On Saturday, Rich B and I did a loop I've been honing over the last year or so. Sections of the Bay Circuit Trail (BCT) help stitch George Rowley State Forest, Willowdale State Forest and Bradley Palmer State Park together in northeast Mass. I call it my GWB loop. The loop hits much of the purpose-built singletrack in Willowdale and Georgetown No overly technical terrain. You can stay aerobically engaged pretty much 100% of the time on this ride. It is superb endurance training material for endorphin junkies. Some of the route I stole from Tim Johnson on Strava. I suspect he rides CX on those portions.
Conditions were nicely frozen starting out, not that there was much mud along the route anyway. Temperatures didn't change much during the day, making it easy to dress for the ride. What we wore starting is what we finished with. For such a flawless December day, I was surprised by how few people were out on the trails, especially with a very wintry week looming in the forecast. Trails were in hero condition.
Open section in Bradley Palmer State Park
Rich rides Georgetown regularly. He pointed out more trails I was not aware of. They will definitely be incorporated into the loop, maybe bringing the loop to over 50 miles. There are some road bits in there I haven't figured out how to eliminate yet. Distance-wise, at least 85% of the route is on dirt. We finished the 46.5 mile route in about 4.6 hours, with a surprisingly large 4000ft of climbing.
Ambushing Rich with camera in Georgetown Rowley. Stupid glove
got in the way.
On Sunday, I got out for a solo afternoon ride a little closer to home. Terrain I used to hit on lunch breaks linked together the Wood and Rafton Reservations with the Deer Jump Reservation along the Merrimack River in Andover and Tewksbury. Interestingly, the BCT links these conservation parcels together too.
The riding on this loop seems innocuous enough, but it has claimed it's share of victims over the years. The loop around Wood Hill entails four significant climbs and some descents that entice you with speed, but perils lurk everywhere, especially with deep oak leaf cover. The bridges along the river can also be unforgiving. Riders have botched the big step-ups, breaking noses, slipped off them and submersing in freezing water, and endo'd launching off them.
Snowing along Merrimack River
I had hoped to beat the snow, but by the time I got to the river section, it started snowing earnestly The bridges slicked up quickly. I opted to take some road back to Rafton Reservation rather mostly doubling back along the river to save time. I finished the 20 mile loop in under 2hrs just before things got too slippery. The roads driving back were a different matter...
This oak in Rafton Reservation probably dates back to
Rich commented how fortunate we are to have so many riding options so close by. We both moved to New England in 1997. When we came here, riding options were quite limited. There were virtually no purpose-built trails in New England. Most riding was on trails that predated the advent of mountain biking. These were hiking or moto trails, either not sustainable or badly rutted out. NEMBA has transformed the state of mountain biking in New England to something that is remarkable. In fact, there has been an increase in the rate of new trails being built for mountain biking recently. Land managers have learned that mountain bikers can be good stewards of the land. We design, build and maintain sustainable trails for all users to enjoy. Our presence also drives out illegal use of land, such as trash dumping or motorized use where prohibited. And the best thing about most riding opportunities in New England? It's free! I've been a member of NEMBA for as long as I've lived in New England and will continue to support NEMBA financially and with sweat-equity.