The plan for last Saturday's ride was simple enough on paper: jump in the car early; meet up with Jeff and Chris, a couple new folks from the interwebs, and Brian (my tour guide for the SMBA trails and the Grafton-Pittstown extravaganza); zip over to Rutland, VT; get in a couple of hours on the Pine Hill Park trails; then head back to the Empire State and be done with things by two in the afternoon. Easy, schmeezy. I hadn't been out on the mountain bike -- or any bike -- much in the last month, but with snow in the forecast I figured I should take my non-frostbitten rides where I could.
There were a couple harbingers of doom -- Chris reported cougar sightings in the area and Brian had his car rearranged by his toddler on the way to meet us -- but as we pulled into the parking lot in Rutland and geared up, the rain from earlier in the morning was slackening and things were looking good. Brian decided to start things out with a bang and while poking around the park's activities building tripped a loud alarm. Not to be daunted by the closed door, the chain across said door, and the lights off, his attempt to sneak into the facilities was met with a sphincter-constricting FAIL. Rather than wait around to chat it up with Rutland's finest, we decided to hit the trail.
And it was a good thing that we did: any time missed on these trails is time wasted (and especially so if it's spent explaining to the authorities how ya just hadta go, ya know?). We started out on some flowy, techy trails on the lower section, complete with decent little freeride drop. Being the stunt expert that I am, I volunteered to film Brian as he launched the smooth transition.
Here's a still shot of Chris sizing up the rocks and then Brian making it look old hat. (Clicking on the pics will make them bigger. 'Playing' the videos will, well, play them.)
This was just the beginning of a trail system that represents untold labor hours in its creation and maintenance. It was really rather amazing, as the many of the trails had the ample rocks pushed from the middle of the trail to the sides, not only making things faster, but making for an easy path to follow through the leaf-strewn woods. In other places there were rather elaborate rocks playgrounds, and everything was clearly cut and well-marked. There were a number of criss-crossing trails, and we were happy to leave the navigation up to Jeff, who whipped his map out regularly to plot the best path.
After a short (for the region) carriage road climb (read: rock-strewn double-track bent on shaking your fillings loose) to the upper side of the park the fun really began, with some of the slow speed maneuvers from below replaced with fast, berm-filled, "grip it and rip it" fun. I didn't stop to take pictures of this because I was simply having too much fun, but if I can ever convince you NCers to trek north on two wheels I'll want us to go here: the trails were fast, techy, scenic, with a wide variety of terrain and a great use of space. No complaints, except maybe wishing that they were a little closer.
But as great as the trails were, they were not without their quirks. Exhibit one: an enormous suspension bridge in the middle of the trail that crossed what was little more than a wet seep. This thing was an impressive feat of engineering, with four huge anchor posts, treated lumber decking, and a totally-legit suspension setup. Much as we couldn't quite figure why bother, we did have fun playing around on it. Here's a couple of videos of us playing around on the swaying wonder:
There are also some rather interesting trail names, and I have to admit that I chuckled every time we took a turn down the Droopy Muffin. (I'm not sure if Brian thought so too, of if he was just humoring me in this photo.)
However, it was while drooping the muffin that we had our first problem, when Jeff realized that the creaking that he thought was coming from his seatpost was actually a cracked frame. In an attempt to keep the crack at the toptube-seattube from getting any larger he shoved his seatpost all the way down in the frame and rode BMXican style for the rest of the day. He may have sat down a couple of times, but I didn't see it, and instead was happy to pedal huckster style around on his bouncing bike.
A little later we ran across what is certainly one of the weirdest things I've seen while on the trail: a collection of hanging rocks, rock pyres, and weird things made out of branches that would have been more at home on the set of the Blair Witch Project than interrupting my ride. I would have stopped to take a few pictures, but it was really a little creepy.
Not incoincidentally, a few seconds down the trail I got a flat. The curse of the witch you think? No, you say? Well, then what do you say when I mention that the valve core pulled out of my spare tube after I got it pumped up? What if it happened again? Still not convinced? What if I told you that the witch (possibly in the form of Jeff) also stole Chris's brains around this time? (Sweartagawd.) Clearly, the place is cursed and should be avoided when you ride the trail. Alas, I couldn't tell you where it was.
The tire issues and the lack of cognitive abilities led us down the trail and back to the truck after one more rip down a trail aptly named Halfpipe. At the parking lot the clock on the wall said 2 o'clock. (Last call. For alcohol.*) For those of you keeping track at home that's when we'd planned on being home, but we were in the wrong state, in need of food, and still lacking Chris's grey matter. So we stopped in to a local pizza joint to top off our cholesterol reserves and prepare for a quick trip home.
The road home was, well, interesting. Not only did I learn about the vicious cougar attacks of ought-eight, but I also came home with a much broader picture of the Upstate riding scene, including -- but not limited to -- the following**:
- Their fondness for reminiscing about kicking Spiderman's ass.
- A hatred for the mullet.
- Nothing is ever "at altitude," because everything is "at altitude." (Dammit!)
- It is in fact possible to be too messed up to go to a junkyard.
- "I'd take that [stuff] and I'd eat it."
- "Well, I am a dirty boy."
- "I like to meet new people. And watch them eat. I mean, see them eat. I mean, see what they eat. Nevermind."
- "I think there were four generations in that house. And an airmattress. I dunno, it was weird."
- "You know, vodka out of a plastic bottle and hawaiian punch gatoraid really isn't bad when it's mixed for you by and old lady and given to you after a long ride. And has roofies in it."
Needless to say it was a great day. Maybe without the pain of the Grafton-Pittstown epic that left Brian with a broken shoulder, and possibly more expensive when you figure in the broken Yeti, but still good times. Sure our quick morning jaunt turned into an all-day affair, and maybe when we got back to town Chris and I had had our cars towed, but it was totally worth it, if only for ten minutes spent on the Droopy Muffin, and maybe a few more on Halfpipe.
I'm not sure when we will get out again, as there's snow in the forecast (they said that you can bike comfortably down into the 20s, but I'm not believing it), but at the very least we got in one last good ride before we turn to dogsledding or curling or whateverthahell else they do here for fun in the winter. Keep on keepin' on down in the NC.
One for the way out:
*I know that this clip takes you to a song where the quote is "The clock on the wall said quarter to midnight" and not "two o'clock," but I can't in good conscience link to the George Thoroughgood version where he changes it to the latter. So instead you get an inconsistency, but at least one with soul.
**All of the below are taken from my extremely suspect memory of the events and then painted liberally with a brush of Guinness-forgetfulness masquerading as poetic license.