Monday, April 29, 2013

First Mountain Bike Ride of Year = Misadventure

The trails and logging roads that I ride take a while until they are suitable for mt biking.  North facing trails and trails in thick woods are usually snow covered or muddy until at least April, sometimes May.  The past few week has been sunny and dry and helped dry out the trails.  With this drying weather, I decided to take my first ride of the season on Sunday.

I headed to Barnard, Maine.  There is an endless network of logging roads that is accessible from here.  Unfortunately they are poorly mapped and navigating them takes trial and error and local knowledge.  When I started my ride I didn't have a set destination in mind.  My plan was to explore roads that I never been down before to possibly find moose antler sheds.  Most of these lesser traveled trails were not muddy, but quite soft, making for some very slow travel.  I traveled probably more than five miles down these lesser traveled logging roads.  Despite many moose tracks and piles of "nuggets," I didn't find any antlers.

After striking out on the side trails, I continued down one of the main logging roads reaching railroad tracks that travel through the area.  Traveling on this road was also slow going.  Usually I travel between 10-12 MPH in this area.  Up to this point I was averaging closer to 6.

Reaching the railroad tracks is where things got ugly.  I knew there was a trail that could link me up to a familiar logging road to complete a loop.  I had an idea how to get to that other road but wasn't certain.  I took the wrong trail at this point.  The trail I chose dumped me onto the railroad tracks.  A short distance on along the tracks brought me to a sign reading "Benson" that I thought was familiar, leading me to believe I was close to my intended target.  I didn't know this was one of three signs reading "Benson" along the tracks.  This kept me on the railroad tracks for somewhere in the realm of 5-6 miles.  These tracks are in the middle of the wilderness and the ground isn't ridable.  I ended up walking most of the distance along the tracks.  In cycling shoes this was uncomfortable causing several blisters.  Walking on the large loose rocks along the tracks caused the sole of my shoe to come apart making for even tougher footing.  At least the cleat was spared from damage.

When I finally reached the trail I was looking for, I was over three hours into the ride.  Being familiar with this trail I knew I still had 15 miles to ride an it would take at least 90 minutes to get back to my car.  Normally this wouldn't be a huge problem except I wasn't anticipating the miscalculation.  I only had one energy bar with me and enough water for a three hour ride.  Luckily the last section was on a heavily used logging road in good condition and I could make reasonable time.  When I got back to my car I was out of water and extremely hungry.  It had been five hours since I started the ride and almost 35 miles. 35 miles is usually a safe distance for me in this area but not in these conditions. I was planning on three hours at the most and was unprepared for five hours of nonstop traveling.  I was nearly ready to collapse when I finally reached the car.  This was my first bike ride of the season and that didn't make the whole situation any easier.  My legs were also scratched up pretty good from thorns riding the lesser traveled roads.  I gave Puma a good scare too.  I didn't tell her where I was going and didn't have my phone with me so she assumed the worst since I was long overdo.

Riding toward White Cap Range 

Lonely logging road 

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