On the 14th of January, we made the decision to go up and check it out first hand rather than listening to all the reports. Early Saturday we decided to try the trails, and go up to Lyndonville to see the ice drag races. Firing up my sled, I went to meet Pete, who had come up looking to ride, and so we offered to let him come with us.
We found a good vantage point and watched several races. They were semi-professional with a light tree and starter, and between races, they would power rake the launch area to remove loose debris and snow. Definitely all in the take-off though. Several people would have the front ends lifting off the ground and back off on the throttle. They need to keep weight more forward (or be a bigger guy like me)
After watching several races, we ventured back onto the trails. After a short discussion trail side we chose our route for the remainder of the afternoon. Unfortunately we picked a few of the rougher trails. These were rough mainly due to lack of snow. The trail system is maintained by various clubs, each having there own portion for which they are responsible. They use groomers and drags, much like a ski area to fill in the ditches and smooth out the high spots. But alas, with limited snow comes limited grooming. After the next junction, we opted for a smaller, less traveled trail, which wasn't too bad. As we rode across the fields, we spotted a flock of wild turkey. We stopped for gas again, and drove home on the rail bed, which was thin with lots of ballast rock coming loose. We decided to end on that note for the day, opting for an early dinner.
The next morning we suited up once again for a short ride before driving home. Trails were thin, but passable. We chose an alternate to the rail bed this time and it was a little less driven on, so was in pretty good shape.We disappeared into the hills, and found the higher elevations to have slightly more snow, turning everything into more of a winter wonderland.
After a quick 30 or 40 miles, it was back to the lodge, and I decided to pull out the summer toy and try it out in the snow. Needless to say, while fun, not practical. You got a feeling of floating, and it kept digging down in the snow. Fast forward one week. Snowstorm for CT hits giving us even more snow, and follows into VT and adds a bunch of snow to the trails. So I decided to take Friday off and head north. Pete was up there on Thursday, so we arranged to get together and ride Friday and Saturday. Heading out to the east early Friday, the trails were smooth, and no one had ridden since the 3 inches of fresh snow had fallen overnight. We continued south and east, snow lightly falling, then north, finally coming to the bridge crossing in Lancaster, NH. Crossing the bridge was pretty easy, as it appears there was a pedestrian section converted to a snowmobile section for the winter. We stopped for gas, and headed north for a bite to eat in Bloomfield, VT. After a hot cup of coffee and a sandwich, we left, heading south and west back towards our general starting point, all while trying to avoid traveling too much on the trails we took to this point. We stopped at "the Roost" a cabin along the trail, where you can usually warm up, sign the guest book and rest a little.
On this day there was no fire going and being ~ 4:00 PM we didn't want to start one. We signed the guest book and left. I did notice they had a home made pit stop out back as well On the way back to the lodge, we encountered a "low" bridge. Although the picture doesn't do it justice, it was pretty low, and the feeling you needed to duck was prevalent. As we got closer to home the sun was falling and it was cooling off. We were looking for gas once again, since you can never have enough. After finding one of the trail markers, we headed off through a field, where I stopped for this picture: Again the camera really doesn't do it justice. After gassing up, we made the last 30 or so miles in short order. I left Pete at the junction, he going to his hotel, me to the lodge, and we would get together for dinner after getting cleaned up. I drove the last few miles, up through the pine grove, and crossed the street, arriving safely after 165 miles for the day.Rising early on Saturday, I noticed the temperature was -6F. Donning extra clothing, we headed out in a westerly direction to avoid all the common Saturday traffic. Riding was perfect.When the temperatures are lower the snow sets up nice, and makes it faster riding. We covered 50 miles in no time, then we ran into a problem. A trail closure on the route we picked caused a major monkey wrench on the plan to go to Derby, up near the Canadian border. This required us to back track for several miles, then go via an alternate route. Now the sky was blue and clear, but the temperature was still hovering at around 10F. Following the new route led us right into another problem-fuel. Based on the original route we had plenty of fuel. With the routing difficulty, we were now lower than anticipated. Looking again at the map, there was a gas station nearby-on the map. But when we tried to find it, all the tracks ended in a parking lot. Turning back again, we thought we would try to make it, as it seemed by the map we had enough fuel. We stopped and asked someone along the trail-but they were no help...Finally, we decided to head back yet again to a place we knew for sure we could re-fuel. We made it there with apparently a lot more than the gauges would indicate. Mine was less than a quarter tank, but only took 6 gallons and holds 10 gallons. But in that kind of weather, you do not want to run out, because 5 miles through the woods and fields is a lot harder walking than down a road where you would probably come along a house. So while there we were going to have a light lunch and head to Derby. Lunch wasn't really an option however, so we ate some junk food to hold us over,(I had a huge Apple Fritter) and left.
Back on the trail, we reached the junction which would take us to Derby in one direction, and home in the other. After looking at the days mileage, and the issues, I was starting to get a chill setting in, and so we decided to head back toward home and pick up some more substantial food along the way. The town of Burke was on the way, and there was a restaurant with good options for meals. Then it was back for the evening, with another 160 miles for the day.
Sunday Pete was leaving early and I was going to originally, but decided I would jump on the sled for one more spin around the neighborhood. After checking the temperature @ 8 AM and finding it 6F, I suited up to go. I fired up the willing engine....And off I went. No one was out yet, and the trails were groomed overnight. Smooth as glass they were as I went, first down the rail bed, then up on the the recently added "Highland Trail" This was groomed and no one had been there yet, so of course I had to go. My short jaunt to the gas station turned into a40 mile ride. Every corner I took was smooth, and undisturbed, taunting me to keep riding. The trail beneath my ski was perfect in every way, the snow compacted and firm, held fast my the morning chill. It would not be more perfect for very long. Already it was after 9:00 and I knew shortly all the people that were up too late would be waking soon, and I would have to share the trail. I rounded the corner, and reached the next junction, still more untouched trails! So I decided I was going to get my riding in and kept going till I hit the trails someone had been on, then I looped back getting as much smooth riding in as I could before the long car ride home. My addiction was satisfied for now. Riding back through the woods, I happened upon this barn in an open field, with no other structure nearby. Coming back into civilization, I topped off the tank for next time, and sat down in the brisk cold and enjoyed a hot cup of soup, my reward for a picture-perfect solitary ride. Finally I headed back to the lodge, topped of the oil, spun the sled around so it was pointing in the right direction for my next journey, and hung all my riding gear where it will patiently await my return. Maybe next weekend, as our club has its annual fund raising spaghetti dinner. We always like to support our local club.
In parting I share one last photo, and it (or others very similar) have appeared before, but this is always one of my favorite shots. It is along the abandoned rail bed very close to our place, so we drive by it all the time going to and from the gas station. Every year its a little different, but every year it still reminds me how beautiful winter is, though most people think I am crazy. They are right, but that's beside the point.