Sometimes the weather doesn't cooperate. This past Saturday would have been a fine day to ski, better than Sunday, but Sunday looked like a total crap day to ride. I'd much rather ski in a snowstorm than ride in one.
On Saturday, Dave and I stayed local for a long snow machine trail ride. Club websites were listing trail conditions as poor - icy, bare dirt, not groomed. These are perfect conditions for studded tire mountain biking. Many of the snow machine trails are open only in the winter months when snow cover is on the ground. They pass over many parcels of private land. With poor conditions, maybe very few sledders will be out.
We started at Sliver Lake State Park in Hollis. On my way there, I stopped up at a local business to buy the area snowmobile trail map. You will not find any info like this on the web. I eyed a route that would take us through Brookline, touch into Milford, skirt along the Mason town line before coming back into Hollis. I hadn't ridden much of this yet. I had no idea how hilly it would be or how long it would take. I was hopping to get in about 4hrs riding, as I hadn't ridden longer than an hour in three weeks.
It was the first time in a while riding on hard ice on steep terrain for both Dave and I. Takes a while to trust the studs. The sled skis left deep ruts in the ice. These were quite treacherous if you got caught in them.
Dave approaching vista on Birch Hill in Hollis.
The route took us up to the vista on Birch Hill before climbing it again from another side to the summit. The two mile descent to Rt 13 was a riot, although I think I apprehension strained my sphincter on the sketchy icy conditions.
Next up was the Mile Slip climb, new to me, which was nice after the long descent. Lots more ice bombing descent followed as we headed south toward Brookline.
Near summit of Big Bear.
After crossing Mason Rd, another climb ensued. Not sure what the formal name is, but there used to be a ski area on this one called Big Bear Mtn. It is hardly a mountain, but there was a nice vista from the art institute at the top. Some pretty wild sculptures about too. The Big Bear descent was treacherous, basically down an alpine ski slope fall-line, I bet at least 30% grade. I started to lose control of my speed on icy sections and aimed for the crusty snow edge. It was off-camber and my front wheel promptly washed out. I manage to eject without hitting the deck.
This caused Dave to giggle and heckle me, which promptly caused him to totally lose control. Next thing I see him airborne right next to me looking for a soft landing in the snow. I might have peed a little laughing at that one. Neither of us remounted right there, opting for a less sketchy spot a little further down.
Pick a soft spot to land.
This was crazy steep and just enough ice to be skidding studs on it.
It appears some of the trails on the map are no more, so our planned route got moved to the Brookline Rail Trail to take us back to the Birch Hill area. Now it was time to climb the 2mi descent we came down earlier. After hitting several few hundred foot climbs at threshold to super-threshold pace, my legs were feeling pretty noodly. Of course, Dave wasn't slowing down at all.
Earlier in the ride I wondered if Potanipo Lake ice was safe enough for us to ride across.
Looked like a redneck convention. Shanties, grills and trucks everywhere.
As we came back to Silver Lake, the snow and ground were softening up. The temp was approaching 40F. Fortunately, the sun wasn't out, or things would have gotten really messy. Dave had to get back. I wanted to check the loop out on the east side of Rt 122. I thought it was about 3mi and flat. I was terribly wrong. It was closer to six miles and nothing but double-digit grade hills. With the softening snow, several short hike-a-bikes were required. I definitely buried myself with those extra 40 minutes of riding. I needed it though. Turned out to be a fantastic day for an ice bike ride, really about as good as snow machine trails get, assuming you have studs. We did not encounter a single snowmobile.
The windblown orchard above Silver Lake. Birch Hill in distance.
Sunday's ski was not nearly as successful, a story I'll share if I have time on Monday.