Riding Mountain Bikes on Mt. Rogers, VA

Last weekend I was down in the southern Appalachians.  The first 5 days, I was there, I walked 90 miles of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.  It was glorious.  The wildflowers were in abundance,  and were prolific . There were times when I was backpacking, sometimes over 5,000 feet in elevation, while at the same time inhaling the intoxicating fragrance of woodland plants and trees. It was a healing experience.

Flame Azalea

Flame Azalea

Rhododendron in full bloom

Rhododendron in full bloom

After my backpacking segment, I stayed at my friend Mike’s mountainside cabin that I reported on in my previous post about my week down south.

 

One of the activities that Mike and I shared was a 14 mile mountain bike ride from the cabin through the Mt. Rogers Wilderness, where we pushed our bikes uphill toward the Grayson Highlands.  Our ride then followed an abandoned railroad grade to the top of our ride, where we intersected the Appalachian Trail at a corral known as the Scales.

The Scales

The Scales

The other geographical feature of this area are the Balds,  which are large mountaintops that are devoid of trees.  here’s a panorama of a bald that I visited.

Bald near Mt. Rogers

Bald near Mt. Rogers

Riding bikes here was a unique experience.  My friend Mike owns two Diamondback bikes.  He rode a later model with a front suspension fork, and I chose a 1986 vintage Diamondback Apex for the day.  I have an 1985 Apex at home, that I have converted to a road bike.  On this ride, I was forced to remember why modern bikes often sport front AND rear suspensions. The ride up was not so bad, because it was a steady climb of 1600′.  The ride down was a real suffer fest, due to the constant pounding of the front end on the numerous rocks and ruts that littered the trail.  My forearm and wrists were toast.

The next day Mike, his wife Susan and I went uphill again, walking a new route.  The real treat of the walk was encountering two black bears.  Mike’s Blue Heeler Jackson had run ahead of us and treed them.  The dog came right back to us when Mike called it, when we were able to watch this giant fat black bear drop like a stone down a tall tree with it’s little cub doing likewise on an adjacent tree.

 

 

Big life, big bike- Bubba style

I joke about attending the Church of Two Wheels on Sunday mornings.  But it’s no joke.
Riding with my long-time friends from the Midcoast Maine never ceases to amaze me.  Week after week, the bikes don’t break, we don’t crash (much), and we experience the pure joy of playing around in the woods, challenging ourselves on repeated sections of terrain.  This has been going on close to 20 years, all year round!  This past winter was a great one for riding these same trails when they are covered with packed snow and ice.  Today, my fat-tire Pugsley stayed home and my full suspension Santa Cruz Tallboy was resurrected  back into action.  The bumpy ledges and long  downhill from the top was kinder to my deteriorating shoulders than the rigid framed Pugs.
A bunch of The Bubbas have downloaded the Strava app on our phones or via our GPS  devices.  We encourage each other and share rides that we’ve completed with the rest of the the guys (and gals now) !  We now have maps!
 Pleasant map

Pleasant map

We get elevation profiles, like this one from Sunday’s ride on Mt. Pleasant !

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Here’s me jumping on the Tallboy, and following Rigger’s line for the ride down from ” the Blueberry field” to the ” Three way”.

photo by John Anders

photo by John Anders

3 minute video of me descending Mt. Pleasant <<– Click to view three minutes of pure joy, complete with me chuckling as The Hawk and I jockey for the right side into the singletrack.  Thanks to The Hawk for sending me his clip, and The Bubbas for being there for me, week after week.
Sanctuary.

Bubbas Still Staying Up

Six Bubbas attended Sunday’s Church of Two Wheels 10 mile long service in Warren, Maine today.

After the melting snow cover caused me to cut short my plans for a long snowmobile trail ride on Friday, I expected that today would be the same: crumbling patches of ice, mud sections, and that sudden sinking on the front wheel scenario, complete with cockpit ejection over the handlebars. I’m very pleased to say that the subfreezing temps from last night and our 9:30 AM start set things up nice and solid.

For those of you who think that these well-attended winter rides are only suitable for us fat-tire riders, check out this video clip from the ride. Listen to the crunch of the ice beneath the tires while The Hawk comes into view on his Mukluk, closely followed by Rigger and Nate on their 26-inch-tire mountain bikes.

