Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day Tripping

Thanks to Martin Luther King, we were able to spend a long weekend up north, and enjoy some time on the trails. Karen and I took off early Saturday with a plan for a couple of day trips to ride till dark. Early morning on the trails is always very pretty, with the sun coming up, the low lying clouds hanging over the hilltops, and the air crisp. Heading north and east we travelled through St. Johnsbury to gas up, and with an ultimate destination of Bloomfield for gas and a quick bite to eat. Once past the town, the trails are remote and take us up into the hills. As the elevation changes, so does the snow depth, and the scenery. Gone are the dormant trees, looking brown and lifeless and they are replaced by trees thickly coated with snow, painting an entirely different picture from the seat of our transportation. Snow seems to cling to every branch, needle, and weed, creating a parallel world. As I always say, pictures really don't do it justice, but I still share them in hopes some of the beauty can be conveyed. If you click on the picture it will open a larger view, increasing the detail a bit.Arriving at our first destination, we stopped for a quick bite and gas refill. The place is Debanville's on the border of New Hampshire and Vermont. A nice place to refuel both sled and body. After a nice turkey sandwich and soda, we headed back out.Heading south, we retraced our tracks until we got back near the entrance of the power line and pipeline, and took an alternate route south towards home. These trails were a little less traveled and after a short time we came upon a couple of guys pulled off on the side of the trail. They gave us a thumbs up, signifying they were OK, but when we passed we saw one of their sleds and just had to stop. A classic 1972 Rupp snowmobile in mint condition. No suspension like the newer sleds, but still an awesome machine. I actually rode one of these in the early 70's, when I first started riding. We chatted for a bit trail side, and one of the guys posts regularly on one of the snowmobile websites I follow, and both guys were from CT. It was nice running into them and seeing that vintage sled, but soon it was time to get heading home. Off we went, and after a mile or so we came upon a logging operation. Drag marks across the trail, broken branches, and then the massive piles of freshly cut lumber and branches separated and stacked neatly. The aroma of fresh cut wood permeated our helmets before we even got near the piles, with the odor of pine being most predominant.Down past the fallen trees we rode, heading south towards home. Past homes, fields, in and out of the woods, and occasionally coming across humorous reminders along the trail that other people have been here before us. And of course the signs always are interesting. As we were getting closer to our connector from the side trail we took home, the trail came out of the woods, and you had to ride along the side of the road for a few hundred feet. It's not uncommon up here to do that, using the class 3 and 4 roads(dirt) as trails for short spans. As we crossed the bridge and saw the stop sign to cross the real road we saw the following across they way. Believe it or not it really worked! for some reason, possibly the crown in the road, even though you aimed toward the sign, as you crossed the road you started drifting right. So if you aimed right you were in perfect alignment for the trail by the time you were across the road. After that it was over the mountain, through the sand pit down the rail bed and home. We went out for a nice hot dinner and back to relax at the lodge. We turned on the new "mood light" in the front window too. The following morning we decided to go out for another short ride in a different direction. We hopped on the rail bed and headed west. We stopped at Marty's for gas and headed down the rail bed. Turning right on another trail, we found we were making first tracks on a newly groomed trail! Nothing like a groomed trail to be sure, smooth as silk, quick and devoid of bumps for the next 20 miles made for an awesome ride! As we drove down the rail bed towards Greensboro Bend, the scenery was beautiful. Along the way farms dotted the sides of the trail, and we passed by a few houses, tree farms, and corn fields. As we came to an intersection to our left was a small farm with what appeared to be Emu's?
Simply bizarre. Further down there was a maple syrup container where all the lines from the woods ran down to. We passed lines for a mile on either side of the tank as well. That must have been a lot of work running all those taps and lines during the warm season. Once we reached Greensboro Bend, we took a smaller feeder trail to connect over to Wheelock. This trail started going down the side of the road and then into a field. At the end of the field we entered what appeared to be a dormant campground, with the picnic tables all neatly stacked until spring. At the far end of the campground we entered the woods, where the trees were so close together and the trail so narrow, it seemed like we were making our own trail as we went.Looking up in the dense vegetation, it was hard to see the sky with all the branches blocking the light. We looped around and made it back to the rail bed near Danville and decided to extend our ride a little further by going up the Highlight Trail. This is a new trail our local club created last year and it has not been added to the map yet so not to many people know about it. It is a couple mile trail which loops back to the rail bed, and depending on the direction you go there are some nice views of Joe's Pond or the hills to the north east. We chose the Joe's Pond direction, and after passing a cross country skier on the trail we reached the crest of the hill and sat looking down on the island in the middle of Joe's Pond.

