Monday, May 5, 2014

Airline Trail - Thompson to Douglas State Forest

Kiosk at Lowell Davis Road Crossing

So instead of loading my bike into the fossil-fuel-mobile today and spending precious riding time driving to a ride, I decided I'd have another go at the section of the Airline Trail that I've been hearing so much about lately from down near the West Thompson Dam up to Douglas State Forest.  Some of the my co-committee members on the Thompson Trails have been saying some positive things about the work that has been going on here.

Last time I rode this trail, I did it one way from Douglas to Thompson and swore I'd never do it again.  I'm pretty sure it was at least 90% comprised of sandy whoop-dee-doos or a stream bed that had taken over the trail in an era long since past.

But I've been hearing a lot about grant money coming through and the revitalization of this section of the trail, so I broke my oath and decided to hit it again.  And I have to say, I'm not sorry that I did.

It was about a two and a half mile road ride over the dam and up to the cemetery to get to the trail, which runs between Route 395 and Riverside Drive in this area.

As I jumped on I was immediately faced with a puddle that looked more like a small pond spanning the entirety of the trail.  There was nothing to do but pedal through.  Fortunately the bottom was firm and the water was relatively shallow.  Two dry feet and a still clean drivetrain.  Things were looking up.

Within a half mile the trail crosses over the on-ramp to 395 at Exit 98.  It follows the old railroad bridge over the traffic.  Bridge is just fine, but I wish it weren't such deep peastone across it.  Makes for tough pedaling.

After crossing this bridge you are very soon after faced with another bridge, or lack thereof.  Good to see it has barriers preventing unsuspecting traffic from plummeting to their deaths.  Or at least plummeting to certain pain.

The go-around isn't fantastic, at least this time of year.  It leads you through some super mucky, swampy terrain, but it is ridable.

 After this, the trail falls into a nice groove for quite a while.  Solid terrain, primarily hardpack soil or stone dust, but occasionally coarse gravel.  The latter was, again, tough pedaling, but better than pedaling through the swamp that probably was there before.  There were constant signs of a lot of work having been done, whether the makeup of the trail itself or the stacks and stacks of cleared timber and saplings lining the trail.

There were a few places where the trail was still a little rough, but there was almost always a solid path to follow.  And the terrain was absolutely breathtaking.  Old stone walls in various states of repair lining the trail.  And streams accompanying the trail more often than not.

There are a couple more roads to cross over (Sunset Hill and Lowell Davis) before you cut under 395 and then break east from the highway.  Not usually a big graffiti fan, but I loves me some Wile E. Coyote, which is who awaits you under the 395 underpass.

After going under Route 395, the trail crosses under Route 193 right next to Sweet Sue's Sugar Shack.  Worth stopping in if you have some time and they are open.

The trail is pretty smooth sailing from this point forward.  There are a couple of gravelly areas and a couple of places that were a little damp, but all in all 100% enjoyable.

New bridge with rocks on either side to keep ATVs out.

Swamp View Estates

Trees don't care much about signs of man.
Caution, barely a bridge

Pre-Columbian Cave Thingy

Requisite Tri-State Marker Shot
 After nine fast, flat miles from my door, I was turning off the Airline onto the Tri-State climb.  And then on to the Douglas State Forest, where a whole world of mountain biking awaits.

View from the Lean-To off the Midstate.

The ol' hole in the wall

Never mind about the coffee.  It ain't there.

New bridge on the Midstate/Coffee House

Back on the Airline

New bridges, thanks to Friends of the Midstate Trail

Rope Swing Point

Beaver Dam

My favorite log crossing - NOT!

The return trip down the Airline was met with a cold rain. I blasted through and found Cori waiting for me at the end of the trail.  She said it was hailing a mile up the road.


Post-ride deliciousness!!
In the end, I have to say, I was very impressed with the condition of the Airline.  A great way to get some extra miles in so close to home. I look forward to seeing the remaining touches finished up.

Here is the GPS track of the ride.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Vermont Oktoberfest 2013!!

This past week marked our Wednesday night group's second Oktoberfest in VT.  This year the whole group was staying at the Burke Bike Barn in East Burke, literally right on the White School trail at Kingdom Trails.

