Alex from Connecticut is vacationing in NH with his family this week and was cleared for a long trail ride on Friday. He always wanted to get a fuller sampling of New Hampshire terrain. The Bear Brook 50 loop I've honed over the years would fit the bill nicely. Mostly fast, flowy trail to get at least some air movement and maybe even stay ahead of the deer flies.
Alex showed up with two water bottles. I thought well, he's a slow twitch mutant, he sips fuel, maybe he can get away with it. We were planning to top water off in Bear Brook at the campground mid ride, but that still meant going 2.5hrs at a time with no water stops. Two bottles wouldn't last me one hour. I brought a full 100 ounce Camelbak to start.
It was 84F and wicked humid at 8am rolling out. Just putting my helmet on made me sweat. The BB50 route starts out like the FOMBA Turkey Burner ride around Massabesic Lake. Fast, good air flow, but sweat had no where to go. The air couldn't take more moisture. It just ran off the skin. In 20 minutes, my chamois was squishing. Sweet. Only another 4-5 hours!
The terrain was surprisingly dry, much drier than I expected. The heavy rain that washed out roads just a couple days earlier less than an hour away apparently missed this part of the state. The two FOMBA trails we hit rode nicely.
Taking the clandestine route to Bear Brook, we both cleaned the "Candia Drop" going up, but both failed to ride up the ledge wall that comes later. Need to come up with a name for that one. Alex has ridden Bear Brook before, maybe five years ago. He has not ridden the I-trail, Hemlock, Alp d'Huez and a few other recent NEMBA additions.
Alex en route to Bear Brook. This is the bony climb neither of us cleaned.
After crossing the Hall Mountain Marsh dam, we continued with the I-trail/Hall Marsh trail. The areas that were clear-cut a few years ago are growing madly, filling in, as nature does. You almost couldn't see the trail in places, as plants were competing for every available bit of sunlight with the tree canopy gone. But this was not the real problem. The deer flies were. Never have I encountered such a pestilence. I'd say the current deer fly plague has reached biblical proportions. I don't know how many I inhaled during the ride. I got bit at least 40-50 times, half of them on my ass. The bastards forced us to ride much harder than a 97 degree day says you should ride trying to outrun them. Foolishness. I'm sure we looked like deranged men cussing and slapping our bodies everywhere.
After topping off water at the campground store, we hit the Hemlock Trail. Interesting. Not a deer fly there. Funny how they come in pockets, all or nothing it seems. Alex commented Hemlock was a top-five New England trail for him.
One of the last things we hit in Bear Brook was the Bear Hill climb. I was teetering on the precipice of heat stroke by this point. Alex scooted right up the thing. I tried to not blow a thermal fuse. That is the highest point of the ride, at least.
Heading back on Trail 15, the deer flies were so thick it was like riding through a fog of them. When Alex was leading, no exaggeration, he had at least 200 buzzing around his head. Lots of spirited tempo riding ensued. And muddy bits we would have slowed to ride around earlier in the ride? Forget about it! Any sacrifice of speed meant 20 of the blood thirst f'ers would land on you simultaneously to make a withdrawal. Bikes got a little dirty in the last 10 miles.
Alex didn't tell me he ran out of water long before we were anywhere close to being back. I had already mostly depleted a second 100 ounces in my Camelbak. It dawned on me yet again, I didn't totally implode in heat that I normally wither in. This has me thinking I can actually condition myself to perform better in heat. Heat has always been a huge problem for me, and I've never been one to push myself in the heat. But this summer leaves me no option.
We got back to the cars with 52 miles, 4000ft of climbing, in about 4.6 hours moving time. A solid ride in any conditions, and surely a solid ride in the heat. I drank about 210 ounces during the ride. Alex had about 110. Almost a gallon more, and I wasn't peeing any of it out either. Once I got moving on the road, my car thermometer showed 97F. Weatherunderground gave a 81F dewpoint for my hometown, but I'm skeptical of that weather station now. Most other area stations were reporting dewpoints in the low 70's. Either way, an oppressive day. Turned out to be a pretty good ride, no mechanicals or mishaps.