We parked in Bethel. It got down into the 20's overnight and was only 30F by 10am. Fifteen minute descents at 40-50mph were sure to numb the extremities. Dave failed to bring adequate protection along and concocted a solution with materials on hand.
Full-on winter clothing was needed despite one of the most brilliant skies I've experienced in Vermont. A brief two mile warmup brought us to the base of Rochester Gap. It didn't take long to realize the landscape had been transformed by hurricane Irene. Creek beds took new courses. Rocky banks now exist where none existed before. Many sections of Camp Rd washed out and are now rough gravel. I didn't think to check the state road status to see if everything was open.
Approaching Rochester Gap
We bombed down into Rochester and picked up Rt 73, which goes over Brandon Gap. A big amber signed warned the road was closed. Oh, that would really suck if we couldn't get through. Workers generally don't like it when spandex clad freaks try to weasel their way through construction sites. We motored on anyway.
A lot of cars were coming through, suggesting that maybe we could get through. Again, numerous areas of the road had been washed away and filled with crushed rock and gravel. We were able to summit no problem. On this Saturday, no reconstruction work was going on.
Ledges above Brandon Gap
I was a little tentative on the descents. You just couldn't tell when a random gravel bit was coming up with big lips at the edge of asphalt. Some of these edges could easily destroy a tire, or worse. Didn't need that at 45mph.
12% grade down to Brandon
We hit the climbs with solid aerobic effort but rode casually in between the climbs. We hooked around Lake Dunmore and dropped down into East Middlebury where we topped off water. The Adirondack chairs on the deck in the sun were so pleasant to sit in that I feared our ride was over. The only problem was, my car was two mountain passes away.
Lake Dunmore. Still some leaves at lower elevations.
Middlebury Gap was the biggest climb of this ride, gaining about 1800ft. The upper portion is a spanker. We dropped down into Hancock, then swung south to Rochester. We would be climbing Rochester Gap again, but from the west, the side we've never climbed before. There was still frost on the ground on shady sides of things, suggesting the temp never rose above freezing in places. Windbreakers came off at the bottom of each climb, but they went right back on at the top, along with pulling up balaclavas. We had no trouble staying warm.
Rochester, Brandon, Middlebury, then Rochester "backwards"
We finished the lollipop loop in 4.5hrs with 72.4mi on the odometer. Topo overestimates the vertical on this route quite a bit. I'd say actual climbing is in the 6500-7000ft range. The cold (dense) air, bulky layers and sketchy roads slowed us down a bit, but neither of us cared. It was too beautiful of a day to hammer it away into oblivion.