The first 2017 group ride with The Bubba to the top of Mount Pleasant in the Warren/West Rockport area had it all- mud, ice, stream riding, and even more snow than expected. The approach from Route 90 departed from the old parking lot at East Coast Rover’s now defunct location, newly recycled as another car/truck repair facility. Thanks to Bubba management for gaining permission for us to park there after work hours.
I was very pleased with my ride today- the most successful technical excursion up and down Pleasant ever for me.
Very pleasant on top today.
Not only did I clear the challenge of ascending Baby Head Hill, I was finally able to loft the front end of my Surly Ice Cream Truck up a pesky little ledge on the section from the Three Way op to the power line after the screaming descent off the summit.
Here is a video of the crew maintaining a controlled skid on the steep, rock-strewn line off the summit itself.
Today, it might have even helped to have stable ice and refrozen snow smoothing out the trail a bit. The Bubbas take climbing in stride- in fact if you can’t tolerate climbing forest trails in this part of Maine, you’ll stay home. S
Most of the Bubbas carry folding saws in our packs. We clear trails as we go, especially this time of year.
Later, we transitioned to riding up the stream that put us on the backside of the mountain just below the blueberry field that set us up for the finish of the ride.
This last wet climb set up a relatively long decent that was a fitting ending to a spring day blissfully absent of the impending blackflies, mosquitoes, and heat.
A most Pleasant morning was spent at my personal Sunday Church of Two Wheels.
Prequel: “Bear and Sparkles say come on up! The fat biking is great :-)”
I missed this sign for the Mt. Chase Lodge when I passed through here a few minutes ago.
I’m headed 14 miles further down a roller coaster of a frost-heaved road to explore the northern end of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument for a couple days. Bear and Sparkles are the trail names for two of my hiker pals.
I walked with both of them for the last cold wet days as the thee of us completed our thru-hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010. The couple are the two full time winter staff at Mt. Chase Lodge. Bear and I are also Maine-based Triple Crown Hikers, who also shared the Appalachian and Continental Divide Trails in 2007 and 2013.
Sparkles is a Registered Maine Guide.
My Honda Element is the only vehicle that is not a 4WD pickup truck in the parking lot outside the tiny convenience store here beside Shin Pond . I plunked down two packs of chemical hand warmers and a bottle of Gatorade on the counter.
“Ya think yer gonna get yer hands frozen, dear?” asked the perky woman behind the counter. She reminded me of my mom, who turns 91 this summer.
“I’m buying these so my hands don’t get cold. Didn’t it drop to zero here last night?” I replied.
Welcome to Shin Pond, a tiny rural settlement in bona fide rural Maine that has registered several of the coldest winter readings on record. Three locals were gathered around a table behind me.
I asked the clerk for directions to the Lodge, when one of the fellows chimed right in, ” Go up across the bridge, head up the hill and take your second right”.
I made it up here after I received a spur of the moment invitation from my hiker pal Guthook to visit him on his own 5 day adventure in the winter Maine woods.
Despite my last minute decision to drive north, I had my reservation completed and parking pass in hand within 30 minutes of logging onto the KWWNM website, and never left the house to do so. The whole exchange was assisted by an actual person, who was e-mailing me back and forth. I made a reservation for Big Spring Brook Hut, which is a recently built log cabin, that is unstaffed and set up with propane fuel for cooking and lights, pots and pans, coffee percolator, water jug, airtight wood stove, and stove wood.
Although the Monument promotes travel only via skis, snowshoes, bicycles, and on foot the major winter trails are groomed at least weekly by snowmobiles.
The cost to enter the Monument and stay in the tent sites, shelters, and huts right now is zero, but that will change after the Monument goes through it’s period of public input as it crafts the rules and procedures that will ensure that this most unique gift is used to it’s potential.
On August 24, 2016, President Obama signed an executive order designating 87,000 acres to the east of Baxter States Park as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The previous day Roxanne Quimby, of Bert’s Bees fame, transferred that land to the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Monument came complete with a $20,000,000 cash gift as well as a pledge to raise an additional $20,000,000 in matching public funds. Despite the lingering opposition to the Monument’s very existence, I believe that there is more than enough open space in this vastness of forest to provide for the needs of those of us who seek opportunities to backpack and immerse our spirits in the healing forces of trees and leaves. There are more than three and a half million acres of timber growing in The North Maine Woods. The Monument’s footprint is exactly 0.024% of that vastness. Fact check this yourself by standing on Katahdin’s summit to view a undulating sea of green that stretches out to the horizon along every single one of those 360 degrees of sight line. Haven’t we all just worked this out?
