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.
Here’s the map of Sunday’s ride in Hope: