posts tagged with 'biking'

riding in Fairhaven

Yesterday we introduced another family to the joys of cycling by Fairhaven Bay. They have a fourth-grader and a kindergartener who are kind of into mountain biking, but not totally sure about either the risk or the energy requirements involved... and one parent who would really like to get them into the woods and moving. So I thought the Fairhaven trails would be perfect—they're practically designed to introduce folks to the fun of trail riding. The landscape between Fairhaven Bay and Walden Pond is beautiful and varied, and there are lots of fun spots to stop and play off the bikes. And on the bikes, there are steep hills where, for a second or two, you can feel like a real downhiller. And most of all, the paths are almost entirely smooth and free of roots and rocks—super rare for woods around here. So the little ones can ride for way farther than they would be able to otherwise! We managed four or five miles, which felt about right, and which took in the cliffs, the boathouse and its lawn, a stop at Walden Pond, the train tracks (where we waited for a train to pass and the boys successfully signalled the engineer to sound the horn), and the old race track. Then back at the car there was plenty of Halloween candy for a recovery snack. Good times.

a morning out

Cooler weather rekindled our enthusiasm for adventure last week, so on Friday we loaded up the bikes for a trip to Fairhaven Bay. I was interested in seeing how high the water was after the recent flooding, but mostly I just wanted to get out and moving! The boys were amenable.

Elijah climbing up the chimney by Fairhaven Bay

adventure

We've been there plenty of times now, but but it's a big place and there are still paths we've never explored, so we were able to try something of a different route. Elijah is constantly improving as a cyclist, and I was very impressed at how easily he handled the hills—sure, he had to walk up a few of the steepest spots, but he did it with a will and without hardly any complaining at all! Of course, the other boys are awesome as well. It's a great place to ride if you don't mind hills: the ups and downs are exciting, and the paths are mostly smooth and free of rocks and roots.

The river was a little disappointing: it was high, but less so than last time we visited. Never mind, there are other exiting things to visit—like Walden Pond, up on the other side of the woods. Some of us were a little nervous about crossing the train tracks to get there, but we all did it and were rewarded by getting to put our feet in the water. We didn't stay long though, because staying still we started to get cold, if you can believe it. Crossing the tracks again I opined confidently that trains came by very infrequently, so of course less than a minute later, as we were still putting on our shoes, there one was. They're always exciting to watch up close, especially when you're on the same side of the tracks as all your stuff.

Zion and Elijah watching a train go by

whoooosh!

Of course, the best part of adventuring is the snacks—and especially getting to eat them in all kinds of fun spots. Elijah enjoyed half of his on the cliffside perch pictured in yesterday's post and saved the other half until we found this shelter.

Elijah eating a granola bar in a stick shelter

we're not sure it would keep off the rain, but it sure looks cool

All that, and we made it home in time for lunch!

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camping 2021 part 3

the boys asleep in the tent

cozy

Our first day's hike was hard work, so the tent felt super comfortable for a long sleep. And there were no worries about sleeping late, since the boys had requested breakfast at a restaurant for our second morning—or should I say the restaurant, one of the central pieces of our Bar Harbor vacation experience. Knowing how hard it is to park in town, I cleverly had us pack the bikes, so we could leave the car out by the playing fields and ride to the cafe. We arrived to a 15-20 minute wait, but there was also a giant connect four game so no worries at all. Before we knew it, we were sitting down to a tremendous feast.

our laden table at Cafe This Way

camping is hungry work

After we ate we headed down to the shore (experiencing some difficulty navigating the bikes through the extremely crowded streets and sidewalks; now we wished we didn't have them). We played on the cannons, threw rocks into the ocean, and climbed on cliffs. Like you do.

Elijah posing atop a rock tower

he climbed up twice as fast as last time

On our way back through town we stopped at the department store for the boys to buy some fuzzy souvenirs. Then we did something new (a rarity when we go on the same vacation every year) when we stopped at the skate park and rode some lines. It's a great spot, and I wished I had a BMX bike! I borrowed Elijah's for a few minutes but it's not quite the same.

Zion and Elijah riding in the bike park

every town should have a skate park this good!

Since I hoped to do some slightly longer riding, I persuaded the boys to try a few miles on the carriage road network. I hadn't ridden on the carriage roads for years and years—since Harvey was born, for sure—and the main reason I brought bikes was to give them a go. The boys were feeling pretty tired but allowed me to psych them up ahead what I promised would be a fun and beautiful ride... and then, a quarter mile in, we hit a long steep steady uphill that almost brought on a mutiny. In their defense, it was super hard! But in mine as a cycling instructor and encourager, everybody but Elijah was able to ride up with just a break or two along the way. Lots of the adults we saw couldn't manage that! We paused for a tired picture at the top or so, then everybody enjoyed some downhill miles that made it all worthwhile. If you ask me, at least.

