|Getting started out from Moose Brook|
It has been a long run and a long season. Doesn't help that what I'd consider the best month of the year, was last January. that is because we were new to fat biking and spent a stellar winter with excellent conditions and endless explorations literally right out our door in Maine. I had one of the most epic rides in years, in the dead of winter on the fat bike. It was something new and something fresh. We'd just come off from a long and incredibly successful year of racing as well as riding. Really, last year was the poster child for great rides and adventures.
If last year was a boon, this year was a bust. Once we got past the new found love of the fat bikes in the snow and settled in to dry land riding, the luster wore thin. Sure, there were still some excellent super-bright spots. The Rasputitsa, the VOMAR, the two Maine gravel and notch weekends, the KT weekends, the NEK gravel recon rides, the Thanksgiving gravel ride in the Kingdom, CX fun in the snow at Sterling. We had some really good times. Unfortunately, wedged in between them were countless days of just towing the line, getting out on the bike and getting it done, whatever it is.
One thing that I notice this year especially is how few of the really great cycling adventures of the year were races. Truth is, almost none. That is certainly telling, though nothing which I didn't already know beforehand. Racing is good but the best memories come from the long destination rides or ride weekends spent with friends. Those are the ones you recall. It's hard to remember much about so many of the races. They all simply blend together and average out into either an overall good feeling, or an overall bad feeling. Some years are good, others not. Seems this was the latter. I'm not complaining or whining, just stating how trivial all that hard works ends up becoming.
Anyhow, the point of all this is that some times, the smallest thing can flip it around and give you hope once again. Hope that the overall mood is about to change and the passion is about to rekindle.That happened just last week in the form of a fat bike ride in excellent snow conditions on some great trails with some really good people.
|Venturing out on sled trail|
We met up with Jason, Ben and Jamie last Sunday morning at Moose Brook State Park. We'd been out the day before and discovered that the trails in the park were only partially rideable but that the sled trails were in good shape. With that, we opted to take sled trail to some of the MTB trails that the club maintains outside the park. Those trails were semi-packed and rideable in spots but some had been post-holed badly by someone walking without snowshoes when the conditions were warm. This meant we bailed and stuck to the sled trails.
I actually love riding the sled trails. To me it has all the allure of gravel road riding and in fact, a very similar feel. We've explored a fair number of the trails near us in Maine but hadn't ventured into NH, yet. That said, we are fairly familiar with most of the trails in the area as we use to ride them extensively on sleds. In fact, we know all the way from Bethel to Lancaster to Colebrook to Pittsburg to Rangely to Rumford pretty well. That's a pretty big block of real-estate with literally thousands of miles of trail and virtually no possibly way of riding it all on a fat bike in much less than a lifetime of winters. This year, we plan to add the NEK into the mix as well so we certainly have plenty to choose from.
|Happy, smiling faces|
We regrouped at the top of that initial climb and made our way quickly down a fast, flowing descent, only to hit another climb. The trail rolled on with ups and downs but nothing of the nature of that first climb. Soon we stopped and it was determined that we'd (I'd) overshot the bail out point which would be the quick way back. My reaction was one of joy, that we'd get to do the bigger loop over to Dolly Copp and back around to the railroad bed trail off RT2. The reactions of Jason and Ben seemed less enthusiastic as they recognized the full scope of the loop.
|Scenic winter splendor|
Pressing forward the trail continued for a few more, generally upward miles and broke in a scenic outlook where we could see part of the Presidentials straight ahead. Soon we were down and at Dolly Copp road, a seasonal road that goes from RT16 to RT2. In winter it is a state snowmobile trail and is well groomed. Another climb was then on tap for us, this one also a mile long though a slight 6% average grade. Regrouped at the top, we made our way down the long descent back toward RT2 and the railroad bed trail which would take us back to Gorham. The descent was steep but the conditions and wind were such that you had to push pretty hard to go even 15mph let alone 20mph. All in all, a fairly slow day, conditions wise, with semi-loose granular on top of a fairly well packed base.
|Tired but happy|
The trip back to town was very enjoyable with some near bridges, old mill remains and some scenic water flows. All this through a snow covered evergreen forest on a crisp, clear December day made for the perfect winter experience. We finished up tired but very, very happy. I'm smiling right now thinking back on it.
I need more rides like that. We all need more rides like that. Rides we reflect back on and smile or laugh. Ones that made us feel good then but continue to make us feel good a week later. That is why we ride bikes in the first place, isn't it? Just need to keep sight of that fact.
To be continued ...