Heading back towards home Karen stopped in the "ice cave" as we call it to get a close up shot of the ice. Note the blue in some of the veins of ice coming down the cliff. Again the picture really doesn't do it justice. Riding t the end of the rail bed we took the detour over the hills where we stopped for a minute to get a picture of one of the farms behind our property. A pretty postcard shot if ever there was. We arrived back home and warmed up with some soup and packed up for the long ride home. Next time we come up is the end of January for our local clubs fundraiser spaghetti dinner. Remember to enjoy the day and think snow!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Happy New Year to all! It is hard to believe its 2010 already. After a good cold snap, and a bunch of small snow showers, it was time to head north and do a little riding. I headed up late Friday, and met up with several friends Saturday morning. It was 4 degrees when I headed over to their hotel, and as I came up over a hill and saw this view of St. Johnsbury, with the sun and the frozen clouds, I had to stop and snap a quick picture. We met and headed north and east, leaving St. Johnsbury and rode in the direction of Canaan, Vermont. Our route would take us over various terrain, mostly nice trails, and few bumpy ones. We stopped at one junction, and when I caught up the hood was up on one of the sleds. Nothing major,luckily. The snow was sticking to everything, turning the environment into a winter wonderland. Snow was clinging to everything-frozen branches, weeds, trees, and even the junction signs. Winter just dotted the landscape. We headed north and the views just got better. From the trail, the snow and ice was so thick that the mountains looked like someone had poured sugar on top. We ventured on, winding through trails that just got better and better. The snow enveloped everything around us. We reached the power lines and the trails were wide and flat. Here you could see for miles and make better time since they were was a lot less winding than the wooded trails. We followed the power lines north, and eventually we went back into the woods, where the snow cover was even deeper. Pictures really can't capture the scenery as it looks to the naked eye. Expensive camera gear would make a difference I am sure, but most pictures are taken with my standard digital camera, and rather quickly as I am usually lagging behind anyway. :-) But you start taking in the scenery, and you slow down and enjoy it for its sheer awesomeness, knowing that it is fleeting. A couple degrees warmer, the snow starts to melt, and falls off the trees, and suddenly it is just woods on the trail. But other times you come across a scene out of a Rockwell painting, and you want to make it last so you slow down to enjoy it. Switching trails again, we were confronted by a re-route. One of the trails we normally take to Canaan is a logging road, and this year it was closed due to high volume of logging expected. They let us know pretty sternly not to use the trail too. There has been a little controversy in Vermont this year about eliminating some of the signs to save money, make us fall more in line with other states, and to make it a more uniform experience, but they employed a unique sign to show us the way here.After a few hours we arrived in Canaan for a late lunch. We actually ate in New Hampshire, as the first place we stopped at was pretty busy, so we crossed the Connecticut River and stopped off at a place called The Spa. Nothing fancy, but an awesome Turkey Club! And as a bonus parked outside was the Groomer. After eating and digesting a bit we headed back towards home, going back on some of the same trails, and slowly the sun began to sink. We stopped at a junction as the sun was disappearing, and I got a decent picture of the trees getting that last bit of light before we ventured back into the woods and nightfall. As it got darker, and we rode back into the heavier trees, the snow glistened in the headlights, and the branches bending with all the snow on them really enhanced the light, so it seemed like daytime. Then all of a sudden we were back in the vast darkness of the power lines, then into the woods, and finally, rounding the corner to that last junction before we went our separate ways for the evening. The guys back to the hotel, and me to the garage. It had gotten quite cold by then, and my helmet was frozen shut. I was lucky the groomer had come by my place so the last 2 miles was like gliding across ice, a perfect carpet of white in the snow! 200 miles door to door, I was stiff and sore, so it was time to call it a night. Here is our approximate route:

The next morning the guys came up, and we ventured out for a short 30 mile ride. The trails were smooth this day, as it was still early, so we went down the rail bed and up across the new "skyline" trail in Danville. Hardly a bump anywhere, nothing but freshly groomed trails made for a nice finish to the weekend before driving back home. The scenery was very similar as well. Breathtaking!

As we headed back, just before we parted ways, I saw this and it made me wonder- Why does the Turkey cross the road? Probably to get out of our way! Be safe, ride right, and have fun!