss racing. There was plenty of room for us to ride by each other. I ride a lap or two of that loop at all-out TT pace every time I hit GB. Know it very well, ride it like on rails.  Waiting for Dave, the other two guys came up to junction point and we talked a bit. More than a couple matches were burned on that one. I thought that would nicely cap off four hours of riding.

At this point we knew we weren't going to finish the whole loop. It was getting pretty wet out. We bailed on the Old Morse Rd/Conant/Towle Forest extension. That entails a bunch of pavement anyway linking it up. We finished with just over 40 miles and 4hrs on the Garmin. Pretty flat too with only 2600ft of climbing on the altimeter. Turned out to be a fine morning for riding.  Must have burned a few calories. Couldn't stop eating the rest of the day.  I'd probably add the northern bits to a greater Great Brook ride again, especially if I went back with a single speed. Although I'd be spinning out the whole way down that paved rail path. As I type, the snow is coming down heavily. Could this be the beginning of the end of the 2009 dirt riding? Time to put the new studs on.


rick is! said...

grabbed my studs out of storage today to go on tonight so I don't die on my commute tomorrow. icy, icy this morning!

Hill Junkie said...

Yeah, about 5-6 cars decided to play bumper car on an icy bridge on my drive to work this morning. Late Sunday I went for my first snowbike ride of the season. Still have my old studs on. Forgot how slow studs in new powder can be.