The Monument is staffed by Recreation Managers who work out of Lunksoos Camps, a most historic establishment in it’s own right. When the 12 year old Donn Fendler stumbled out of the Maine wilderness in 1939, he came out on near Lunksoos. His shriveled and pin cushioned body was administered to and the nation’s newspapers and radio stations came to Maine to report the events recalled in Donn’s classic book Lost In The Maine Woods.
Tomorrow I head into the Monument, but tonight I’m staying here at Mt. Chase Lodge, on upper Shin Pond, all by my lonesome. I love looking at the historic photos of the trophy deer and bear that were harvested in this area.
From their brochure:
“Mt Chase Lodge was established in 1960 as a recreational sporting lodge catering to sportsmen, hikers, family vacationers, snowmobilers and other outdoor oriented folks who appreciate the adventure and tranquility of the north Maine woods. Situated on the shore of Upper Shin Pond, in a quiet wooded setting, our comfortable lodge and private cabins offer excellent accommodations. Full bathrooms, automatic heat and electricity, and cooking equipment for those who prefer, are offered year round.”
The Lodge itself rents 8 rooms, and four cabins. My three course dinner was top notch and prepared by Bear himself. Breakfast came with the price of the room, which was a most reasonable $79 plus tax.
I plan to wait a while for it to get warmer before I bicycle into the Monument tomorrow morning. It is supposed to drop to around zero degrees tonight. Time to turn out the light!
This long overdue blog post was inspired by the Parade Magazine supplement from my Sunday paper. It’s a weak piece of literature, but occasionally I pull a recipe. Here is an article that even sparked a response from my wife , Marcia, who warned me, ” You better not read this or I am going to end up with you trying to reach 100 years old.”
The article features a typical day in the life of Michael Roizen, M.D., who has dedicated 20 years to the study of longevity—specifically, the idea that certain daily choices can make your body and mind years younger than your calendar age. Roizen has an upcoming book, “AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip“, so this article is probably just one limb of a deep-pocketed marketing campaign, with Dr. Mike showing up on National Public Radio, in an interview with Terry Gross. I’ve seen the same thing with the mega-sucessful Wild, a movie that came after the book went Top 10. Yes, I will probably read his book, even if I just squeeze out a few extra weeks of existence and never even make it to be 100 years old. Right now, I am not so sure that things are going to get better in the next 30 years. Just to be clear, this book is not even out yet.
Since I have a huge interest in continuing my daily hikes, backpacking ventures, and riding through the woods on my bikes, I check out practices and products that assist me moving. I decided to X-Ray the article and see how I measured up against Dr. Mike.
Here’s a snapshot of Mike’s typical work day. The italicized portions are quoted from Parade. My own comments follow in standard print:
Morning smooches– 5:00 a.m. “The first thing I do is kiss my wife, Nancy.” Choosing your partner wisely and with passion is one of Roizen’s keys to longevity. Nope! I am an early riser, usually at or just before daybreak. I need to be careful to get up and out of bed without waking up Marcia. Definitely not part of my daily practice, so far. Maybe I should leave a nice note by her bed stand instead? On the positive side, we continue to enjoy each other’s company over the past 43 years.
Meditation– 5:05 a.m. A five-minute meditation in the shower sets his intentions for the day and helps manage stress. Big yes. I was taught Transcendental Meditation when I attended UMass back in 1970. I even went to Canada and then Spain for several months to study with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the early 1070’s, when I became a TM teacher. I continue to practice the technique for 30 minutes, every morning, accumulating 46 years of experiences, or non-experience if you prefer.
Heart Healthy Breakfast: 5:45 a.m. He eats heart-healthy oatmeal with walnuts. Six days a week I have one cup of organic wild blueberries, 1 cup of whole mile yogurt, and 1/4 cup of granola, which is 75% nuts and seeds. In August, I fill half a freezer with 130 pounds of fresh Maine wild berries that are grown across town. On Sundays I treat myself to eggs and a bagel.