Harvey and Elijah on the carriage road overlooking the ocean

too tired to admire the view

Cycling is my favorite, but you know those boys want to be in the water. So, back at the campground, we finished the day with a good long swim in the pool.

Harvey and Zion in the pool

another day, another pool soak

Dinner was just spaghetti and red sauce, so that was easy. After yet more smores, we went to bed in the tent for the last time on the trip. How was it we were going home tomorrow?! It seemed like we'd just got there!

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adventure time

As well as all the other excitement last week we went on a couple outings close to home and discovered some fun surprises in areas I thought we new pretty well! The first one was last Wednesday, when we brought bikes to Walden Pond so we could ride and get hot before we went in the water. Instead of going on the road (the idea of which made the boys nervous) we took to the paths behind the parking lot, aiming for a spot where OpenStreetMaps suggested that there might—possibly!—be a tunnel under the highway linking up with the Hapgood Wright Town Forest in Concord . After a few wrong turns and some fun short hills, we reached the road... and there it was!

Harvey biking out of a tunnel into the bright sunshine

into a mysterious new world

Thrilling as it was, the tunnel wasn't the only exciting part of the outing. We've explored Hapgood Wright lots of times on foot, but bikes always let you see trails differently. This time we noticed lots of amazing downhill runs that we definitely want to go back to do some more! Of course, downhills require uphills, and there were certainly some doozies. Even before we got back to the pond to swim we were glad of a midway rest stop.

Harvey and Elijah cooling themselves and their water bottles in a brook

cool for feet and water bottles

(If you want to explore the tunnel yourself, just follow our track as shown here.)

Thursday's adventure was a post-strawberry trip to Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest, but that one didn't go as well. Elijah was tired out from the picking, and the other boys have bad memories of riding that woods from when, the last time we tried it, they were feeling a little sick. So their energy wasn't high to start with. The only new discovery we made there was that the paths on the ground are difficult to reconcile with the map—and not knowing where we were or where we were going didn't make Lijah feel any better about the outing! Even though the older two boys had recovered and were having fun, we cut the trip short after just a couple miles.

Then on Friday we were back in Concord for a hike with friends in Estabrook Town Forest. We know it well too, though I will say every time we walk up Punkatasset Hill (88m) I'm surprised at how steep that trail is! Being there with other people let us notice some things more—like stick houses—and some things less, because lots of the time we were deep in conversation. But by far the outstanding discovery of the trip was that they spillway where the pond drains into Sawmill Brook makes a fantastic natural waterslide... but that's a story for another post!

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lost week

Last week was rough. On Monday morning—before breakfast, even!—I made a poor life choice going over a jump and smashed into a tree. Besides cutting up my face wonderfully, I did something to the nerves in my neck that left my hands numb and my arms sore. That slowed me down some, I can tell you! Then just as I was feeling better on Thursday it was time for our second Covid vaccine. Welcome, of course, but when I woke up on Friday I found that the post-vaccine fever had combined with the nerve damage to leave the about the most uncomfortable I've ever been. Sleeping especially has been really hard. And then on top of all that, adding insult to literal injury, the woodchucks and rabbits have been absolutely destroying the garden. It's extremely discouraging.

me, bloodied and bruised

trying not to let the bastards get me down

But we're alive, and enjoying seeing more and more friends in person, and I imagine I may one day start to feel better again. My shoulders don't hurt so much I can't type, at least!

morning workout

On Sunday afternoon I went out to Russell Mill Pond for a ride. I was looking forward to getting some time on the trails by myself—and I did, seven miles worth!—but the reason I drove out that way rather than stay closer to home was that I saw on a friends' Strava that the pump track was open. The pump track is what draws the kids to Russell Mill, but when we went earlier this spring our expectations were cruelly dashed: it was closed for the winter. But that red line snaking through it on a Strava map on Saturday let me know that it was maybe open again—and indeed it proved to be! I was excited to tell the boys and they were excited to hear about it, so when Leah suggested we go Monday morning we were enthusiastic. Of course, if we want to ride somewhere 20 minutes away and get back in time for breakfast we have to get up pretty early! So I made hot chocolate and brought it along in a thermos. I always wanted to tailgate at a trailhead!

the boys drinking hot chocolate in the parking lot at Russell Mill Pond

warmth and energy

The waking up process completed, we got right over to the track to start doing laps. Harvey was a little tentative at first, having not ridden jumps all winter; Elijah was not tentative at all on his new bike and almost did a forward somersault on his second go around. Everybody soon settled in to an appropriate level, and we rode around and around for over an hour. We all got better, and then we got tired and got worse, but I think overall we all pushed our skills forward. And the best part is we were back home for breakfast not much after 7:30! Now to get some friends to come out riding with us...

Harvey jumping his bike on the pump track

jump!

