Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Searching for Trail

With the recent snow the trails really aren't very rideable on an MTB. Clearly it is to be expected given that we had two feet of snow dumped on us. That said, usually we can find areas that have been beaten down by foot traffic to the point where one can ride said trails. No, it isn't usually all that much fun and it's not great riding but when the temperature is in the teens and the wind is howling, most anything is better that riding the road.

Times like those are often good times to diversify and take part in other winter specific non-cycling activity. In the past, that is exactly what I've do immersing myself in XC skiing and snowshoeing. At the start of the season I was really looking forward to doing just that but as the season wore on and the snows didn't come, I sort of lost interest. Now that we actually have some snow I'm struggling with motivation to get out there and take advantage of that snow.

Yesterday I was determined to try and find some trail that had been sufficiently packed to make it rideable on an MTB. I knew that most of the local places just didn't get enough foot traffic but targeted one of the most heavily used areas around, Estabrook Woods. This place gets a myriad of users from dog-walkers to XC skiers to snow-shoers to runners and hikers. If any place is to be packed down this is likely to be it.

My weapon of choice was the Yeti 575 with the fat tires and cushy, frozen pock-mark neutralizing suspension. My plan was to try and ride the railroad bed out and avoid the roads. That lasted for a very short while as the bed simply hadn't gotten sufficient traffic to pack it down. Reluctantly I slunk off onto the road to make the five mile ride to the trail into a fierce headwind on a bike that rode like a mattress. All that I could do was about 14mph on the way over while working way too hard and sweating profusely. That would probably come back to haunt me as the temperature started to dip later in the day.

After what seemed an eternity, I finally made it to the trail and as luck would have it, those healthy and active Concord residents had indeed been out packing the living sin out of the trail. It was bumpy in places from the foot traffic but pounded to a concrete firm surface that was about 14" wide. There was also a defined XC ski track that the walkers seemed to be staying out of on many of the trails. Despite all of the dog walkers I saw very few poopsicles. This was awesome and I rode much of the packed stuff with joy.

As I came back onto Estabrook Road I decided to try my luck and take the trail that lies at the very end of the road as the conservation land ends and residential housing in Carlisle begins. This was a pretty rugged mix of light foot traffic and some XC ski traffic packing a narrow trail. It was downhill though and with lots of wiggling to maintain balance and forward momentum I made it through and to the uphill portion. Unfortunately it was so bumpy that I could not maintain purchase on the narrow strip of packed trail and floundered off, coming to a dead stop. Getting going uphill was tough and I continued to flounder until the trail intersection with the Bee-Sting trail. I turned right back toward the main woods and continued to struggle, though as the trail improved a bit I found good success.

Once again as the trails merged I chose the one less traveled and this time paid the price. That section was only packed by enough to float in the ski track itself. The tracks were separated by a ridge of unpacked snow that would swallow your rear tire if you crossed between the ski tracks. Riding that 3" of usable packed surface proved to required more balance than I could muster when the trail started to head gently uphill and I bobbled time and again.

Eventually I came back into Two Rod Road which I turned right onto and progressed back into well packed area of trail. What a huge relief but at that point, the day and daylight were beginning to wear thin and I still had a slow 6 mile road ride home once I got out of the woods. With that I exited at Punkatassett Hill and sped north on Monument Road toward RT225 and the long straight drag back home.

Much work for a relatively short trail ride but when the going was good, it was very fun stuff. Maybe I'll go do some searching off the MinuteMan in Arlington and Lexington. Great Meadow usually gets lots of traffic.

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