Sunday, March 18, 2012

What a Difference a year makes

Greetings to any and all that still check here. This is the second post today, because I did not realize I had one blog update waiting to be finished for several months. This past year has been filled with so much, between our  oldest boy getting married, our youngest boy graduating high school and going out on his own to college. The winter of 2011-2012 will definitely go into the books and the winter that never got started. Snow was extremely hard to come by for some reason this year, so riding was limited mostly due to that, and partly due to health issues. I broke my hip socket some 20 years ago in a motorcycle accident, and they warned me I would be looking at a replacement someday. This day is coming very soon, tentatively in July. The wear and tear has been too much so its time for some replacement parts.

If you look at the right first you will see my left hip, relatively intact with a well defined ball and socket. On the left side of the picture is my right hip, looking more like mush. It has gotten to the point where it needs to be replaced, even if I can never ride again (don't count on that), but more so a quality of life-I am too young to have this hold me back as much as it has recently. Not sure if all the miles last year exacerbated the condition or if it was just time.

Well on to more happy things. We did get a single ride this year, in the end of January. This was right around the time of our clubs annual fundraiser, which we always try and get up to support. We took an extra day, going up Thursday, because this was also the weekend there was free riding in New Hampshire and Maine. But alas it wasn't meant to be. We arrived, and it almost immediately started raining. The driveway turned to a sheet of ice. We heard rumors it was better over in Pittsburg, New Hampshire, so I worked on getting the sleds loaded on the trailer. During the load out, our neighbor stopped by, and told us we would be wasting time. A call to a hotel in the area confirmed this. Their snow coverage was no better than ours and it was raining there as well.

The next day, it rained for several hours, so we did a little vehicle exploring. Late in the day a cold front came in and the rain eventually turned back to snow, blanketing us with a fresh 6-8 inches by Saturday morning. We decided we would ride to the fund raiser. Pulling out the iron beasts, we turned the keys, the engines roared to life, and that sweet smell of two-stroke oil filled the air. Seems like too long since we were able to ride. Off we went down the trail, and this year I had a new toy. I got a Go-Pro Camera for Christmas, and was dying to try it out. Turning it on as we left, I filmed a nice ride from our house, down the rail bed, and up to the lookout. Since this was my first video, its a little rough, but I have been getting better with editing (Watch for my Key West blog coming soon)

Snowmobile Ride

Stopping at the lookout, we took a few pictures, and the views were very nice. And if you look carefully, you can see the camera mounted on my helmet.

We headed back down the trail with our goal the Danville School. The school is an all inclusive school from kindergarten to high school. As we arrived in the parking lot the groomer was parked in the upper lot, after smoothing out the trails leading to the spaghetti dinner.

We had a nice lunch, bought some raffle tickets,(I ended up winning a club sweatshirt!) and after a little digestion, we headed back out on the trails, looking for more snow. It wasn't too hard to find. The trail we chose went down the rail bed, and up into the hills, in the direction of Coles Pond, and the lookout. Snow was clinging to the ranches and trees, and at one point we had someone in a bigger rush pass us to get to the deep powder first.

We passed through the Coles Pond area, and came across a new addition to the trail this year. The group that covers this section of the trail-The Coles Pond Sledders, just finished setting up a "Rest Stop" on the trail. We stopped to chat for a bit and learned they were going to open on the weekends starting next week, and offer a few hot dishes, beverages and company for the snow travelers to take advantage of.

After some good conversation, we mounted back up and took off in the direction of the lookout. I was clearing up now and the sun was working through the clouds and trees, providing some interesting views

 Finally we reached the pinnacle of our quest. The lookout on Stannard Mountain is a great place to view the White Mountains of New Hampshire on a clear day, and today did not disappoint. We could see over there pretty easily, and it was amazing to see all the snow caked on the trees.

Heading back down, we decided (well my hip decided) there wasn't too much riding left before my day was at its end. We changed up trails, heading back toward Danville, and come out on the new bridge that was built this year to allowing crossing of an area that flooded out pretty badly with the heavy rains this spring. One of the teenagers in town, who is also a snowmobiler and active in the club, helped lead the project for the bridge replacement. And what a great job was done!