Another Wednesday snowstorm is predicted this week- could be at least 6″ of snow. Winter riding is still going strong in the Midcoast this Spring season.

The Sunday When Winter Went Away

There’s still a small pile of snow on the north side of my house but I’m declaring “Winter is over!”  No where is that more apparent than on today’s mountain bike ride on Mt. Pleasant, here in Midcoast Maine.  Just last week, a skeleton crew of Bubbas , labored our way up  the 800 foot climb to the top of the mountain, where conditions forced an early bail back to the parking lot.  Deep mud, ice, sleet, freezing rain , and then cold rain wore us down.  screenshot 3

That was then, this was now.  Nine of us went double the distance this week.  There is still mud and  water to churn through , but it’s not so deep.  And not so cold, and the sun was shining.  There was one big tree that had to be cleared out in order to to make the ledge challenge possible today. It was a very long and heavy tree.

Yo, Heave Ho!

Yo, Heave Ho!

Once we cleared the fallen timber, the challenge began and just a few of us made it up the ledge challenge. Here’s a video clip of  The Hawk and Rigger clearing it:

On the way up, I had what we call “a mechanical”. I had a chain suck, which is a dislodged chain jammed into the drive train somewhere, but not exactly. Then I saw a broken part situation like I’ve never seen before. One of the bigger rings on the rear cassette was bent sideways. IMG_2853
I hiked-a-bike up the last short portion to the top, where Ian launched into action, and went into the woods with a saw, cut a hardwood chisel, sharpened a point on it, grabbed a rock, and made it right. Then he adjusted the rear derailleur and I was able to complete the ride. The guy is an exceptional mechanical problem solver. Thanks, buddy!

Ian improvising a fix- photo by John Anders

Ian improvising a fix- photo by John Anders

The rest of the ride was much better, with the climbing over, well most of it.  Ian even made it up the super-challenging Abyss today, a feat that no one else was able to accomplish.  It’s astounding that  four-wheeled drive vehicles get in here right now, when it is so soft and muddy, and totally churn up these old forest roads.  We see parts of cars, lenses, headlight, grills , and undercarriage parts strewn all over the place.

It’s doesn’t get dark now until almost 7:45 PM.  Next up will be my first Rockland Bog ride of the season in two days, now that winter is over.  I hope to have my Pugsley’s rear cassette replaced by then, where I’ll join my Bubba pals in another wild ride through the forest and streams.

Might As Well Jump

Aging athlete?

Hoping to avoid osteoporosis, possibly a hip fracture?

From the NY Times’ Gretchen Reynolds–>>Why High-Impact Exercise Is Good for Your Bones – NYTimes.com.

I have been a faithful member of a gym for decades. But, no more.  I didn’t renew my YMCA membership for 2014. After returning from backpacking 2,500 miles in 2013,  I experienced a turnaround of sorts.

I exercise outside now- either walking, snowshoeing, riding my bikes ( which I have been able to do all winter), or tending to “farm chores”, like harvesting and transporting wood. I also save $450 a year in gym fees. Driving twenty miles round trip to the gym to work out for 45 minutes makes no sense, when I can just walk out the door and get moving. Granted, there are days where it is just too cold or snowy to safely do something out there, so I keep a couple dumb bells and a stability ball around to take up the slack.

How’s it working for me? So far, really good.  I lost 27 pounds on the hike, and usually gained back weight within a few months of home food and reduced activity.  However, this time I’m still down 15 pounds.

I’ll post details about my home exercise program sometime. Bottom line is that I feel good and have adequate energy on my hikes and biking loops.

One of the regular exercises that I have added to my program is jumping up and down from stairs, or an elevated railroad tie that’s outside.

I decided to start jumping after reading a superb book, Daniel E. Lieberman’s The Story of the Human Body 41mMojkNh5L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Liberman is a evolutionary anthropologist at Harvard. He writes about “mismatch diseases” that are a product of the incompatibility of our evolutionary drives with modern society: heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, back problems, and osteoporosis.  Rates of osteoporosis are on the rise, a fact Lieberman attributes to declines in the physical activity necessary to build and maintain bone mass.

