Friday, May 28, 2010

The Rest of New England

What can I say? New Hampshire and Vermont are beautiful. The weather has been unbeatable (maybe a bit hot at times), everything is lush and green. The lupine, daisy, and buttercups are blooming, the riding has been lovely; life is good.

In New Hampshire, I spent a few days with my friend Emily. Ever since I met Emily she's tried to convince me how fabulous the White Mountains are, I wasn't convinced until now. We spent the weekend swimming, going for walks, relaxing by a waterfall, and then hiking up Mt Washington.

Emily at Diana's Bath where we just layed out and read-wonderful!
The hike up Mt Washington was a bit crazy. It was Queen's Day, a long weekend for Canadians, and they flooded the White Mountains. The mountain has a vast number of routes up; we took the most direct, which meant it was both full of people and very steep. Once above tree line, we were graced with incredible views of the surrounding mountains as we scrambled up boulder fields intermixed with the remaining snow patches. Being out of hiking shape, the way up was a good effort. Unfortunately, after a great hike, the summit was a huge let down; I had anticipated that, but not as bad as it was. There is a road up Mt Washington and a number of buildings on the summit. So, after a remote feeling hike, you come up to parking lots then walk on pavement and a staircase, make your way around the buildings to get to the rock pile that is the true summit. There are two museums, three gift shops, weather observation buildings, a cafeteria, and the Cog railway that goes to the top. It's a different world. However, looking past all of the development, the view of the Presidential Range and other White Mountains was wonderful. On the way down, we took a more roundabout way following the ridge line then dropping down into the bowl. We didn't see anyone on this route and I felt like we were hiking in Europe, it was just gorgeous.

Emily and Sara hiking up Mt Washington


This is wat you get once you leve the trail up to the summit


Me, Sara, and Emily


This is more like it. On the ridge hiking down.

That evening, we met up with Kyle who had biked over from Maine. The next day Kyle and I planned a long day ride looping through the Whites. This was the first real day ride I've done this whole trip. It felt good to get out without gear and do a challenging and fun ride. We did just over a century going through a few notches and passes. The roads were great, mostly good shoulders, along rivers and huge cliffs and slides. There were even a few miles of bike trails paralleling the road which felt remote and wound through the woods. We saw a black bear and cub on a ski slope which was fun. It was a great ride and I was surprised at how beat I was at the end of the day.

Wow, a picture of me riding.

Kyle riding through Crawford Notch

A well deserved treat at the end of a long ride!

Kyle and I, ready to head off in opposite directions
Then it was back on my own, riding west once again in the 90 degree heat towards Vermont. Stops in the shade, cold drinks, and dips in the rivers were essential. My ride through the Green Mountains was another spectacular section. I had a long stretch in a valley bottom surrounded by the mountains, with tiny little picturesque towns, small farms and old barns-exactly what I always picture Vermont as being.

Covered bridge in NH


VT



Yesterday was a bit rough, having chosen maybe the first road of this trip I would never ride again. I started off the morning with a flat, but just pumped it up hoping it would hold awhile. Then my chain kept falling off my front rings and I didn’t know why, of course this was right before heading up a pass. As I started up this road a cyclists rode by the other direction and just said "good luck," I had no idea why, but I didn't like it. Soon after the road pitched upward for 2.5 miles of the steepest and longest sustained grade I've seen in the past 8.5 months. My chain was falling off and locking up, after falling once because of that I gave up and walked. Walking my bike up a steep hill is no easy task, especially compounded by the heat and swarm of bugs around me and the fact that my rear was flat. I forced myself to push over an hour to the top, then fixed my flat and found that I had a broken chain ring. I'd never fixed a chain before, but luckily had extra links and although it was a bit slow and messy got it done. The way down wasn't much better, it was so steep I had to be full on with the brakes but they were making the worst noise I'd ever heard from them and the rims were heating up so much that I was worried about a blow out from the heat. I ended up trying to walk and switchback my way down the steepest sections; once it mellowed a little I was relieved to have my bike working well again.

Fixing a chain is messy work!
I was happy to meet a friend outside of Burlington and tour the homestead she's moving to shortly. I'm envious of the place; it's beautiful, 50 acres in the green hills a view of the Adirondacks. Callie and her boyfriend are starting a big veggie garden there, there's a great swimming pond and trails; I'm ready to move! I then rode into South Burlington to Callie's current place with another friend, Erin. It was fun catching up, making sushi and relaxing.

Going to Callie's new home, Adirondacks in the distance!

With Callie, for the first time I'm not the one in bike clothes.

