Dave was also up for an adventure. Isaac hinted some parts might be of dubious rideability. That should have put up some red flags right there. I have a long history of drawing riders in on exploratory routes which are never repeated again. They often result in extensive hike-a-bike sessions, or even you-can't-get-there-from-here scenarios.
Massabesic Lake just before rolling out at 8am. Weather was ideal.
The ride started out harmless enough on the dirt Rockingham Rail Trail. Near Raymond, we had a choice. Turn north on an ATV powerlines trail, or suffer through several pavement miles to reach Pawtuckaway. The ATV route would cut several miles out of the loop. Isaac posed the question at the decision point, and Dave didn't hesitate to try the ATV trail route. Glad I did not weigh in...
We no more than got off the cinder gravel rail trail than we started hike-a-biking up a rutted 20-30% grade hill. Surely that would be it for a while, but no. Right after that we encountered a long section under a foot-plus of water. Isaac tried to ride it, but muddy bottom with big rocks you couldn't see ultimately would've doomed a full attempt.
No more than starting on the powerline ATV track. Isaac hoofing it.
A minute later, this. Dave barefoot. It didn't take long to realize the feet were going
to get and stay wet for a long time.
It was still pretty cold out and Dave didn't want wet shoes for the rest of the ride, so he pulled his socks and shoes off. I would never have walked through there bare foot. No telling if there was broken glass in there and whatnot. Turned out to be a silly move, removing shoes to keep them dry. The next hour was going to be more of the same...
Route following became difficult at times. Trail bifurcated with all paths being overgrown. Which way do you pick? Isaac kept commenting how nice it was in winter following the snowmobile trail. Like a paved super highway then, no water holes, rocks, or weeds obscuring perils. That didn't do us any good now, we were entering full-on boondoggle territory.
Dodging large boulders in tall grass on steep grade. I chickened out.
This was so steep it was barely hikeable.
There were a few redeeming moments on the powerlines, such as extended slickrock sections.
We reached another quagmire that Isaac tried to ride. At first it was 6" deep, then a foot, then his front wheel just disappeared as he almost went over the bars. This stagnant pool deep in a swampy area stunk! Isaac was up to his manly bits in this quagmire. I nearly lost bladder control laughing so hard. Problem was, Dave and I had to get through there too. At least we knew not to ride it.
Isaac up to his manly bits in some smelly-ass quagmire.
Eventually this eternal six mile section came to an end. An hour and 18 minutes went by on the clock just on this section. Clearly boondoggle material.
The loop through Pawtuckaway went well. A lot of peaky climbing, where Dave was drilling it much of the time. My legs weren't feeling so good anymore. I wasn't sure how I was going to survive riding 60+ miles with these slow-twitch freaks. There wasn't much singletrack to hit in this part of the park. We were saving that for Bear Brook.
On the way to Bear Brook, we hit mostly gravel roads, but also a lengthy section of Class 6 town road. Doesn't show on maps. The climb was essentially creek bottom ridding, with water cascading down since we got rain recently. Lovely. More hike-a-bike. Most of this cut-through was rideable though.
This popped us out on Currier Rd, which Isaac's folks live on. Isaac pre-stocked the house for mid-ride refueling. He knows Hill Junkie's dietary habits well. There were Sun Chips, sardines and Oreo Cookies! I was pretty depleted at that point, 30+ miles into the ride with a lot of climbing and some very intense efforts. In hopes of staving off muscle cramps, I went for the sardines and chips.
All your foods are belong to me! I consumed a tin of sardines and half the large bag of Sun Chips.
We were on pretty high ground here. A slight backtrack brought us to a fire road into Bear Brook. Screaming descent, which Isaac knows well. I was getting bucked all over on my 29er hardtail with 80mm travel fork. Dave was on a fully rigid 29er. Isaac was on his 29er dualie and was gone.
