I did get my fix on Thursday. Ended up riding solo and hammered for 90 minutes, riding myself ragged. Was in a much better mental state afterwards. The deal was, Friday was an off day and I hate going into three-day weekends already part way into a hole. So naturally I worked on my off-Friday and did an hour of rollerski drills to ensure I went deeper into that hole.
Friday was supposed to be rain and Saturday was supposed to be nice. Just the opposite happened. It was cold, dreary and misty locally Saturday. I had hoped to do a light local ride and do a bigger ride with the boys on Sunday. But local riding would have sucked. Not sure why I believed the forecast or current conditions for the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, but I did and decided on a whim to head up.
It wasn't until I cleared Franconia Notch that I popped out from under the cloud deck into a brilliant bluebird sky. My motivation level jumped.
Arriving in East Burke, I wondered if I missed that a festival going on. There were hundreds of riders about and almost no place to park. I found a place in a gravel pit adjacent to the normal parking area. Scanning license plates, the biggest percentage were from Quebec, next most from Mass. But there were plates from at least a dozen states present.
Main parking area in town. Auxiliary areas were packed too. Photo taken at end of ride
when clouds started to build.
I went to buy a trail pass. Huh? There was a line out the door almost half way down to the road. I stood in line for a good while, and it just wasn't moving fast enough. I didn't want to burn a half hour of the best daylight just to get a trail pass. I cut out and started riding, thinking I'd pick one up on top of Darling Hill or back at the office after I finish my ride. I did not plan to come back to my car until I finished riding.
After 10 minutes, I wasn't even to door, and there was long line inside.
Trail conditions were mint. There were a couple normal wet bits on the Burke Mountain stuff, but otherwise just enough moisture in soil to keep dust down. With leaf drop nearly complete, it was also much brighter in the woods than I'm accustomed to.
There was steady stream of riders coming down Burham Up, my preferred way to begin climbing up Burke Mountain. Nobody was riding up. I could only assume an awful lot of shuttling was going on. Once I got above the campground, I had the woods to myself. I got almost all the way down Moose Alley before encountering a group.
From Shire Trail, an uphill only trail (doesn't get much traffic). Brought crappy TS4 camera.
Magil Field looking north.
Heading over to the Darling Hill side, there was massive congestion. There many packs numbering 20-30 riders. I struggled to not let this frustrate me while climbing. A lot like rush hour traffic, really. There's not much you can do about it.
What caught my attention was how many women were out. I'm not talking wives and girlfriends, but moms and daughters too, even groups of teen girls. No slouches either. I'm sure many of them could school me on a trail or two.
I hit the obligatory descents off Darling Hill - Troll Stroll, Tap and Die, and Sidewinder. Sidewinder is beat to shit. A couple of the apexes are trenched out almost three feet deep now, taking away most of that half-pipe sensation. The descents through the bottom of the gully are horribly rutted, presumably from noobs braking. It is not obvious at all how this trail can be repaired and armored up. Might be easier to scrap it and cut a new one. Riders have loved this one to death, literally.
Food stand at top of Sidewinder.
I've been hitting the Kingdom Trails for many years now, and I've never ridden up to Heaven's Bench. I'd see the cute cliche photos on Facebook, and I'd see the trail on the map, but I never put the two together before. So today, riding solo, I rode up to Heaven's Bench. Ah-ha, now I see what everybody sees from this vantage point. There is a bench placed on an open knoll with meticulously groomed grass. The view is grand in almost all directions. I think this will be a staple of all NEK rides to come.
Taking in the view from Heaven's Bench
Looking southwest from Heaven's Bench
Working my way back to town, I hit the Ridge/Rim descent, second only to Moose Alley in my opinion. The consequences of messing up in a few places could be quite severe with exposure to the gully below. To cap off an awesome ride, I finished with Kitchel. A string of groms filed in behind me. The pressure was on. I carried uncomfortable speed on my plush sofa bike. I got the most air I have in a very long time. Think I was even shaking a little when I got to the bottom.
I swung back by the KT office as I finished and asked for a belated trail pass. I believe it was the director that took my $15. I told him I was all set and didn't need a ticket anymore. He said "That's ok, we like honest poachers here!" He gave me a ticket anyway just in case I changed my mind and wanted to ride more.
It was certainly one of my best NEK rides. I finished with 40 miles, vertical mile of climbing in 4.2hrs on the Garmin. Strava tells me I PR'd at least 10 segments.
The drive home
No thanksgiving turkey sandwich for the drive home. There were so many people about I just wanted to get out of there. I didn't drive more than 20 minutes before I was back under the cloud deck. Most of the way home was dark, foggy and drizzly. Wifey says it stayed that way at home all day. Heading up was a major score. Unfortunately, going at it three days in a row put me in a deep hole, and riding with the boys on Sunday buried me. A story for another time...