Winter Into Spring

I’m blessed by having friends who walk outside in the winter. The picture below illustrates just how varied the modes of outdoor travel become this time of year: bikes, skis, snowshoes, toboggans, boots, and traction devices.

Comrades on the winter trails
Comrades on the winter trails
Three successive days of walking on local trails just culminated with exiting the Camden Hills State Park. IMG_4468 It’s the warmest morning in over a month, finally above freezing, and instead of the anticipated 6-10 inches of new snow from this weekends storm, it’s raining now.

Rime snow obscures  blue blazes
Rime snow obscures blue blazes
Who cares ? I sure don’t, because after a mere two miles of slopping over the snow pack, I’ll be heading home to dry myself out by the glowing coals of the wood fire.

In 2015, I’m orienting my outdoor life to align with several goals I set for myself: hiking 1,000 miles in Maine, and walking or biking 365 hours. An hour a day average.

I’m also working on snowshoeing all 30 miles of trail here in the Camden Hills. I’m now down to just five miles more.

Surprise! Did you know that Tanglewood 4-H Camp is located on Camden Hills State Park land ? I didn’t. So I need to strap on the snowshoes and walk or ski 8 miles of trail over there, where the stunning 1.1 Ducktrap River Trail is the featured attraction.

Conflict emerges.

I want to focus on winter biking more than snowshoeing. It’s March 15th today, and when this almost-spring sunlight beams loud and clear the snow melts quickly. We lost six inches of snow cover on one of the few bright, sunny days that unfolded last week.

I need to make like a sugar maple and hope for below freezing nights and warm sunny days in order to keep my personal force flowing.

I dream of riding over frozen snow and skittering down the Cameron Mountain descent just one more time. IMG_0022

Fatbike Says Bye-Bye to Ice

Pugsley takes the plunge
Pugsley takes the plunge

Sunday’s ride marked the end of our visit on top of  the remains of the ” crystal palace”  around here in coastal Maine.  The ice that we have encountered for the past couple weeks is  gone.

Snow almost gone from blueberry field
Snow almost gone from blueberry field

Five riders made a relatively quick out-and-back 10 mile run from the Warren Community School Parking lot.  screenshot We encountered sections of sheer ice that were over a half mile long, with some portions under water that was flowing across the surface.

Ian and I were on studded 45N tires, Jason had unstudded 45N tires, Walter had Surly Nates.

Walter and Ian take a break
Walter and Ian take a break

The Hawk never complained while churning away strong on regular 26″ tires.  Ian declared that studded tires were a good purchase for these conditions- he was consistently far ahead of the rest of the pack.  I even passed Jason once. THE ONLY way that happened is because of the metal pins protruding from my tires.  Walter did OK on his unstudded set, but stated that he is planning to buy a set of studded 45 N’s. Sidecountry in Rockland has some.   At times, he was slipping and sliding.  Walter  told me that Bath Cycle already sold out of the 30 pair that they had a couple of weeks ago.

Enough snow had melted to set up detours around the ice.

Jason goes around
Jason goes around

The feeling of rolling over glistening ice is unique. I expected to go down at some point over the two hour ride, but never did.

Did I tell you how much I am enjoying the winter,  while riding my Pugsley?

Bubbas Roll Through the 2014 Freeze

In Maine,  the past week has recorded the coldest temperatures in the past three years , where even on the coast, I’ve seen reports of -20 F.  Add wind chill and one ice and two snow storms and its positively wild and beautiful out.

The crazy cold have not stopped The Bubbas, who have kept up the tradition of mountain biking throughout the year, as they have done for the past two decades or so.  We rode twice this week, including New year’s morning.  It’s hard to believe that people not only look forward to riding on ice and snow, but that they do it.

I have a few tricks I use to keep myself warm when the temps hover in the single numbers, and they did during the day this week.

I wear electric socks, powered by D -cell batteries.  I switch to  platform pedals instead of clip-ins, and wear super-insulated LL Bean boots.  Layers of wool work, under windproof Patagonia tights on the bottom and a North Face fleece jacket on top-  but not too thick with the layering, as you do generate heat when the pedals start cranking.

