Fall Bikepacking

Wil and I took a quick overnight tour from Burlington through the Cotton Brook with a lean to bivy in Little River State Park. We left BTV later than expected Saturday afternoon, rolling out of town in spotty showers on familiar roads to Richmond and then on to Waterbury.

We had a heat lamp dinner at the Waterbury Mobil as the sun disappeared from the cloudy, dreary sky before rolling up a dark ~6 miles on busy VT 100 to Moscow. In Moscow we turned up Cotton Brook Rd., passed through the gate, and onto the double track logging road. It was well after dark, and we worked our way up and through ~10 miles of forested double track, to where we thought a mountain bike connecting trail was located. The climb was steep in places, rolling in others. We gained 1000 feet over a few miles, and I found myself hiking quite a bit. Tired, the rain luckily stopping, the ground wet and covered with leaves, and my stomach now protesting my dinner.

We eventually found a trail, closed to bikes, that was posted for snowmo, hike, and ski. We ventured (up again!) on foot a bit – but found it rather disagreeable for riding. We then rode the double track to its end, passing another turn to connect back to where we started, and eventually settled on a trail following the reservoir. After a bit of smooth single track Wil hit the brakes hard in front of me, calling out that there was wildlife in the trail. A porcupine (appropriate, as I think we were heading to Hedgehog Hill Trail) was ambling down the trail. We kept our distance and walked along behind until it wandered off to the side and climbed a tree. For the balance of this section every time I’d stop I’d swear there was something following me. I kept hearing a ‘brush brush’ in the vegetation, with nearly every step. Looking around with my headlamp I would see nothing. This went on for quite a bit, with no clear idea of what was going on.

Some rolling single track with dark views into the abyss of the reservoir to our left brought us to a trail junction. We both knew about where we were – but we both had different ideas on how to get to the campground. Wil wanted to head uphill on some double track, which would lead to the Dalley Loop trail, very rideable double track down to the campground. I wanted to head straight down, walking if needed.

At this point I was really feeling it. Tired. Stomach far worse off. Cold but not miserable. And really looking forward to a fire, warm socks, and some food. Wil didn’t even want to walk down – as he felt the trail was sketch in the daylight. So, after some disccussion, and imagining we were miles and miles away from anywhere on the TD route, we opted for more adventure – easily adding 4+ miles to our trip. Upon starting to roll out Wil noticed something caught up in my rear wheel. The mystery follower! A 6′ long piece of bailing wire was wrapped in behind my cassette, around my wheel, and into my brake. Its amazing that I had ridden for so long without the wheel locking up. It took us about 10 minutes to get it all untangled. We walked a bit uphill, then jumped on to ride. Wil disappeared over the top, and I fell over, cranks locked up. Another round of messing with my wheel – my rear derailer was jammed all up. Nothing moving forward or back. After a few minutes of cursing I was rolling again. Up some more, past old foundations and a cemetery, and finally to a trail junction. A left turn and some wonderful double track downhill, with both helmet and bar lights on high to pick out the water bars, and we were at the campground road. A short paved ride up and around the loop and we were picking out a lean to.

~57 miles from home, about 10:40 pm, and we finally stopped moving. We covered pavement, dirt road, single track, double track, way finding, rain, slippery leaves, and wildlife. Now it was time to warm, rest, eat, and sleep. I set out to build a fire. Wil made a backpacking dinner, I ate some cookies procured at our gas station stop and tried to re-hydrate. After a bit of coaxing we had a roaring warm fire, which dried our socks and warmed our cores. We stayed up way too late watching the stars and not wanting to leave the warm fire. Sometime after 1am I settled into my bag. A fitful sleep ensued – my stomach continued to protest, and Wil’s homemade Tyvek bivy sounded like an army of cats were chasing yarn balls inside FedEx packages all night…

Eventually my stomach settled and I drifted off to sleep. I awoke late (for me), put on water for oatmeal and coffee, and began packing up.

Chilly, getting into riding clothes, but much warmer than the last time I was here, so no morning fire was needed. We rolled out down the campground road – bundled in all the clothes we had for the descent. A quick breakfast in Waterbury, and then a wholesale gear rearrangement for me, and we were rolling home. Dirt and paved roads to Richmond, where I needed a warmup and calories. We parted ways at the Village Cup. I mentally regrouped from my slow morning and lack of sleep, Wil powered on home.

After calibrating my caffiene and calories, I took off through Johnnie Brook and up Governor Chittenden Rd., then the drag through Vermont semi rural suburbia back home. We totalled ~98 miles in the two days, tested out gear, pushed into the night, and generally had a great time.

Fall Fargo Foliage Fest

Peak color. Pave, dirt, trail. Some hike a bike too. My favorite time of year.

I left the house a bit later than I wanted, sipped a coffee and had some breakfast at a local cafe, then took off for higher ground. I ventured through the Intervale, enjoying a glorious and misty sunrise. Stunning, was the sky and the sun.