His cup runneth over: 8-9 cups coffee, 32 oz. water. Roizen drinks a lot of coffee. (It counts toward his daily fluid intake, he says.) He doesn’t use cream or sugar and also drinks plenty of H2O. This would be way too much coffee for me. I generally have 2 to 3 cups of high quality coffee in the morning. Four months ago, I purchased a package from Fitness Genes, including a DNA test kit, that analyzed my genetic information related to health and metabolism. One of those 42 genes reflects caffeine metabolism. I carry two copies of the “fast metabolizer” A allele. Caffeine works fast for me and is metabolized quickly, suggesting that I can use it to my advantage by downing a cup immediately before I ride or hike. I have no problems with sleeping if I do have a shot of espresso after dinner. Bing! This finding alone was worth the cost of the testing!
Lunchtime veggie madness: In the employee cafeteria, Roizen assembles a low-calorie, nutrient-rich salad with an assortment of veggies such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and peas, dressed with balsamic vinegar. Or he’ll have a hot plate with steamed broccoli, sautéed green beans and another veggie. During farmers’ market season on the Cleveland Clinic campus, Roizen stocks up on healthy snacks for his staff. My lunch is usually a large bowl of fake pho or phauxpho, as I term it. I came up with this meal this past summer, when I was harvesting various vegetables from my garden. It is composed of rich broth, steamed or sauteed veggies, a protein source, and a few rice noodles. Here’s my blog post laying out my phauxpho recipe, which looked like this one day.
Walk and talk: 2:00 p.m. Roizen breaks up sitting time by walking up a flight of stairs or two with patients, while monitoring their pulse, or having one-on-one “walking meetings” with colleagues. The closest I come to this is walking and talking with my friend Frank. We try to walk in the Camden Hills State park on Friday afternoons.
Afternoon meditation: Another 30 minute TM session every afternoon for me, generally in the late afternoon.
Connecting with friends: 5:30 p.m. His evening commute is good for the soul: He likes to catch up with friends on the phone. And several times a week he uses FaceTime to video chat at home with his grown children, Jennifer and Jeffrey, and granddaughter, Julien. I have this one down. For over 25 years. I meet every single Monday night at 5:30 PM with 6 other guys who part of my Men’s Group, or as I term it now my Personal Board of Advisers. We take turns cooking a completed dinner for each other on a rotating location, generally each person’s home. Thus has gone on for over 25 years. Serious discussions are rare these days, even once a week. I am also a member of The Bubbas, a group of local guys and a limited number of gals ( generally 1 or 2) who ride mountain bikes over challenging conditions in the woods at three different locations in Midcoast Maine on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and on Sunday mornings. We do catch up on things, but mostly make fun of each other in some unsavory manner. I love The Bubbaas.
Plenty of fun: 8:00 p.m. You can find the sports-loving Roizens cheering on the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indians. “If we don’t have tickets or they’re away, I’m usually watching the game on TV just before bed,” he says. “That’s my calm-down ritual.” The only sports team that still matters to me is the New England Patriots, who have posted a winning season for some time now, and brought to the Patriots Nation yet another Super Bowl triumph this week! Unfortunately I have to keep my allegiance silent outside of New England, due to the many millions of Patriots haters out there.
Sleep smart: 10:30 p.m. “If I have a weakness, it’s that I don’t honor sleep as much as I should,” he admits. “I used to feel great on six hours—now seven is much better for me.” Most people need more as they age, he says, and everyone should get at least 6.5 hours for the best longevity benefits. I picked up the new Fitbit Charge 2 after Christmas through my Maine Guide discount at LLBean. One function is the automatic tracking of how long and how well I sleep. I am asleep at least an hour before Mr. Roizen. I have no use for the Silent Alarm, and tend to wake up at daybreak, if not before.
Additional facts: 90 The number of minutes Roizen aims to spend on his treadmill desk by walking during conference calls and radio interviews. I average 75-90 minutes a day of brisk walking or biking.