The guy is a genius, this is his territory, he’s mined it fully. Lieberman points out that while the roots of our tango with osteoporosis are already established, there are still things one can do to keep deterioration at bay.  For example, I had no idea that teenage inactivity results in smaller skeletal mass, which increases one’s risk of osteporosis later on.  Calcium supplementation may be one of the established procedures to fend off osteoporosis, however, it’s not often effective.

Any old exercise program won’t do.  Check out this alarming article: Are Cyclists Pedaling Towards Osteoporosis?  “People do not achieve peak bone mass until their late twenties, so if cyclists or swimmers are in their early or mid twenties, and they’re not doing any exercise that’s going to load their spine and help them achieve peak bone mass, they may be putting themselves at risk for a fracture.”

Might as well jump…..

Afternoon riding = not a great idea

The light was thick and golden, temps were up near freezing, and it was Friday afternoon- perfect time to hop on the Pugsley and ride 6 miles via Hobbes Pond and check on the camp. I left at 3 pm. I didn’t make it.
Right from the start it began. I was descending the hill through a huge field in back of my neighbor’s house on what I thought were hard- packed snowmobile tracks when the bike started this weird fishtailing. I was sinking in. The heat from the winter sun is apparently not so feeble anymore. Thankfully the frozen surface returned when I resumed riding in the forest, where the sun had not penetrated. Someone had been out before me lately on a fat bike. I saw the tracks. Things went really well until I came out into the open fields around the back side of Moody Pond where the afternoon sun had melted the surface enough for the 4″ wheels to sink down so far that I couldn’t pedal forward.
I detoured around the pond via Martin Corner Road, which turned out to be a bad move. No snowmobiles had been over the discontinued town road in weeks, it appeared. The only tracks were from one lonely cross country skier.

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I tried riding on them but they were too narrow. I had to hike-a-bike. It sucked. Both the bike and I were sinking- me, enough to have snow coming into the tops of my boots. I was overheating, and under the delusion that I would be hit a shaded section where I could get back on my bike and ride. Nope.
It was a relief when I reached the pavement on Moody Mountain Road. I headed uphill, when I decided that it was not the best day to try and ride those 6 miles over land and pond to get there (and come back). So I banged a right on the snowmobile trail that took a steep descent onto Moody Pond. The thick ice on the pond was just what I needed to get that riding feeling back under me again. Here’s the ride:
I think it is going to be better to ride in the morning from now on, and hope that it continues to freeze at night. There will be many months to ride on bare ground coming up. Right now, I am enjoying exploring the back spaces of my town.

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Picture Perfect Ride to Pitcher Pond

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The days are sunny and cold, the nights in single numbers to below zero and I’m not complaining. Cracked car engines and splitting thumbs are part of this time of late winter in Maine.

Aided by the persistent polar cold, the snowmobile trails here in Lincolnville are primo for riding bikes right now. I saddled up the Pugsley early yesterday afternoon and had a fast, 11 mile ride from Steven’s Corner at the edge of Camden Hills State Park. I took the snowmobile trail out to Pitcher Pond. It’s a direct route with one turn at a T- a right that takes you over through Tanglewood 4 -H camp. I ran past the parking lot there, and took a left over the suspension bridge spanning the Ducktrap River where I eventually reached the Pond. This ride is perfect this week. A few bare spots of brown undergrowth were spotted on the trail. It’s coming -Spring !

I do enjoy the unique thrill of riding on a large body of frozen water. Ponds are of the canoe world- not biking routes.

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More riding, maybe today?  The Lincolnville Mountain Goats snowmobile riders have a town map with the snowmobile trails on it.  Where next, before the freezing cold leaves us for a while?

White Bike / Cold Darkness

Last night seven fat bike riders covered 11.3 miles at a quick pace over the super compacted snowmobile tread in Lincolnville. It was a loop trip, guided by Jason and Ian, with the Stevens Corner parking lot at Youngtown road as the base.  The ride went clockwise, up the big climb to Bald Rock, then over to Cameron Mtn, and down to the center.  From there out to Coleman Pond and then back through a  frozen swamp.