As I started to climb out of the vale to pavement, I noticed a vehicle stuck on the tracks. I’ve seen lots of bizarre things happen down here early in the morning – so I can’t say I was surprised – but it looks as if someone ‘borrowed’ the truck for a joy ride. Windows were open, with stuff left on the seats. Glove box was closed. I made sure there was no one injured (abandoned) then called 911 and was connected to local police. After a chat I continued on.

From Burlington I ventured off to Richmond via Mountain View and dropping down Governor Chittenden Rd. The Winooski River Valley was covered in a fog, and the light had a silver quality to it. No views to Camel’s Hump, but an otherworldly feeling as I hit the lower dirt road and a horse started running alongside.

Some flat riding out of town to the east, and then I climbed Stage Rd. Wonderful dirt, steep, with only a few cars passing. I saw a Long Trail hiker emerge from the woods, heading into town.

Somewhere nearing the top I turned onto a signed hiking / ski / snomo trail. Some hike a bike for the first 100′ or so, then leveling out on old double track / logging road. I skirted a small pond (north of Preston Pond), dodged some soggy trail, snapped some pics, and pressed on for the overlook.

The overlook trail is a loop, connecting as a U shape to the main trail. I took the first turn for it, riding quite a ways until the roots, rocks, and gradient made it difficult to pedal. Typical of VT trails, this rolled along for a bit, then turned straight up. I’d later learn that I took the longer / harder way up… as my descent from the lookout was equally rocky and rooty, but much shorter, and I think more rideable (for me, with my limited technical mountain bike skills…)

Returning to the double track, I made my way to Notch Rd., where I had hoped to continue on to the Bolton Access Rd. via another set of trails. I was met with some serious ATV rutted double track, and upon exploring a bit found a crew clearing trees. Chainsaws running, and ATVs scurrying up the trail, I assume these folks were prepping the trail for winter snomo use.

Bombing down Notch Rd. led me back to the river valley, where I made my way to the Cross Vermont Trail. This stretch follows the edge of a farm field and a dirt road. In the field it can be wet, and flooding from Irene left the bridge damaged – but it looks like repairs are under way, and the trail was firm.

I followed my path back into town – climbing up Governor Chittenden Rd. past Catamount, eventually meeting up with the family on the waterfront for a fall day out…

~60 miles
~3100′ climbing

Monday Mojo

Since my bikepacking trip I’ve been looking for some mojo. Lots of rain here in VT, lots of damage and flooding from the hurricane, and lots of cold, wet, weather settling in. I always go through some downtime as the seasons change… and being in the cold and rain for the VT Fall Classic last week seemed to reinforce that the body needs time to acclimate each year. Come spring I’ll be shedding layers in this morning’s temps…

Have to find some time for some bike maintenance. The Fargo’s rear derailleur was tweaked somewhere along the Fall Classic. Shifting suffered over the final 12 miles. My chain wouldn’t drop out of the largest cog without some persuasion on the pedals, and it never dropped down into the smallest. Looks like the replaceable hanger is bent – but no adjusting with cable tension nor limit screws seems to help. I’m likely to swap to flat bars and 1×9 for the winter – so it seems this fix will just speed up that process.

The Pugsley is going to get my Titec H-bars. I have cable ready and waiting – just need the time to focus. The bars on the Pugs will go to the Fargo for the winter. Also need to re-pack the rear wheel, and check all the bearings, etc. Want to be ready to roll when the snow flies.

The IF needs a cleaning. And I’ll mount up my spare wheelset with my trainer tires for indoor roller duty. This bike has been ridden maybe only a handful of times since the Fargo arrived. Sad, maybe. But I’m just digging the fat tires now, for pretty much everything…

VT Fall Classic 114k and 200k

I rode the VT Fall Classic Populaire this past Saturday. It was cold. It rained. The temperature dropped. We were hit with a deluge as we took off up the Notch from our first control towards the mountains and one of my favorite roads. It was windy. Did I say it rained? Dirt was in fine shape, if not soggy towards the end. The mountains were hiding in the low clouds. Fall color will peak in another week or so, but was a wonderful contrast to the gray along the route.

I’ll let the numbers tell the story:

Pre registered: 11
Did not start: 4
Did not finish: 3
Finished: 4

Pre registered: 10
Registered day of: 3 (brave, to show up morning of!)
Did not start: 5
Did not finish: 5 (completed entire route, but well out of the time limit: 4)
Finished: 3

First 114k finishers in @ 7h20m. (I was lanterne rouge and finished in 7h30m)

First 200k finisher arrived in an amazing 9h30m, which was an incredible ride, under these conditions. A group of three riders made it in just under the time limits @ 13h25m.

I focused on keeping moving to generate heat, and forced myself to drink. Food went down easy. Liquids were tough. The camera stayed tucked away for most of the ride – impossible to operate in my overmitts, and tricky at best in my liner gloves.

I’ve done this ride, and similar loops, many many times, and am always reminded at just how beautiful my neighborhood can be.