10,000 The number of steps Roizen tries to log daily on his fitness tracker. If he hasn’t hit his goal, he walks on the treadmill while he watches TV. “That’s about the only time I catch The Daily Show live,” he says. My 2017 goal is 12,000 steps a day, supporting the 75-90 minute figures above. 2017 is also my goal for this year. I plan to walk or bike that many miles this year. Using the Strava program/ app allows me to track each and every ride, walk, hike that I experience. Monitoring my progress toward my yearly goal is made much easier with the metrics and the graphics of the Premium ( paid) version of the app.
25 The calories in a small piece of dark chocolate, a favorite Roizen pick-me-up (along with a handful of walnuts) if dinner will be late. I consume 0.5 oz. of 70% or more dark chocolate a day. It’s three times what Dr. Mike takes. It’s for my health!
So, there you go, one researched path to centarianism. One hundred years of life may not be everyone’s target, but can’t we all use professional guidance in holding our bodies and spirits together as we move along life’s trails and trials.
I invite any further “hacks” that you might share with us all. Please consider commenting, and subscribing to this blog !
Microadventures give me major satisfaction. These compressed experiences ignite interest in the wild spaces that surround our lives.
Each morning, we wake, wash, dress, eat, and then work or play in mostly predictable patterns. I spend my time mostly living reruns. On good days like today, the jailbreak in my heart launches me over that high perimeter wall.
I’m outside 80 minutes a day, riding my mountain bikes, or hiking almost every day, no matter the weather. My trusty Strava app tells me that I’ve only missed 8 days in 2016. I’m a big fan of walking or riding right out the door, rather than driving somewhere to engage with the outdoors.
There still is plenty on challenging terrain, around High Street. Here’s the field that was for sale in the mid-1970’s.
Back then, I almost bought it, but ended up with an even better neighboring piece that also was a big, south facing field with a stand of red oak that I harvested to craft this timber frame house .
One of the big pluses of living here is the very large tracts of connected land (one of over 1,000 acres) that are undisturbed and unpopulated. If I walk a mile toward the neighboring town of Hope, the electric and phone cables end and so do the houses. You enter a wild zone as you trek along a leaf-canopied rural road with no overhead wires to be seen.
I’ve walked past this signpost tree hundreds of times.
Today, I finally remembered that I had received permission to walk the fields and woods that surround the isolated Moody Pond.
I stood there stunned for a minute or so before I turned off the road and went in.
What took me so long? I have walked here for almost 40 years but have never left the road right here before. Loons live here in the summer, when I hear their demented, haunting cries as they wing their way between Moody and Levensellar ponds.
I was immensely satisfied entering this new world.
What else do we miss as we wander around in a state of forget ?
It had been a struggle for me to meet my 2016 fitness goals here in the winter in Maine this month. I have been reaching deep to log in an hour a day of hard walking or bicycling- outdoors, of course. Here’s the January 19 report.
When I finally made it back home last night, it was close to 8 pm, with an outside temperature of 11 degrees, and steady strong wind blowing around 20 miles an hour. I even had to bust through a snow drift on the Barnestown Road near the Pearse farm in Hope on the way home from The Bog, where I earned myself a meager 4 miles toward my quest to ride my bicycles 1,000 miles in Maine in 2016.
I really wanted to stay home tonight and avoid the discomfort of the cold and the exertion that my body would need in order to move through this loose, dry snow pack on my new Surly Ice Cream truck. But….the social nature of belonging to The Bubbas, a local, like-minded tribe of mountain bike nuts was one of the deciding factors that put me out there tonight.
Was it easy to get out to ride tonight ?
However, there is definitely a strength in numbers. I rode tonight with six other guys. We shifted around our positions in line as we moved though the loose, often sketchy snow pack. If I got too fagged out, I pulled over and let someone else move ahead and pack down the tread a bit more.
I also gained some inspiration from a book that I have been enjoying this week: A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. The book came my way from a book review by Tim Smith, Master Maine Guide and chief of Jack Mountain Bushcraft School here in Maine.
I had just reading the chapter entitled The Dichotomy of Control, where my takeaway lesson was encapsulated in the following sentence, “ A better strategy for getting what you want, he says, is to make it your goal to want only those things that are easy to obtain- and ideally to want only those things that you can be certain of obtaining.”