Today it's on to New York. I can't believe I'm already right here, just about to get back into the Adirondacks. Lately it feels like I've been back home with all of these familiar places and friends.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Maine

Alright, I'm way behind. I wrote this almost a week ago and hadn't added pictures so haven't gotten around to posting it. I'm in Woodstock, VT right now, I'll get up to date soon hopefully, but here's my Maine post:


Let's see... So the rest of my stay with the Dunn family was great, relaxing and productive. Eric Dunn helped me clean and fix up my bike a bit which was a huge help as I still have so much to learn about bike maintenance.



Kalie and Eric Dunn


I then rode north along the coast to Acadia National Park. The ride was enjoyable, nice roads mostly with a big shoulder through small towns along the coast. Just before going into the park I stopped at an info center and ended up talking with a woman there who is a big tourer and going on a trip to Europe this summer with two women from Washington. As I was about to leave, she mentioned, "Brynn Stevens wasn't your doctor as a kid was she?" The comment was totally off-hand and she didn't expect any recognition (Seattle is a big city), but guess what, she was! Some times the world is just so small.


Riding into Acadia was glorious! I took some of the Carriage Roads (gravel roads all through the park reserved for bikers and hikers) passing by marshes and lakes, it was absolutely gorgeous. I found a nice spot to base camp for the next few days by a lake where I was told loons hung around. I saw them a few times and heard them calling at night, one of my favorite sounds and one I haven't heard in years. I took a day to ride and hike around the island. I walked up Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the east coast north of Brazil and where some people swear is the first place the sun hits in the US. It gave a great overview of the island and surrounding waters. Riding along the coast and talking walks to explore the tide pools and fabulous rocky shoreline was wonderful. Acadia is such a diverse and scenic place. I spent another day just relaxing, spending time in Bar Harbor and getting things done, it was nice to rest a bit as I always seem to be in great need of it. After spending so much time with friends and family the past few weeks it was harder them I expected to be so alone again, I hadn't realized just how much I'd gotten used to and enjoyed so much good company. Getting to Acadia signified the farthest northeast corner of my ride; from there I turned west and now feel like I really am headed back to Seattle.



Eagle Lake in Acadia NP


Bubble Lake, along the Carriage Road



View from up high


Coast

My next stop was Rangeley, Maine. Back in 2003, I spent a month in this area working on the Appalachian Trail with a trail crew from the Student Conservation Association. This area held great memories for me and I was excited to see it again. Also, being a total trail-dork, I wanted to check out the work we'd done to see how it was holding up. I was amazed at how much I remembered of the area, and especially of the trail. All I could remember was that we were around Bemis Mt., didn't know if we worked north or south of there and didn't know how far in it was from the nearest road. So, I set up base camp near the trail and set out on a cold and rainy day to find our work. I'd forgotten how different the AT is compared to the PCT or any western trail; there is no grade to the trail, it's straight up and down, rooty and rocky as all heck, and dangerous when wet. After 4 miles I suddenly recognized the area and from there on was amazed to remember near every part of that trail: the rock slabs we climbed up day after day, the ups and downs, favorite lunch spots where we read The Alchemist aloud; it was a good feeling. Each time I came across work my crew had done I exclaimed at how beautiful it was and took pictures like a proud mother. I know this sounds ridiculous to most of you, but although I'd been doing trail work for a few years at that time, this was the first work I'd been really proud of, and truly solidified my passion for trail work. I was so happy to see that our rock work was as sturdy as ever, only one wobble and I remember having trouble with that rock when we put it in, never could get it right, but it was still there doing it's job just fine.





Smalls Falls






Mooselookmeguntic Lake


Out hiking I was very nostalgic, not only because of the area, but because it's that time of year, log-out season, maybe my very favorite part of working with the Forest Service. There's no satisfaction like logging out a trail by hand. I was fortunate that a crew had logged out the first 4.5 miles of trail, I realized I'd never have made it if they didn't. But those next two miles were mine; I couldn't resist. Trees were down everywhere, so I threw, kicked, and drug branches and trees to clear the trail. Fleece gloves are not ideal and I was soon sopping wet and filthy, I couldn't have been happier! For the trees that were too big or stuck, I longed for my hand saw and a double-bit ax. (Cle Elum trail crew I miss you guys!). Once I reached the summit and end of work my crew had done back in the day, I trudged back down the ridge, now wet and cold and only thinking of getting home (to my tent) to get warm and dry, hoping the puddle that always formed at the foot of my tent hadn't grown too big.


