After a morning of chores, the radar looked safe enough to head out on a long ride. My original plan was to meet Keith up at Kingdom Trails, but the last time I met Keith up there, I nearly froze to death and cut the life of my drivetrain in half. Way safer to time a local ride where the rain was least likely to move through. That would be Massabesic Lake up to Bear Brook and back, my favorite local loop.
Heading out at noon, the skies look highly suspect. It was about 80F, humid, and it looked like a storm could form at any moment. Heading in to the Massabesic Lake carriage road trails, there was a group of four very young children playing in the trail. A young boy, maybe about three years old, looks right up into my eyes and says "It's gonna rain!" That gave me the creeps, just like the little girl from the movie Poltergeist when she says "They're Here!"
Not 30 minutes later, I felt the first drops of rain. How did a three year old know? It's almost like he knew what I rode in two days earlier. Fortunately, the rain never amounted to more than random sprinkles, but the sky remained threatening for a long time.
I maintained a solid tempo pace, legs feeling pretty good despite 4.7hrs on Saturday and 2.2hrs on Sunday. The FOMBA singletracks were in mint condition, brown pow as they say out west. I hit Woodpecker and Hemlock before moving on.
Marble outcropping overlooking Hall Mountain on the I-trail
Just after completing the I-trail in Bear Brook, I very nearly rode over a large snake sprawled across the doubletrack. At first I thought I rode over its head, but it coiled back into a defensive posture. Ok, that creeped me out a bit. I don't have irrational fear of snakes, but this one was big and I did not recognize it. Good thing I didn't let out a girly squeal, as Louis Frechette was just coming around the bend.
You can judge size by scaling snake to pair of ATV tracks. I missed its head by an inch.
We marveled at the snake for a moment before it slithered off into the brush. Louis swore he heard a rattle. I wasn't so sure. Looking up New Hampshire snakes when I got home, it appears we were looking at an Eastern Milk Snake. It is described as reddish-brown blotches over grey base. A Timber Rattler is described as a black snake with brown cross bands that may be difficult to see.
Milk snake on left, rattler on right
After the creepy snake encounter, I bombed down to the campground store to top off fluids and fuel. The best flow trail in southern NH was next, Bear Brook's Hemlock Trail. My legs were still feeling pretty good. No need to disrupt a perfect tempo pace for silly Strava standings though.
After reaching the north end of the park, it was time to start working my way back. This meant some climbing on trails like Alp d'Huez and Bear Hill. It wasn't easy cleaning Bear Hill trail heading up. It was muggy enough that the rocks were slippery with condensation. From the summit of Bear Hill, it is a speed fest back to Manchester, mostly on Trail 15, which is a wintertime snowmobile route.
I completed the 52 mile loop in less than 4.5hrs, one of my fastest, if not the fastest, times for this ride. Had I not stopped at the snake, I doubt I would have had much more than five minutes of stopped time during the ride too. Additional rain never materialized. At least I scored one good ride out of the four-day weekend.