Another thing that helped was for me to visualize the successes that I have already achieved when I moved ahead at this familiar junction of Do I Really Want To Do This Right Now?
I reminded myself that I would probably not be miserably cold even though it was frigid out. This particular ride starts with a couple hundred foot climb almost to the 1 mile mark on Mountain Road. That is usually enough to get warmed up inside of my winter riding outfit, which is not as heavy or bulky as you might think. I also reminded myself that I have been out doing this many times already. I have rode in the dark on the snow and ice in the winter guided by a headlamp and a handlebar mounted light for a few decades.
I was even packing a third source of emergency lighting tonight- a brand new Black Diamond Spot headlamp of 130 lumens. I didn’t need it, but if I had, it would have allowed me to see my way through the ride.
Tonight, I was not able to make the usual Bog ride mileage, but I wasn’t the only one. It’s much more difficult to ride out there this week. If the days had been warmer and the night below freezing it might have been a superhighway of snow. But it wasn’t.
I think the Stoics might have something to say about that.
Ten riders set out the morning of January 1 to kick off the first day of The Bubbas’ 2016 mountain bike riding season.
Weather conditions from the top of the ground up were perfect for January: temps around freezing, sunny patches on the ground, blue skies, no wind. If you didn’t wear too much today, you would be warm and dry, without feeling too much like the rolly-polly Michelin man.
However, from the top of the snow down to muddy earth below, the conditions were not as good.
People hear about “snow bikes” running on 4-inch and even 5-inch wide low PSI pressure tires and assume that anytime there is snow on the ground you can get out there and have a magic floating experience. Not really.
Take this morning for instance. As we started the ride the air temperature rose above freezing. What was solid and grippy underneath before the sun did its thing started getting soft and mushy- the snow started loosening up. Translation–>I’m puting out twice as much physical effort to move through 4″ of snow that is loose than if it were packed and refrozen.
Here’s a video of one of our most excellent Bubba riders, Ian, making the Bog entrance segment look easy when it really wasn’t. Notice the sideways front end throw and the correction at 0:04. Upper body engagement is the hallmark difference between summer and winter riding in these parts.
Nowhere is the riding experience between a stationary bike (think Spinning) and riding outdoors on an actual trail so pronounced as it is under these conditions. The upper body and lower back are engaging repeatedly, in order for forward movement to occur.
Here’s some info about my personal experience today on my Strava. The distance/moving time/elevation/suffer score tells it all. Wearing a heart rate chest strap today, I was pleased to see that my average heart rate was close to 100 beats higher per minute for the whole ride than is my normal resting pulse rate. The 400 calorie measure was definitely an underestimate. :
I’ve ridden this loop over 100 times, and it still brings me great pleasure to move through these woods.
By the look on Blaine’s face, he’s enjoying it as well.
The day was fun. It was tougher than usual out there, but as someone says on every one of these rides, “It sure beats the couch.”
Here is Nate the Great heading out.
I’m definitely coming back here on Sunday, where we’ll see the benefit of 10 riders who took the time to pack a fast, solid track today.
Any December that I can ride my bicycle over the trail and ledges that head up to Mount Pleasant is fine with me. When that ride includes two old friends like Craig and Rigger and we are riding on four-inch wide tires churning mud and gripping rocks both up and down it is even better. Today’s ride up to Mt. Pleasant was punctuated by encountering three four-wheeled drive vehicles right at the summit: a jacked up off-road pickup truck and a couple of guys riding all-terrain vehicles. Here’s a photo of Rigger, powered by his less than one horsepower legs going around the truck as he worked his way up to the Peasant summit.
There was a lot of mud that got churned up by our four wheeled friends today. I got stuck in this rut heading up to the always challenging ” shit chute” .
The temperature dropped to below freezing last night, so this morning there was still ice to be avoided on the higher segments of trail, and everywhere the path was still in shade. If bright sun hit the earth, we were good to go.
I am so ready to put November behind me. Right at the start of the month on my first night ride of the Fall season, I went down hard and bashed my left knee on one sharp rock while crossing a stream bed in the Rockland Bog. I suffered a deep gash, reaching down to the top of my shin bone. I waited too long to visit the emergency room. It would have been stitched if I went in before I went to bed that Tuesday night. I was forced to take the next five weeks off the bike.