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rides with boys

Harvey riding in front of the rising sun

sunrise ride

The last couple weeks I've been trying to get out on rides with each of the boys separately. It's always fun to take adventures all together, but there's also something to be said for letting each of them ride at their own level. And also I appreciate having more chances to get out! For Elijah and Harvey, the best time is in the morning before breakfast. This past Monday it was Lijah's turn; he wasn't super enthusiastic, so I got Harvey to come with us. We did a couple miles on the paths around our house—delightful and relaxing for Harvey and me, reasonably challenging for Elijah (not too challenging because our neighborhood is dead flat: Strava tells us 0ft of elevation gain over 2.45 miles). Then Tuesday Harvey and I went to Landlocked Forest for a slightly shorter but rather harder ride on the hilly trails there. He, too, wasn't enthusiastic to begin with, but when he warmed up he was glad to be out. Both rides were under half an hour: what a fantastic use of time first thing in the morning! For Zion, though, first thing in the morning isn't really an option. He doesn't get up until second thing at the very earliest. So I need to find other moments. Like today after supper, when we rode up to town on an errand and then spent a half hour riding stairs and curbs around the high school together in the drizzly rain. I may make them do it, but at least I force them each into their favorite kind of riding!

bikes take us farther

We had plans yesterday to meet up with friends and go exploring on bikes, which seemed like just the thing with the forecast calling for sunny skies and temperatures touching the 70s. So we were surprised to wake up to cool drizzle (especially since I had left the car open!). The unexpected gloom and wet was too much for our friends, who preferred to stay cozy at home. But we get plenty of coziness and laziness, so we pushed on with the expedition—and we were glad we did!

Zion and Elijah sitting by a misty pond

what could be finer?

Our target was the Estabrook Woods in Concord. We've been there before, but on foot we can only get so far so there was lots we hadn't been able to see. Of course, there's some question how much faster the four of us can move on bikes on a wet spring day over some serious hills! There were certainly some spots where Elijah at least was pushing his bike up a hill because it was too steep to make progress, and then back down the other side because it was too scary a descent. But we was working hard and trying his best, and he got some great practice in! And then of course there were spots where we all needed to walk our bikes. The four serious water crossings we had to do, for example.

the boys pushing their bikes across a wide rocky stream

when you have to walk it's a real expedition

Of course, it wasn't all riding and pushing: we took our time and made plenty of stops. There were big rocks to climb and vistas to admire, and we found a great spot to have lunch by the side of a giant shallow pond (pictured above). The most exciting part of our lunch spot was the goose drama that played out on the pond as we watched, with one pair harrying another all around on the water and in the air, with plenty of noise and dramatic take-offs and landings. But the best wildlife sighting belonged to Elijah: he was the only one to notice a tiny newt clinging to the side of a tree. When he called us all back to look the little guy very obligingly held still for a picture.

a little red newt on a tree

the boys wished they could bring him home as a pet

Even though we only went about four miles, it was a challenging ride and the boys were plenty tired when we made it back to the car. But we didn't see all of the woods, so we'll have to go back soon! Though maybe when it's a little less wet...

the boys riding through a giant puddle on the trail

the pond was invading the trail

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so that's why they invented pavement...

In the bright afternoon sunshine yesterday we headed out for a ride down the dirt railway line to Concord to visit the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The bright sunshine was delightful, and so was the almost complete lack of snow on the path, but unfortunately those two things combined to make the surface more than a little muddy. It wasn't all a complete quagmire, but even where there wasn't three inches of squishy ooze much of the surface was distinctly tacky. Enough that we felt plenty of increase in rolling resistance, and the flat path took as much energy as if we were going uphill the whole way. So we certainly appreciated those few short stretches of pavement!

the boys riding along the Reformatory Branch Trail

I could only take pictures on the drier spots

I do wish I had taken some pictures of the deep mud; it was really something. Folks out for a walk in shoes they cared about had to make their way through the trees on the side of the path, and cyclists on gravel bikes found themselves unable to make any headway at all. With our big tires we could plow through the mud pretty well—even Elijah only had to get off and push a couple times—but it was certainly a challenge!

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missed opportunity

This is a tough time of year as an off-road cyclist. The sun is shining brightly, the birds are singing, and the world is returning to wonderful life—all things that make me want to get out and ride! Only all the trails, this time of year, are all mud (where they're not still snow, that is). So we have to wait for things to dry out. But the last few mornings have offered an alternate possibility: both last night and the night before the temperature was down into the teens, so if I could have gotten out before, say, nine or ten in the morning I could have ridden on the most delightful concrete-like surface (delightful unless I fell, I suppose...). Of course, there are other things in my life besides cycling, and those things—housework, my job, spending time with my family—kept me from hitting the trails while the conditions held. Good thing the days are getting longer... maybe next week I'll have time for all the things!