Fatbiking on Land and Water

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.

Blaine and Buck riding blue

Blaine and Buck riding blue

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.

Maiden's Cliff in the distance

Maiden’s Cliff in the distance

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.

Buck and Blaine laying  track

Buck and Blaine laying track

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.

Norton Pond narrows

Norton Pond narrows

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. photo 5
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:

Hope

Hope


 

Hiking and Biking in December

Crazy weather here in coastal Maine in December.
I do what I can, trying for daily outdoor sessions.
A couple of days ago, it was still raining, but I had to get out-  I did a 4 mile hike from the house around Moody Pond. We’ve had 4 inches of rain here in the last week.  I started out walking down the abandoned Proctor Road, which is just a stream on top of mud.

Proctor Road

Proctor Road

After I leaped over a stream, I cut onto a snowmobile trail that led to the “closed” Martin’s Corner Road, where I was careful to stay out of the water here.

Blow down on Martin's  Corner Road

Blow down on Martin’s Corner Road

This was a big blow down from the wind a couple of days ago, which gusted to 60 MPH.   I was afraid I might get electrocuted, so I pushed through thick brush where I scratched my legs on the briars.
Here’s a map of the hike. screenshot My house is just at the edge of the map, up top.

Yesterday the thermometer read 21 degrees when I left the house to join 8 other Bubbas for our regularly scheduled Sunday ride.  Nate said that we’ve been able to get some good miles out each month this year, even through last winter. There was some mud out here in the lower portions of the ride, but major ice flows on the long exposed ledges up on the top of Mt. Pleasant.  Not many of us were even willing to try and ride up, and chance a bone-crushing fall on the solid ice.  Hike-a-bike is what I call it.

Nelson, Eric, and Jason on the windblock

Nelson, Eric, and Jason on the windblock

This was also the first time that we took an alternate route back down, heading way right off the summit, and snaking our way over abandoned jeep trails interspersed with dry steep granite, and low growing shrubs. Scary steep in places, but my trust in momentum and tire adhesion worked again.
I chose my fat-tired Pugsley for this ride.  It continues to shine in these in-between-seasons conditions.

Eric, Nelson, and Craig Mac on the powerline

Eric, Nelson, and Craig Mac on the powerline

Lately, I have been able to keep ascending through muddy climbs and rocky stuff, even passing some of the guys who usually toast me when it’s dry and grippier.  Love the white bike!
The best part of the ride for me today was the long descent at the end.  You can see it starting on the elevation profile below, right about the 5.4 mile mark. screenshot 2  I was riding behind Rigger, who waited for me half-way down. I like to follow him, because he’s excellent at picking good lines through impossible stuff.   There have been some serious crashes on this downhill over the years ( Nelson comes to mind), so we all continue to watch out for each other.
I had some battery left in my iPhone, so I  inserted the headphones, cranked up the volume, and had Neil Young and the Horse as my soundtrack for the ride out to the car.  Do check out “Driftin’ Back”, the 27 minute extravaganza off Mr. Young’s  most recent CD, “Psychedelic Pill”.  I thank my peretually-musically-enhanced buddy Lock for being persistent in bringing Mr. Young to my ride today, and most every day this December.
The weaving through the winter countryside was magical today.  I even pulled some holiday spirit back home with me.

Where to ride mountain bikes during hunting season in Midcoast Maine?

How about Camden Hills State Park?

We’ve been spared the ravages of Hurricane Sandy here in midcoast Maine, but I haven’t been willing to ride since Sunday in the off and on rain and wind.  In addition, deer hunting season runs for a month right now, with hunting allowed from dawn to dusk 6 days of the week. There are a LOT of hunters roaming the woods right now, some hidden in tree stands as well.  People get shot every year for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Enough said.

The internet is a wonderful thing.  I need to ride, and put up a request to find some riding buddies this afternoon on the “Bubbas in the Woods”  Facebook page where I got a bite from John Anders.  He suggested we ride at 4 PM in the Camden Hills. I was there, but forgot to pack my lights.  John had an extra set he loaned me.

So, is Camden Hills a safe place to ride a bike in the woods in November?

A check on the laws revealed that hunting is not permitted at any time at any State Historic Sites or Memorials, as well as the following State Parks: Andrews Beach State Park; that portion of Bradbury Mountain State Park west of State Route 9; Cobscook Bay State Park: Crescent Beach and Kettle Cove State Parks; Damariscotta Lake State Park; Ferry Beach State Park; Holbrook Island Sanctuary State Park; Nickerson Lake State Park; Owls Head Light State Park; that portion of Quoddy Head State Park within 1,000 feet of the lighthouse; Reid State Park; Sebago Lake State Park; Shackford Head State Park; Two Lights State Park; and Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park.

Hunting is not permitted between May 1 and September 30 at Camden Hills State Park, where “discharging of any weapon is prohibited from or within 300 feet of any picnic area, camping area or campsite, parking area, building, shelter, boat launch site, posted trail or other developed area.”

That’s it.  So you could actually encounter legal hunters in the Park in November.  We didn’t see any hunters on this Friday afternoon, nor did we see any hikers, staff, or even any other cars in the Stevens’ Corner parking lot.  We still wore bright clothing, and were often talking loud and whooping like hell on the ride.

Here’s a YouTube clip of me and John riding our fat tire bikes right now in Maine. I had no idea he was putting this together, and I like his music selection. Take a break to watch us have a superb time on our Pugsleys. And crank up the volume !

I’ve also included a map of the ride:

Parked at the top, turned around on the bottom

Fat tire bike hits the Bog

Way to go 2012 !
Woke up this morning to a snow-free landscape where the outdoor temperature come up to 50 degrees. I headed over to join the ever-ready-for-outdoor-action Bubbas in Rockland for a three hour fun-festival featuring the newest member of the group- my brand new Pugsley snow bike.

The Pug

I’m immensely pleased with the bike’s initial performance.
This bike is a heavy one, weighing in at some 35 pounds, primarily due to the huge footprint of the highly aggressive Nate knobbie tires that are mounted to 4″ wide rims. I learned how much air these tires need from Ian, who has a Salsa Mukluk. It’s not necessary to obsess with tire gauge. Ian told me to just squeeze the thing- should be sort of squishy. That was it.
The first test of the day was the road climb up to the trail head, which was no problem at all. As soon as I entered the mostly frozen, rutted trail, the rigid-framed bike settled into a comfortable pattern- churning ahead, sliding into the low spots, and sticking to the sloped sideways and the up and down ledges that we encounter here in coastal Maine.

Andre, Ian and the ice

Once this thing is rolling, it seems to keep rolling, and there wasn’t much out there today to stop it. Back in the parking lot some of the other Bubbas remarked that I appeared to be faster today. I cleared sections of this ride that I have been struggling with for what, fifteen years? I’m no fitter so far in 2012, so could it be the fat heavy bike that came to the front today, in conditions that had nothing to do with snow?
Check out a map of this ride, with statistics:
Rockland Bog 1/1/12 on Strava.com. It turned out to be a 7.4 mi ride that I did today, January 1, 2012.