The ride

The ride

It was 11 degrees when I reached the house at 8 PM.  My hands and feet hurt from the cold.  I have to remember to use chemical heat packets for my hands and feet the next time I ride in this cold, which should happen Friday.

Some of the features of this ride were:

First, how surprisingly rideable the surface was.  It hasn’t been this good this winter.  It should stay good, with the eastern US now locked into a cold pattern , where frigid temps are expected until mid-March.  Warm is good for the soul, but bad for us winter bikers.

Second, it was a gas to have this much fun riding so close to my home.  My new trend is to stay close to home and have local adventures .  The feeling of careening down over a smooth track from Cameron mountain and gliding over a rock garden that makes up the trail in the summertime was unique.

Third:  The bizarre experience of riding along over the top of Coleman Pond was both unsettling, and exciting.  Our little lights put a weak glow into the darkness, and added to the mystery.

And oh, what a deep sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventure in My Back Yard

Our camp is a ten mile drive from the house. Finding a little authentic Maine camp so close to home was fortunate.

20140202-071017.jpgWe snagged it a decade ago- found it in Uncle Henry’s swap and sell.

I have ridden my mountain bike over land to get there before. I go up over Hatchet Mountain and back down to Hobbes Pond over some abandoned roads to do that in warm weather. One adventure that I have finally completed today was riding my bicycle to camp over snow mobile trails in winter. Here’s the route- a 15 mile round trip. Checkered circle is the start and finish, the unmarked body of water is Moody Pond.

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I took the car over to camp in the morning. It was 22 degrees inside. I started the wood stove and went home, with a plan to ride the Pugsley to camp to eat lunch, relax a bit , and head back home. It took me 50 minutes from the house to bike to the camp, some 6.2 miles away. I took a mix of road and trails to get there. 9 pounds of pressure in my 4″ studded 45N tires was just right until I reached Hobbes Pond where I started to slide on the shiny, slick ice.

20140202-075251.jpgDeflating the tires to about 3 PSI let me ride directly down the middle of Hobbes Pond and come right up to the front door of the camp. It was scary, fun, and exciting to roll over the hard ice at a good clip. I liberated an HTC cell phone ( US Cellular) that was partially frozen into the ice in the middle of the pond. Call me if it’s yours. I am drying it out – hope to locate the owner.

The camp had was now at 62 degrees, comfortable for sure. I hung out, read the new issue of Rolling Stone and cooked up a big bowl of pho. Then a slightly longer trip back, exploring new trail, and detouring around Moody Pond via the Martin Corner road- unplowed, and untracked except for some cross country ski grooves.

i was dismayed to see a string of barbed wire blocking entrance to an open field near the 90 degree turn on Martin Corner Rd.- nasty, rusted barbs at neck height.

20140202-075416.jpg A reminder not to do too much poking around here in dim sunset without headlamps.

When I reached the house, Marcia had fired up the sauna for me. That 185 degree heat was exactly right.

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Riding a couple of miles on the top of a large body of water is not something that is on many people’s bucket list, but it was on mine.

Riding my bike across a frozen pond

We are breaking out into midwinter riding conditions here in coastal Maine. The temps have been consistently in single numbers for a few weeks now, and with diminishing snow cover, the ground can freeze more deeply. Ponds, lakes, and even rivers are also now solid, with at least two feet of ice covering most areas.

I took my first ride over Moody Pond.

20140201-090249.jpg It is thrilling to me to be on top of a body of water that I pass almost daily. Moody is 1.3 miles down High Street from my house. It is both scary and exciting to launch off of land onto a frozen body of water.

20140201-093126.jpg Primitive survival defenses well up as you stand on a substance that you normally sink through. Yet it was safe.

Riding over Moody Pond is just one of three bodies of water that I plan to cross this week. Today I hope to ride over Hobbes Pond, about 5 miles from here. I have a camp there that I hope to check on today. While I have ridden there from the house in the summer, I have never taken the direct route over Moody Pond and then the 1 mile long ride down the center of Hobbes Pond. I’ m both frightened and challenged to do it.

I’ll be taking a two mile long walk over Attean Pond in Jackman this upcoming week, then three more days of walking on the frozen Moose River, where I hope to reach the spectacle of frozen cascades on Holeb Falls. I know it’s sort of nuts, but it’s what I do.