We decided to hit all of the newer singletrack in Bear Brook, including the Hemlock Trail reroute, Little and Big Bear, Cascade and Sentinel Pine. I wasn't too keen on riding around Beaver Pond to start, as that is one of the more technical trails in the park. Didn't need to fall on my recovering wrist, or fall at all for that matter. I cleaned everything except that nasty bit in the middle I haven't seen anybody clean. It has been buffed out some recently, and I think in this direction with healed wrist, I could clean it on my daulie.
Dave didn't fare as well on the water crossing by the campground. He decided to test the hardness of the rocks with his knee. He was able to get back on his bike after a few minutes. There were a lot of people at the beach, just out of sight from the water crashing. The crash was pretty loud. I heard a beach goer holler "Is the tree alright!" Kind of funny, but a douche thing to say. Would have been funnier if he said "Is the bike alright?" I'm sure that was Dave's first thought. I bet he dropped some serious nickel on that Rocky Mountain 999 carbon frame.
The high point of today's ride was going to be the hour of purpose-build singletrack in Bear Brook. Hemlock is one of my favorite trails in New England. The reroute I helped build this summer is nicely broken in. Probably more fun to hit that section from the other direction, as it was mostly a climb from our direction.
We also hit the Little Bear and Big Bear loop. I helped build these trails last summer and hadn't ridden them since right after completing them. I must say they are wicked fun. Big Bear is a one-way trail, primarily downhill. Think giant slalom turns the whole way. Isaac led and totally shredded it. I fell off his pace just a bit towards the end. Had two OH-SHITS. Didn't need to wreck with a trip coming up in just a few days.
We dropped down on the Bear Brook Trail, always a fun time. There were many walkers and other mountain bikers in the park today, probably the most I've seen. We picked up Cascade from the bottom and began climbing. This first piece was new to me, constructed last year I think. Cascade Brook Trail climbs stupid steep with precipitous drop to the right. Several years ago, riding in January, I clipped a tree along here and went head first into the brook. I was soaked head to toe. Isaac was with the group that day and could not stop laughing.
The new drainage work on Sentinel Pine really opened that trail up. Several other obstacles were removed while NEMBA had some equipment in there. We climbed it, but I bet Sentinel Pine is a premium downhill blast now.
Dave wanted to head out of Bear Brook by going over Bear Hill. He wanted to see me suffer and hear me whine. I had been running on fumes for a while. Bear Hill starts as a bony singletrack climb, then goes to 20% grade up ancient carriage road to long-gone fire lookout that used to be up there. I cleaned the whole works, but I was fried. It was downhill for the next several miles, but I knew Dave was just getting warmed up and was going to light it up on the way back to Massabesic.
My suspicions proved true. As soon was Dave turned onto Trail 15 south, the afterburners came on. I hung as long as I could, imploded, then Isaac came by. I told Isaac I'd see both of them later. I was pretty sure I'd be riding the next 15-20 miles alone. Dave did slow down on the Chester Turnpike, a jeep road, just long enough to get back on. But this was only to string me out again for the next few miles. There was quite a bit of standing water on Trail 15, which is unusual for late summer. The area must have gotten quite a deluge several days ago. The only reason I could maintain contact with Dave was he slowed some through the frequent wet spots and I plowed full speed through them. This turned me and my bike into a disgusting mess.
After Dave putting more screws to me around Tower Hill Pond and gloating about it, we noted the mileage was going to come short of 100km. So should we hit several of the FOMBA singletracks? Isaac suggested the loop around Massabesic Lake. That sounded like a faster way to get the miles in, but it also meant Dave beating the aerobic snot out of me some more. I reluctantly agreed.
We rolled back in to the cars with 5.6 hours moving time, 5400ft of climbing and 62.8 miles (101km) on the Garmin. I was completely wrecked. Mission accomplished, another boondoggle on the books. Seems Isaac has learned well from the Master Boondoggler. It was great ride, but we all agreed we don't have to do the powerline section in summer again.