Six weeks later, a thick, unsightly scab is still lingering, and the bruised bone still hurts. I learned an important lesson six weeks ago- wear my G-Form knee pads every time I am on these rugged midcoast Maine mountain biking trails. Protective gear doesn’t help when it is left in the van.
Here are some more photos and one video of what I call the Sunday morning Church of Two Wheels.
Nelly schooling Rigger overlooking Penobscot Bay from summit of Pleasant.
Here’s a 40 second clip of Nelly and Rigger clearing Nelly Falls while heading back up to Backside Blueberry Field on the north side of Pleasant.
Here is the map and the profile of one great ride anytime you can get it, but particularly so in December.
I began tracking my biking, hiking, and walking efforts with the Strava app on Christmas day back in 2011. According to their website, “Strava lets you track your rides and runs via your iPhone, Android or dedicated GPS device and helps you analyze and quantify your performance. Strava provides motivation and camaraderie”.
I had been using the free version of the program until Dec. 31 of this year when I decided to pony up the $59 a year Premium fee and avail myself of the additional features at that level. Three Premium features that I have used so far include GPX file downloads and transfers. I have not yet downloaded any other hiker or rider routes to my Garmin eTrex 30 GPS, but plan to do so in the next few months.
I also sometimes strap on my Garmin chest monitor and record my heart rate, which converts to a Suffer Score, which quantifies my suffering and allows me to visualize exactly how hard I have worked on a particular hike or ride. My most intense workouts yield a a special class of Points in the Red. My Polish suffering gene interfaces well with the Suffer Score.
But the one feature that convinced me to pay for the use of the program is the ability for me to set goals and monitor them. On Jan. 1 of this year, I took the advice of my son Lincoln, where I set a goal of 1 hour a day of either biking, walking, or backpacking for the whole year. Strava allows you to set goals for distance or time.
I religiously track my progress week over week. Simply put, I need 7 hours a week to stay on track. I often take a day off between particularly hard workouts to recover, and things come up so it’s good to have some way of sticking with the program, even it it is an hour a day. I often put in a longer ride or hike a few hours at the end of any week where I was slacking in the beginning.
Here’s one of the visual presentations that has encapsulated my progress from Jan. 1, 2015 up to today:
As a psychologist, I am awed by the power of the reinforcement of this cart- to me. To others, it may mean nothing. This is the real data deal.
What is also satisfying about the program is the ability of Strava to aggregate data and present it in a manner that compares not only hourly progress, but progress within repeated walks, hikes, or rides.
There are stories about individuals that become obsessed about moving up the rankings for speed on segments of popular rides. For instance, there is a Strava segment of the climb up Moody Mountain Road, which is just 1.2 miles from my doorway. There are 87 people that have recorded their effort climbing this 1.8 mile section of 4% grade of 383 feet of elevation gain. All are ranked in order, and there is one King of the Mountain on the top of the list. I am not motivated by moving up the list, but I am motivated by knowing that I am improving on my own performance.
For 2015, I am shocked and pleased to see that I have broken 67 personal records, when I compare my times since Dec. 2011. Most of the time, I feel that I do pretty well out there, but there are days like yesterday when I nearly bonked on a ride that we call The Bog From The Pit. Here’s that data:
But I didn’t totally crash and burn out there yesterday. If I had lost my mojo and landed on the ground in a weeping heap, then either Rigger or Kevin would have picked me up and helped me out. I really enjoy riding with these Bubbas in the Woods, a group of Midcoast Maine faithful who have included me in their thrice weekly mountain bikes rides for close to 30 years now.
The big picture is what Strava offers me, and I like it.
Between Strava and The Bubbas, I am still moving along.
We depend on freeze thaw cycles in order to ride our bicycles over the snow on the trails here in midcoast Maine. That hasn’t occurred lately. It didn’t happen this weekend either.
Nevertheless, I’m pleased to have put in two rides, back to back, in less than optimal conditions. I’m pumped to start 2015 by getting outside again.
On Saturday I joined 4 other Bubbas in the Woods members for my first ride in 2015 from the Warren Community School parking lot. It was as brutal a cold that I’ve ever rode in. Even at the usual 9:30 am start time, Nate said it was only 1 above zero when he left his house in Union. It might have crept up to single numbers after our two hour ride, but not by much.