My hands don’t take the cold well.  I have solved that problem by purchasing a pair of lime-green high-res Pogies from Stellar Bags, handmade in Minnesota, land of ice.

Stellar  Pogies
Stellar Pogies

The cordura covers are lined with thick fleece, allowing me to stay warm with a lighter pair of gloves. I have fresh pair of chemical hand warmers in my Camelback that I have put inside the pogies if my hands do get cold.

A hood on my Patagonia wool 3 base layer that comes up under my helmet keeps my head warm, with a big silk cowboy scarf  covering my lower face.  Ski goggles brighten up the contrast with all the snow and keep my upper face warm.

Here are some pics of the two rides:

Jason descending on  Trek Farley
Jason descending on Trek Farley
Stephanie smilin' and climbin'
Stephanie smilin’ and climbin’
Heading into the crystal palace
Heading into the crystal palace
Four fatbikes sported 45North studded tires
Four fatbikes sported 45North studded tires
Suzie ready to descend
Suzie ready to descend
Now what?
Now what?
Andy Hazen 's ( left)  first Bubba ride. Another Farley. Kevin and Craig Mac are here too. The Hawk was flying. Rigger doesn't miss many.
Andy Hazen ‘s ( left) first Bubba ride. Another Farley. Kevin and Craig Mac are here too. Rigger doesn’t miss many.
Bubbas regroup
Bubbas regroup

Looking forward to heading back to Warren, Maine tomorrow for another go at the fresh tracks.  Thanks go out to the snowmobilers  who pack the track for us!

Dozen Bubbas plus 3, 4? on Crispy Crust in the Bog

There were so many Bubbas and guests on their bikes in the frozen Bog this morning that I lost count. Jason thinks there were 16. There were so many of us that the group broke apart right at the start, with most of us backtracking the Bog Road for the climb up Benner Hill into the trails that led off the powerline on top.I do know it was a Bog record, even bypassing the numbers from the three warmer seasons this year.
Why? Surely it was not the conditions. It was 11 degrees out, and in the open sections like the power line, there was wind as well, driving the wind-chilled temps into the single numbers.
Eric's ride
How long was the ride today? Depends on who you were with. Nelson and I were toast after just 5.7 miles, but Jon Anders put up 7.1, Eric checked in with 10.5, and the Hawk trumped all comers with 12.1. These were not summertime miles. They were mostly hard earned.
What were the riding conditions? There were places where the packed and refrozen snow settled down over rock gardens and evened them out, making travel zipper than usual.  However, some things were more difficult, like finding the trail. John and I found ourselves off-trail descending the first section from the power line to the wooden bridge over Branch Brook. Without a defined trail, the deep double-rutted ATV tracks led the way, but sometimes it was the wrong. The absolute best assistance winter bikers can get on their favorite trails is from snowmobiles, who pack the trail evenly, and if that surface is refrozen, it’s generally easy to stay on top and not break through no matter what type of tires you have on your bike. ATV’s left a narrow berm between the two icy tire tracks that were just deep enough to catch my pedals when I tried to ride in the slots. When I was in the berm between, refrozen footprints and deer tracks lumped things up and sometimes threw me back into the ruts.
There were 7 riders on fat-tire bikes out there today. He’s a pic of my group:

Mostly Fatties
Mostly Fatties

There were a few sections of trail that were sheer ice, and the guys who were riding studded tires were able to go straight over them. Fat tire bikes had an option here, which was to pull off the trail, head right into the woods along those sections, and pick your way around trees to rejoin the trail after the ice receded. I did this successfully a number of times.
Climbing out of Branch Brook, there was the biggest blow-down we’ve seen yet this year on this ride.
Uncle Tom over the big one
Uncle Tom over the big one

And finally, here’s the real deal- footage of today’s ride posted by John Anders mixed in with a ride that John and Tim Sewall took on the Warren trails the day before.