Trail up Bemis Range



Great weather up high



Sample of my trail crew's rock work


More






Rumford, ME


Western Maine is beautiful, the trees and lakes are everywhere. The roads quiet, though the pavement is mostly terrible. I saw a moose, a number of loons, gorgeous waterfalls and rivers. It's a magical area. From here in Rumford, ME I head down to New Hampshire.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Northeast

My time in the northeast has continued to be busy but fantastic, being able to visit many friends and family. I've pretty much been going from house to house the past few weeks. I haven't been in so many beds and had such constisent showers since before I started riding.

The rest of my stay in NYC was great. It was as relaxing as the city can be, with good NY pizza and fresh foods. I tried to keep up with Colin on a run through Manhattan; it's such a different experience to run in the middle of such a city, dodging the hoards through China Town and over the Manhattan Bridge. I wandered through Time Square on the evening of the bomb scare; I must have left right before things started happening as I had no idea until watching the news later that evening.



The weekly Green Market in Union Square, tons of flowers, apples, and baked goods!


Rally in Union Square, protesting Arizona's new immigration law. Most of the speakers spoke in Spanish, but I was able to understand much of it.


The craziness of Time Square



Colin's work hosts an annual Kentucky Derby party; I walked by to check out to scene as folks get all dressed up for the event and ran into Colin's parents, Harold and Suzanne.



Colin even ran out and caught me.


In the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. The Cherry Blossom festival was happening the day we went. Strangely, the cherry blossoms were long gone, but they had cultural activities around the garden. Some people were fully dressed up as anime characters which was very odd.



Riding out of a rainy New York City.

Riding out of New York was tough. I quickly got off the course I'd written out when a bridge was closed and I had to go to the next. The Bronx was disorienting and I ended up riding across town; fortunately, some nice guys gave me directions back to where I needed to be. It took asking a few more people, getting very lost, ending up on a single track trail and having to push my bike over roots and up hills trying to get back out to a road. It was not fun. I didn't make it out of the city until late afternoon when I finally found the bike trail I'd been looking for. It was a relief to get out into the country and on 30 miles of bike trail.

Unfortunately the next day wasn't a whole lot better. I made it into Connecticut and then once again spent most of the day lost after having missed a turn. After wandering the windy back roads for hours, I ran into three cyclists and asked for help. They said they'd been riding those roads for years and still didn't understand them. After debating which way I should go, they decided to just have me ride with them a few miles until getting out to a main road which would put me back on track. I was very grateful for their help, otherwise who knows how long I'd have been out there. After two days of very long, stressful riding, I was wiped out. Fortunately, the next day I made it without trouble into Providence, RI where I stayed with my cousin, Jenica.

It was great to visit Jenica who is a student at Rhode Island School of Design in the jewelry department. It was fun to tour her campus and studio seeing some of the beautiful projects she's been working on. Jenica is also a fabulous cook, another great treat!


Jenica at her desk.



Pawtuckett, RI

Next it was into Massachusetts where I had a nice short ride just outside Boston where I stayed with Colin's brother and his family. Carson, Alexa, and their one-year-old son, Lewis, were fantastic. Alexa has ridden across the county before and is excited to get back out as a family once Lewis gets older. On his way to work, Carson rode me into Boston in the direction of the train station.



Carson, Alexa, and Lewis



Charles River trail in Boston, very nice riding.

I killed a little time enjoying the Boston Common (the first public garden in the country) and Public Garden which were beautiful. Then I met my friend Kyle with his touring bike at the train station. Kyle and I put in a long day to get into Maine, making the most of the nice weather knowing the next day was supposed to be bad. It's amazing how much easier it is to ride a long day with a friend along! Our hard work paid off with a short day of riding in 50 degree, rainy weather to get to his place just north of Portland.



Riding through Salem, MA


New Hampshire coast, beautiful and rocky in places.


Kyle riding in Maine

I've loved being in Maine. It was great to visit so many friends in big cities, but it's also such a relief to be back in smaller towns and in such a beautiful state. Having just moved to the area days before, I was able to explore a bit with Kyle, do some cooking and help him get settled. My friend Kalie also lives in the area, so I've been staying with her and her family the last few days. It's been great to see the Dunn's again; they've been so wonderful and I'm finally feeling more rested then I have in over a month.



An amazing dinner at Flatbread Company in Portland!


Out on a walk with Kalie.

After this great break I'm about ready to get back on the road and finish my trip north. It should be a gorgeous trip north of here along the coast. Eric and Rena Dunn have given me lots of information on the ride north and gotten me even more excited about what's to come!