Some trips need a little more priming than others to get going. This trip was definitely one of those.. I've been a bit burnt out from a long race season and I can't quite figure out how to shake it, but a bikepacking trip always seems like a good idea.
The night before we left I discovered a busted spoke and lots of floppy spokes. This was on my 29er wheelset so I had to swap my fat tires onto the bike. This sucked because they're heavy and my trip was going to be starting off with 7 miles of false flat pavement. Fat tires may excel on all things off road, but on the road they are just frustrating.
I set out pedaling against the wind and lugging the gear. About half a mile in I really thought I was going to turn around and cancel the trip. Going slow is fine.. if you're on the trail. Going slow on the road while giving it a full effort is not. I tucked my head into the wind, dropped as aero as I can (Reminder: I really need a Fred bar) and pedaled out the pavement to Blue Steel Bicycle shop in Sunderland, MA. This was our meeting spot, so I tried to get there early to recover from the pavement slog.
We met, settled some final details, complained about the cold, and headed out as some small flurries of snow blew through. The planned route had us heading up a long stretch of pavement so that we could get the full effect of a trail. Halfway up this path we opted for cutting the road short and rerouting the trail miles so that we could get onto dirt faster.
It's amazing what being loaded with gear and in the middle of woods will do for your resolve. Both of us had doubts about the trip from the beggining, but once you're out it's really difficult to decide to head back home. At the top of the Deerfield ridge we made yet another reroute. More pavement, but would at least get us to our camping destination with more gravel than any other route.
We pedaled out more pavement and I got dropped on every climb. Every pedal stroke was an issue with the fat tires when the road pointed upwards. When it got really steep I even had to fight the handlebars with all the surface area of the 26x4" tires. My energy was draining fast and the daylight was moving nearly as quick. At this point I was worried about missing our camp destination by dark so I suggested we be mentally prepared to camp somewhere on route if darkness caught us.
We eventually settled on a campsite at a familiar junction. With a 1.5mi climb ahead of us we decided we'd camp and tackle it in the morning to warm up. We settled into camp with water nearby. Gathered some firewood, filtered some water, and started cooking dinner. There was also some bad (funny) decisions involving eating a few NUUN electrolyte tablets.
For dinner tonight we got seriously gourmet for camp food. The temperatures barely peaked above freezing today.. if at all. This opened up our oppurtunity to bring along some frozen fish. Armed with a potato, an onion, some Tony Chachere's seasoning, butter, and some frozen salmon I got to work. I annoyingly sliced uneven fat pieces of potato using the camp spork (Reminder: start carrying a knife) and then switched to a ripping technique to get pieces of onions. I put a slab of butter over the salmon, threw some onions on top, wrapped it in foil and stuck it in the fire. I did the same for the potato slices, but with LOTS of butter. After a few minutes over the fire we feasted on delicious.
The temperatures dropped, but we stayed warm. Not much excitement overnight besides a dog walking visitor with a bright flashlight. Supposedly there was a swamp monster or some other mysterious creature that was only audible when I was asleep... (Kait?)
We made some oatmeal and tea and started to pack up camp. After putting the fire out we worked on leaving the area as if we were never there. Plenty of leaf fall made this not difficult. After admiring the perfect impression of the tent in compressed leaves, and how small the tent footprint really is, we fluffed the leaves and left.
Since we had already deviated from our original route we decided to be adventurous again. We took a left at the junction instead of the usual right. We knew the general direction we needed to go, and this trail pointed that way. After about 5 minutes down the trail we ran into someone's back yard, oops. After quietly sneaking to their driveway we were back on our way. Hopped onto a snowmobile trail and followed an ATV heading to some more familiar trails.
We arrived at a bridge that was being serviced by the Burgy Bullets Snowmobile Club. I let Kait do the talking and they let us sneak by trying not to disrupt their work too much. Immediately after passing we embarrassingly had to stop for a bike photoshoot just yards from where they were working. Some old ruins left from some other time were too impressive to pass up. I'm sure snowmobile groups do this too.. right?
The rest of the ride was full of great trails. Some stuff had dried up since previous trips, but other areas were still swampy. The fat tires finally excelled when the conditions got sloppy. I started having fun and really get into the riding. We pushed through some muck and finally popped out towards the end of our route.
After descending the last bit of trail in our route I prepared myself for the long road ride back home. I settled into a slow pace and tried to keep positive thoughts flowing. After about 3 miles of pavement I decided to reroute to some dirt. This added mileage, but I figured the mental benefit was a fair trade off. I dropped into the Fitzgerald Lake trail system and zoned out. When I got to the end of the trail I barely realized where I was. I'm not much for meditation and the "zen" thing but solo biking in beautiful areas can really let you relax. I rode this wave of good feeling all the way back home.
It might have taken the whole trip to start feeling positive, but as I expected, bikepacking doesn't disappoint.