On the way up, Gareau and I decided to hit Ascutney.  They looked to have a decent trail system pretty close off the highway, allowing us to sneak in the ride unilluminated.  Ascutney, as a ski mountain, closed a few years back, leaving a resort infrastructure that felt a little weird.


Having one of these doesn't mean you won't get lost.

Porta-Map-Changing Room - Brilliant!
We left out of a small parking lot near the hotel and, not really knowing where we were going, climbed up the slope on Last Mile to Wind Up. It was climby, but lots of switchbacks to ease the blow.  We then hit some nice singletrack in Cross Cut, Gracies and Falls from Grace.  Gorgeous bench cut trails with scenic ravines.

We also rode up the twisty Bypass, avoiding the straight climb up Coronary.  After that is where we really blew it.  We took a trail called Quarry Chase.  It was a double black meant to be ridden down.  We rode up it.  Egad!  That was followed by a heart attack climb up Bicentennial.  How climby was it?  It was so climby that Bryan Gareau walked.  Hell, I didn't even  know that he knew how to walk.

Thankfully we stumbled upon a local at the next intersection who, being a master of the obvious, informed us we were doing it all wrong.  We pointed out he was riding a bike the seat of which was dangling by a dropper post cable and nothing else.  He already knew that.  He pointed us in the right direction.

We continued steadily up Pass the Buck to Cloud Nine to Lynx.  Lynx was a fun, rolly trail which brought us to the trails on the far side of the mountain.  It was nice to be on a long trail sans intersections.  The stuff on the way upper right of the map - Escalator and Lollipop - was about as technical as we came across.  It was gorgeous.  Big rocks, steep climbs and tight trail.

BG Rockin' It
After we finished Escalator and Lollipop, we started heading out.  It was impossible to figure our way out.  Because we're not very smart.  The signs had yellow arrows on them guiding us to the parking lot.  You just had to know to look for them.

On the way out we also ran into the trail builder.  I think his name was Jim Lyle.  Very nice guy.  We continued out on a pretty easy route, passing by all sorts of trails that looked all sorts of super.  But daylight was waning and beer was calling.  One highlight on the way out was Hayride.  It's a CRAZY switchbacked trail down a crazy long hill.  They thing about it, though, is that it's all through a short-mown hayfield.   So weird just switchbacking back and forth ad infinitum when you could just go straight down.

At the end of the ride, we'd ridden 11.3 miles according to BG's wheel and climbed 1,703 feet.  Great start to a great five days of riding.

Here is the Garmin track of our ride.

We awoke Thursday morning at the Barn after having had a few too many fabulous Vermont brews while watching the Sox the night before and headed over to Stowe to hit some of their super singletrack with our new Stowe friend, Scott Espey.  This ride was Scott, BG, Mark Dupuis, Dave Violette, Brandon O'Neal and me.

It was about an hour and a half trip across some scenic back roads to Stowe.  We met at iRide there and found Scott waiting.  He'd been boasting of some new trails that had been cut since last time we rode there.

We set out to get in a bunch of miles, a task that was completed with weary smiles by day's end.  We headed right out of iRide up the existing trails to a new trail called Connector off from Cady Hill Road.  While the trail did carry us over to the Bear's/Squirrel Land/Green Chair area, it did so much more than that.  This trail, which Scott insists was brand new, seemed like it had been there forever.  It was super hard packed.  It was flowy.  It was fast.  It was outrageously fun.  Berms, bridges and bumps.  Booyah!

We then swooped down to the lower parking lot at the bottom of Bear's on some new trail and climbed back up to Green Chair.  Everyone seemed to be feeling great.

Yoga Marc!
Green Chair Face Feeding
Scott then showed us Inner Schween Haus or, as he liked to call it, Dick House.A rugged, ancient trail (by comparison), replete with gnarly roots, rocky climbs and blind turns.  Love it!

On the way up to the high school we took Pebble Beach.  I saw no pebbles.  No beach.  It might have been more aptly named Slippery Root, About Face or Oh Shit.  It was brutal!  But we somehow managed and made it up to the school.