So that was the winter that was for this year. We are looking forward to better things next year, both in the weather department as well as the health department. The doctor tells me as long as I am reasonable about my riding, it shouldn't be a problem to ride. Since I am not a motocross rider I should be good. But of course I will have to let my body tell me what I can handle, but count on some better statistics next year, so don't forget to tune in :-)

Catching Up

Greetings all, it's time to catch up from last we chatted. Winter was big hit this past year, the snow lasted into April, allowing us to ride in April for the first time,and also allowing me to crush my milestone of 1,000 miles. Final tally was 1569 for the year!

We (well maybe I) pushed for one more ride, and we came up April 1, arriving after dark to a snow squall. When we woke the next morning, Mother Nature blessed us with 8" of fresh snow! What a great way to start the day.

The sun was fighting the cloudiness, and clouds were starting to succumb to the suns warmth and determination. 

Eating a light breakfast, and packing up for a 1/2 day or so of riding we soon were heading out.
The snow was a bit powdery, very light in texture. Feeling a little like we were floating, we headed down the trail.
Snow clung to every tree, branch, and bush, giving the appearance of a white frosting to nature. Just amazing to think this was April. Soon the buds would be coming out, and things would be turning green-but not today.
Following the trail out after getting gas, we were first tracks out. We headed north, deciding to try the scenic overlook at Stannarrd Mountain. The snow was untouched by other machines all the way to the summit. The view turned out to be not so impressive, as the weather was still clearing, but the sleds looked nice caked in snow from our ascent.
Once we geared back up, we traversed down the mountains backside, which was a new trail for us. This trail brought us to an area that was freshly groomed, making the trails smooth as a lake in the early morning. We rode for several miles on the flat white carpet, stopping to admire it once or twice.
Onward and forward, trying to click off some miles and still enjoy the scenery, we reached a turning point to start our loop back home. The view from the top of the hill was awesome! Driving down the roads in Vermont affords you some amazing rural farmland views, but thanks to the generosity of the land owners up here, you really become part of the landscape! Roads are really discernible in some of the scenic vistas we stop at, giving the illusion that houses were randomly placed to accent the countryside.

As we traveled onward now in a more West-Southwest direction,the trails showed a little more traffic, and the sun was winning the battle with the clouds. Stopping to remove a few layers of insulation, my simple little compass/thermometer-the kind you would add to your jacket pull if skiing-showed the temperature had climbed into the low 40's. The sun was bright and felt great,but against a stark white background, it was blinding at times. Further down the  trail we encountered a maple syrup operation, which looked more like a deep sea bathysphere from Jacques Cousteau.
In the second picture, you can see the syrup lines coming from the trees delivering the sap, and then what i can only guess is a vessel to separate out the impurities prior to going into the larger tank.

We changed direction again, now trying to close the loop. Heading south-southeast, we came through the village of Irasburg, which advertised the Parker Pie Company. Upon further examination, the Pie Company was a Pizza Restaurant, and not what the name implied.

We noticed the temperatures were definitely climbing, yet the snow was actually getting deeper in many places. It sometimes gets difficult to judge the elevation you are at, as the trails wind back and forth, and sometimes you don't even realize you are ascending. Other times you feel like you are navigating a deep downward slope, only to find yourself abruptly climbing another hill. We rode down from Irasburg heading toward home, and as we came to the junction in Glover, we noticed tracks. Then around the next corner, we saw where the tracks were coming from. Several people were out riding there horses! We have come across many things on the trails, but this was another first. We gave them a wide berth, as to not spook the animals, and headed down a lesser traveled trail.
As we traveled down the smaller trail, we could see signs of the horses on this trail as well. Not sure if we would run into additional guests on the trail we slowed a little more. Then we saw what they were probably doing-the old fashioned version of gathering maple syrup. Using just a simple tap and bucket to procure the raw materials to create that delicious flavoring to pour on your pancakes, french toast, or anything else your heart desires. Surprisingly, it takes anywhere from 3-40 gallons of sap to make a gallon  of maple syrup, numbers vary depending on the sugar content of the sap. But at least the buckets were nicely decorated.

Soon we were on the home stretch of our final ride. We were back on our home turf, riding the familiar trails that would lead us back to our "lodge". As we got closer, we noticed the snow was disappearing more rapidly. Large bare spots were appearing in the fields, and we had to weave a bit to keep the sleds in the snow, to provide cooling and lubrication. As we arrived home, I realized winter was over, but what a great year! Thanks go out to all the people who work so hard on the trails, to my riding partners, and my wife for letting me indulge as much as I did this year!