Here’s what it’s like to ride a bicycle in the woods in December in Maine right now. There is no snow at all- the ground is not even frozen, after a few days of 40-50 degree temps. Here’s the map of the ride:
First, I’m out of the driveway on pavement, heading south 1.3 miles toward Moody Pond- a pristine, trout stocked gem, that has NO cottages of houses on the shores. I look left over the pond and see the Camden Hills in the distance, some 5 miles away.
Then a right turn and a steep climb up Moody Mountain Road, which you can see on the elevation profile, from Strava. When I first moved here, this road was gravel, when my neighbor Andy Hazen was recruited to haul several cars out of the ditches that had skidded off when it iced over. There was also deep March mud in the low section right after the climb. I’m definitely in low gear now.
After a brief downhill at the 2 mile mark where I catch my breath, I’m turning onto French Road South, a gravel road that accesses my friend Steve’s property, some 100+ acres of woods. Steve has allowed me to ride around back there, something I have not been able to do for over a month now, due to deer hunters who make it dangerous to be out in the woods. People get shot by mistake and die every Maine hunting season, and this year has been no exception.
There’s a locked gate off the French Road that I slip under and then ascend again on a logging road to continue the 3/4 mile climb to the high point of the ride, reaching 800 feet in elevation. There’s the Moody Mt. Ridge to the right, but the overgrown woods are too thick to get up there. Here, I begin a 2.5 mile descent, after I cut left into a hidden entrance to a narrow bike path that I’ve maintained that links up to a marked snowmobile trail that meanders through Steve’s land until it rejoins the abandoned section of the French Road. I love this part of the ride.
Keeping up my speed, I ride through an abandoned logging yard on the FR into the forest again, churning my way through two mud pits and braking over two steep sections of ledge until I reach the biggest challenge of the ride, a rocky stream that is perpetually running, one that has been impossible for me to ride through, until I cleared it on the Pugsley. Those low pressure 4” tires deform over the obstructing rocks, with the knobby lugs on the Nates gripping enough for me to crank through.
From here, I’m running on a lumpy old woods road where (unfortunately) my access for some really good riding has been cut off for about 10 years now, due to a new landowner. So, I’ve maintained another hidden linkage of trail that brings me out on the French Road North, a well-traveled gravel road that leads past some real back country houses that puts me on the Muzzy Ridge Road, the low point just past 5 miles on the elevation profile.
From here it is a straight shot up and over an unnamed expansive hill that is actually a cultivated wild blueberry operation. The last time I was up here I had to turn around when I encountered two massive flame-throwing tractors were roaring across the huge fields and burning vegetation, an ancient practice in this area of the country dating to native pre-white settlement.
But today, I was hoping to reach home before the grey skies opened up and rained on me.
I kept going straight, and threaded my way over the entrance to a nasty washed-out abandoned gravel road where I re-entered the woods, and hit a sadly neglected woods road where I had to launch over two fallen trees and then went up and over a stone wall, pedaling along the edge of an old hay field and I reached the pavement of High Street where I wished I had worn a pair of clear riding glasses. My front tire was throwing mud at my face. It’s not that easy to see the road with a gloved hand in front of your eyes. Thankfully, I was able to wash off the mud on the bike with my garden hose.
I’ll do better next time. Memo: Bring the glasses!