After that the quintessential climb up Pipeline.  A 1.1 mile climb gaining 336 feet.  Somehow it still feels fantastic.  Stowe trail builders know how to take the bite out of climb.

Goofball O'Neal
After passing through Trapp's, we headed toward Kimmer's.  Scott has the brilliant idea of taking Hardy's down, climbing Kimmer's and then taking Kimmer's down before climbing back up Hardy's.  This likely sounds like gibberish if you aren't familiar with the area.  Both Hardy's and Kimmer's are phenomenal downhills.  They are also huge climbs.  Dave was beside himself.  With despair.  But he soldiered up and slogged on.  Those two climbs combined for a 946' gift for downhill Dave. 

Konquering Kimmer's Klimb
 Brandon over the skinny to the boulder

Espey Makes It Look Easy
After our now traditional stop by Trapp's, where we enjoyed an Oktoberfest and some delicious curried popcorn, we headed down Pipeline and out on the road and rec path.

Trapp's and Trek
Post-ride Sustenance and Libations at Rimrocks.

All told, we rode 24.1 miles according to the Garmin and climbed 3,138 feet Thursday.  Whew!  Only three days of riding to go.

Friday was Millstone day.  And our numbers were growing.  Friday we were our original five (BG, Dave, Marc, Brandon and me) as well as BMA, Zimma, Jess, Fixie Mark, Chris LeClair, Bill Peck, Bill Lawless and Pat Royer.  It had rained pretty steadily overnight and I was a little concerned heading over to Barre.  We grabbed our trail passes at the store, we headed in.

The trail starts off with a decent climb and the few roots along the way quickly showed themselves to be slick.  The good news is that the roots are something rarer than rampant.

Family Reunion
We did the requisite climb up to the overlook, where we gazed upon what I've been told is Canada.  But I can't be sure.  I couldn't make out anyone playing hockey or receiving socialized healthcare. 

Millstone Bike Stand
After that it was Screaming Demon.  Awesome name for an even awesomer trail.  Screaming Demon is a pretty techy steady descent.  It cruises over bridges spanning boulders and dives down fractured granite slides.  This is where some of our group make known their mettle. Jess, Pat, BMA and Dave ate this stuff up.  I held my own, but hot damn, those guys are good at this type o' terrain.

Then we started riding the ridges through Harrington.  The granite here forms spines that are the trail.  The crest is fairly narrow and the sides drop sharply, although not always very far.  This is where I started to realize that despite the previous night's rain, the granite was grippier than the gob of goo in Lester's glove.

BG Bikes the Balance Beam
After Harrington we climbed up the the new Millstone trail - Vortex.  What a blast.  Sharp ups, tight turns, bridges and rocks.  The trails just twists and turns, packing one fun feature on top of another.  Do yourself a favor and ride Vortex next time you ride Millstone.

We wrapped this side up and took the road out to lunch back at the cars before heading back in to do the other side.

That's for the sandwiches, Schofie!
After refueling, it was back off to ride the other side.  I think most of us were ready for some flowier, rollier terrain after the technical treachery of the Demon, Harrington and Vortex.

The south side of Church Hill Road was refreshing.  We did the Fellowship of the Ring loop and lingered at some of the lookouts.

Brandon Victorious!
A man, his bike and a smile.

Never Inviting the Bums Again.
 On the way out most of us crossed over and rode out on Roller Coaster for one last adrenaline rush.

All said, we rode 13.1 miles at Millstone and climbed 1,796 feet.  Another solid day of riding and still waiting for Kingdom come.

By Friday night, our full complement of riders was present and Saturday we were 22 riders.  Adding to our numbers were the Bryan Quach Express, Erica Daigneault, Mike LaPlante, Brett and Jake Russ, Monique Trammell, Michelle Renae, Scott Espey and Matt Chandler.   Holy big ride!

Saturday Crew
We got a little mixed up and lost Dave and Brandon off the bat, but eventually bumped back into both. Our ride started into town on White School and Herb's down to town.   Then we headed over to grab Burnham Up.  Which led to Millie's (up) to Trillium (up) to Magill Fields  (up).  That's about 4.5 miles of straight climbing totaling 805'.  On the fourth day in a row of riding.  It felt like some sort of Sisyphean hell where my bike was the boulder.