How does one deal with moving through cold like that? I am used to the cold, but my fingers and toes aren’t. With a resting pulse of a turtle, and 6’2” of height, by the time my core heats my blood up and pushes it to my extremities, I don’t retain heat way out at my physical fringes. I had to take off a shirt layer after the first big uphill in Warren, but needed extra help to keep the digits happy.
I needed three sources of protection for my hands today: winter gloves, inside pogies ( oversized handlebar-end covers), with reusable chemical heat packs wedged between my gloves and the pogies.
My feet survived the cold with the help of toe-sized chemical heat packs stuck to the top side of my thin woolen socks, inside some ancient LLBean rubber bottom/leather top hunting boots, with pair of thermal mesh air soles between the bottom of my sock and the boot. I moved to flat pedals last season, after suffering through too many winters with clip on pedals and winter biking shoes. If oversized boots and flat pedals get picked to ride the Alaskan winter trails, I’m down with that.
How was the riding ? It’s hard to be objective. Last winter, this same Warren route was so good. We had an ice highway running through these woods. There was plenty of snow, with numerous snowmobiles packing the track, and a cycle with warmer days , then drops below freezing each night. This snow out here is not solid on top. While most of the trail today was decent, there were sections where the snowmobile track was pitched to the side, with the bikes siding sideways as we churned forward. You also absolutely had to ride within the narrow snowmobile track. When I found my front wheel outside that, onto the ski track of the snowmobile, I went sinky, and often stoppy. It’s more work riding on the snow. It felt like fifteen miles of riding in Warren, but was only eleven.
For very next day, Sunday, the weather pundits prophesied a whole different story: morning rain and temperatures rising to the upper 40’s. The wonder of the imternet and subsequent weather Apps opens a whole new world to us who watch the weather to plan out outdoor adventures. We learned that it would stay freezing until day break, when the temps would rise and the rain begin around noon.
Jason Buck led Blaine and me on a most enjoyable ride around the winter-only riding trails that encircled the little town with the big name: Hope. But to get in on this ride, you had to be ready to leave from Hope Center at 8 am, a time change that left most of the faithful still sleeping.
There was no way I was going to miss this ride. I am currently obsessed with the ideas put forward in Microadventures, an e-book by Alistair Frasier. it will be released as a traditional book in march 2015 in the US. In it, Frasier lays out practical suggestions on having hiking, biking, and even river swimming adventures in one’s own local community.
We had our own genuine microadventures this morning: riding through ancient farmland, exploring frozen bogs and swamps, and even pedaling over the surface of Megunticook Lake, where a view like this opened up glimpses of distant mountain that are not available any other time of year.
For the first hour and a half the Sunday ride was solid, on snowmobile trails that had been well traveled. We zipped along at a good clip, over, up, and down moguls that sometimes pitching us side to side until we eventually descended to the North shore of Megunticook Lake.
I have walked and rode over many frozen lakes. There were tracks from snowmobiles and ATV’s that we followed, but not much was solid on the big water. We hit stretches of slushy ice, due to the recent snow layer insulating the ice below from the deep cold above. We there are springs in the shallows that also result in open water holes that also have to be avoided.
I particularly enjoyed riding up a very narrow frozen stream between Megunticook and Norton Pond where we threaded our bikes between boulders and up and along a shorefront to reach a bridge with this view of the open water between the lake and pond.
The air temperature had warmed up to the 40’s by 10 AM, when the snow began to get too soft. At one point we had to, “ hike-a bike”, including a section over the well built and maintained Earl Pearse snowmobile suspension bridge. We had hoped to ride over Hobbs Pond to check out a couple of camps on Luce Lane, but by this time, I was spent. It takes twice the energy to ride trails in the woods on the snow in winter than it does to do the same routes on drier ground. We exited the snowmobile trails and rode Barnestown Road and then 235 back to our cars.
I got twenty-two miles and four hours of activity outside in the last two days. Screw the gym. On Sunday, I never ventured further than three miles from my house, on new trails that have somehow escaped me for the past 37 years. Adventures are close by. Me and my trusty Pugsley are looking forward to more of them, hopefully tomorrow.