Monday, August 15, 2016

The Northern Rail Trail

Rich and Chip take a break from the rain

Despite ambitious plans at the beginning of the summer, Chip and I decided last week not to ride this year's Harpoon Point to Point -- in part due to the low-key summer I've been having and lack of training. Instead, we tossed the mountain bikes in the back of the car and headed up to Ascutney to check out some trails. Rich was interested in riding as well -- as we've made a tradition out of doing the P2P together -- so he met us in Vermont on Saturday despite rain in the forecast.

Let me just add that I don't put much credence in weather forecasts -- they are always wrong. So when I heard thunderstorms were expected in the area, I didn't believe it. (Hahaha...)

From Ascutney, we drove 25 minutes north to Lebanon, New Hampshire to The Northern Rail Trail -- what a terrific discovery! The mixed terrain trail of hard packed dirt, crushed stone, and gravel extends for approximately 58 miles down the former Boston and Maine Rail line, beginning in Lebanon and traveling east/south to Boscawen on the Merrimack River. My initial plan was for us to ride as far as Danbury (28 miles/56 RT) but didn't count on torrential rain and severe thunderstorms to hit us. We headed out in a light, misty drizzle which eventually turned into drenching downpours with rumbles of thunder six miles into the trail.

Despite poor visibility and tough riding conditions in the rain, we continued on to Canaan (14 miles) where we found a charming breakfast/lunch spot, Dishin' it Out, still open for lunch with 30 minutes to spare. We walked in soaking wet and asked if it was still ok to get lunch. A few folks in the restaurant chuckled at our appearance, but all were genuinely nice and welcomed us right in, despite the fact we were leaving mud and puddles on the floor as we took a table. (A terrific place! We'll go back!)

"You're jumping in the lake?" "Why not? We're already soaked"

After lunch, we returned to the trail and headed back to Lebanon at a somewhat faster pace -- we gained 500 feet in elevation on our wet ride to Canaan, so it was nice to have a slight descent on the trek back). We stopped five miles out of Lebanon for Chip and Rich to check out a rope swing hanging over Mascoma Lake, and of course both took turns jumping into the lake. (Chip several times.) Their reasoning was that they were already soaked from the rain, so why not jump in the lake? Hahaha... (At this point, my Strava app quit, probably while I was taking a video of the two of them jumping into the lake, but in all, we rode just under 28 miles round trip.)

Catching that moment just before splashdown

We had a great adventure on The Northern Rail Trail despite the wet weather challenges; Scenic lake and mountain views, seven river crossings in the first four miles, an abandoned mill and waterfall, an old train depot; Chip wiping out on a bridge, and Rich and I almost doing the same behind him; and both boys scaring the hell out of me showing me an enormous spider in the tunnel (eesh)... it was a fun afternoon. I'm looking forward to checking out other parts of the trail in the future!

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