At least I was on a real bike.  Fixie Mark decided to live up to his name, riding a fixie cross Independent Fabrications Saturday.  And he rides a crazy hard gear.

After passing the largest unknown pile of fecal matter I have ever seen, we started down Moose Alley.  Two miles of singletrack sweetness dropping delightfully down for what seemed forever.  I hear that somewhere in here Fixie showed those around him how to somersault on a cross bike.  I missed it, but sounds like it was spectacular.

We cruised through a bunch of trails I'd not yet experienced on our way back to the Barn for lunch.  Farmjunk and Skydive were way cool.  Plus we found Brandon and Dave out in this area somewhere.

Lunch was a feast of sandwiches, leftovers, soup and beer.  I almost didn't want to go back out. Almost.

Post lunch was devoted to Darling Hill.  The group started together, but slowly splintered.  It's kind of all a blur, but I think we started on Harp over to Poundcake, where Jake took a HARD headfirst digger. Thinking of calling 911 hard.  But he eventually got up and shook it off, although he and Brett didn't stick around much longer that day.

There was more crazy climbing up Coronary followed by a scream down Troll Stroll.

 After Troll Stroll, we continued down River Run and splintered even further before it was just a handful of us finishing up in the group I was in.  A nice climb and descent through Old Webs.  I really like this singletrack.  Smooth and well switchbacked up. The downhill just ripped.  Hard-packed sand with only one sketchy corner.  Woohooing and grinning all the way down.

With energy levels waning, we went after Jaw next.  Jaw starts innocuously enough, but then gets bridgey. An easy bridge or two.  Then a couple of higher bridges, but still easy.  The last bridge though, wow.  It starts wide enough, but it's long.  And as it gets further along, it narrows.  Multiple times.  By the end it's probably eight inches wide. I cleaned it just fine.

Monique Did Not
From there we wended our way over to Kitchel through various and sundry trails.  Kitchel, as always, was a hoot.  A fast, gravity-defying three minutes.

By the time we were back, I had 26.2 miles on the Garmin with 3,352 feet of vertical.  BG had 29+ on the wheel.  Long day of riding!

Followed by a long night of Oktoberfesting!


What the hell, Pat?

Apple Crisp!

Ping Pong Beatdown

Ping Pong Spectators

Just a trim, please.

Our furry friend
Sunday morning was bittersweet.  First order of business was to clean and pack, but we still had one more ride in front of us.  Well, most of us did anyhow.  We were on the trail by around 10 am and fifteen of us headed back to Darling Hill.

We splintered off pretty quickly, with just me, Matt Chandler, Mark Schofield, Brett and Jake in our group.  Brett took the opportunity to some trailside fathering and we headed back down Poundcake, hoping Jake wasn't the cake getting pounded again.

Sunday was much more slippery than Saturday.  And we seemed to find our share of roots to mess with my mojo.  I was riding conservatively  I had made it through four days without getting hurt.  The last day at Kingdom was not going to take me down.

Everyone's legs were drained and mine were no exception, having ridden the previous four days straight with a mountain of vertical.  But knowing this was the last chance to ride VT this year, I managed to dig pretty deep and muscle through.

Mark gives up on biking.  He's now into trail-sitting.

Chandler is up to the challenge

Jake and his new brain bucket.
We did hit Tap and Die, which we had missed the day before.  Very similar to Troll Stroll, starting and ending in almost the same place. After that we split from Brett and Jake, who were talking about going back up the hill (that's a tough hill) to do Troll Stroll. 

Matt, Mark and I headed out on West Branch and the Sidewinder reload.  Then over to Jaw and a few other trails off from VAST before wrapping it up.

That day we rode 16 miles and climbed 1,722 feet.

That brought my week total to 89.1 miles and 11,711 feet.  I honestly have to say, this mountain bike trip was one the best trips I've had.  Great people, great place to stay, great food and great trails.  Can't wait to do it again!