Wednesday, March 02, 2011

In Search of Dirt

This has been a long winter. A real winter, as any hearty old Yankee would delight in telling you. We are now into our 3rd complete month of having snow cover for the entire month here in New England. This doesn't happen all that often. We typically get a break at some point or in the case of last year, we have very little snow at all.

I remember back to December when we were waiting for the snow to come, and it seemed as though it would never get here. The week before Christmas we finally got a taste, a small taste though which still left it possible to ride bikes off-road. We took full advantage of this and got in some great rides. After Christmas we got a good solid dumping of snow, which allowed us to break out into the woods on the skinny skis for some new found adventure and fun. Just before New Years the weather changed again and we got nailed with a whole lot of warm and rain, which decimated the snow. This once again allowed us back on the trails, albeit with studded tires this time, for some good old fashioned rutted misery.

It wasn't long though a winter took hold for good. January was marked by weekly double shot snowstorms, perpetual shoveling and battling ice dam(n)s. Looking back, it is literally a blur of moving snow from one place to another, and possibly to yet another as area 2 was only an intermediate staging area for the snow to finally lay. In a word, crazy. February was much much lighter on the snow and we got glimpses of spring weather but it did little to make headway into the snow-pack. Worse yet, the snow was frequent enough to the snow at a solid level and never let the trails really pack in enough with foot traffic to make them rideable, at least not locally. This made for some excellent skiing but not a whole lot of riding. In fact, I am currently 800 miles below where I was at this point last season. That said, I have gotten 289 miles in cross-country skiing so far this year and it doesn't look like we are quite done yet.

This past Saturday, after receiving some more snow here in the latter part of the week, we were torn as to what to do. We could do a day trip north for some XC ski in fresh powder, which isn't actually all that much fun, stay local on cold wet roads for a road ride, or make a break for the Cape and see what we got. I'd seen recent intel from Hill Junkie, JB and the NEMBA forum as to conditions so was confident that we should be OK. With that, we printed some maps, packed up the single-speeds and headed for Nickerson State Park in Brewster/Orleans. I had never ridden at that area before so didn't know the trails at all.

It occurred to us as we were driving, and driving, and driving, that Orleans is a really long ways away. I'd forgotten as it had been years since I'd spent time in that part, or any part for that matter, of Cape Cod. This was the general area of the first mountain bike race I ever did, way back in 1992, the Surf 'n Dirt race. The race was just the other side of town but was on very similar trails to those at Nickerson, and ToT and Otis; primarily old moto trails.

We arrived, parked at the main entrance lot and quickly scouted out a bush. Once that was set, we suited and hit the trails to begin our quest. Luckily there had been a dusting of snow overnight and there were some tire tracks on many of the trails. We followed them and pieced together what we could, taking opportunities to explore side trails and basically just meander. This isn't fast and you never end up covering as much ground as you would like but you do get to see new things and it is a great way to learn an area. It also has the effect of making a relatively small area seem very vast. Of course, this is the Cape where thorns are plentiful. Less than an hour in and I got a flat, a great big thorn through the tire puncturing the tube. This left us with only one spare between us. Hopefully it would suffice else we would have to cut the exploration short.

About 2 hours into the ride we ran into another biker, who offered to lead us around a bit. This was a welcome change and although many of the trails that we hit were repeats of stuff we had done in reverse, we did find some new to us trail as well. All in all, a great ride and we were both whupped at the end. Something about the Cape, which is never flat, and a single-speed making for a taxing ride. The total was 3.5 hours and a little under 23 miles. No records here and we never made it to the stretch of trail along RT6 that was visible from the highway but good for an initial explore and great to be out on the bike on actual dirt. The trip was finished off by a visit to the Land Ho, an old sponsor of the Surf 'n Dirt race, for some food and a drink before the long trip home. A good day for sure.

1 comment:

Hill Junkie said...

Cape thorns got me good this past Sunday at ToT. One of those green thorny vine things that grow up trees dragged across my cheek, leaving blood streamers. I've been riding mostly Nokian studs. Apparently they must be pretty resistant to thorns, as I haven't flatted yet.