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XVTMBR scouting: Hardwick to Irasburg

May 13, 2010

All season I’ve exclusively ridden my bike right from my front door. That’s very time efficient, and environmentally noble, but gets a bit repetitive with the mileage I’m putting in, and is obviously not a useful way to scout new terrain for the XVTMBR.  So today I loaded the bike onto the car and drove north to Hardwick, where I parked at the Grand Union just west of town.  It seemed like the best place to “abandon” a car for a while.  My last exploration in this area last fall was quite fun, except for a two mile long section of ATV and 4×4 mud pits that ended in a long-gone bridge.  Carrying my bike over a weak beaver dam brought back memories of the portage to Robinson Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park.  The situation was a bit too hike-a-bike for my taste, so I found a different route this time.

At the end of the regular road I took a left onto a different ATV track and followed it slightly to the west of where I had been last year.  Sure, there were some completely unridable mud pits along the way, and some slippery stream bed, but there was some nice grassy trail, and a fun ledgy climb too.  Connecting in to another remote road, I wound around Keeler Pond.  It was a big improvement to the section.

Keeler Pond in Wolcott

View northwards from Morey Hill

After the descent from Morey Hill I was riding into new terrain, which is always fun and satisfying.  The next section was a long loop of increasing remoteness on the eastern slopes of the Lowell Range.  Loose cobbles and enormous potholes are a good sign that you’re in for a quiet ride.  The sign for the Wild Branch Wildlife Management Area was thoroughly dented by small arms fire, making it abundantly clear that “wildlife management” really means “shoot ’em all”.  I took a brief look at a cyanotically faded map of the WMA and quickly determined that the two “trails” on the property didn’t lead anywhere, and so kept going forward on the dirt road.

Wild Branch WMA, Eden, VT

A skidder fresh from timber harvest, Albany, VT

Just before the last 40mph downhill to Albany village, the historic Bailey-Hazen Road crossed and headed northwest across the Lowell Range directly to Lowell.  If we opt to route the XVTMBR in that direction, it would undoubtedly be a classic mountain bike hill climb.

I crossed paved Route 14 and headed towards East Albany.  At the top of a long dirt road climb I turned onto a Class 4 road that made a fun rocky descent next to a stupendously maintained sugarbush.  Any competing species had been reduced to slash on the forest floor and the lines were impressively huge and numerous.  Even with my trick new Action-Tec titanium 20t chainring, the climb back up to the ridgetop was a hike.  The well-worn micro knobs on my Nano Raptor tires were definitely not up to the task of propelling me up a hill of moist leafy goo.

A paved road led me to the village green in Irasburg.  If I were out for days and days, I would certainly have gone inside the general store for some well deserved drinks and snacks.  As it was just about turn around time, I headed just a smidge further north to grab geocache GC1Q2J4, a magnetic key holder tucked inside a galvanized culvert.  The 25 miles back to Hardwick was so smooth and fast that I just had to take a rough steep detour up to Caspian Lake in Greensboro to cram in a bit more climbing.

Ride stats:
63.8 miles
4:45 moving time
13.3 mph moving average
6033′ elevation gain

Tech note:
This is the last posting that will feature photos taken with Linnaea’s Argus Bean camera.  It valiantly filled in when my Panasonic LX3 took a lens-first nose dive into pavement at the beginning of the Fleche, the enormous carabiner handle was great for holding onto while riding.  However, its still a bear of very little brain.  It seems to have a fixed focus lens, so it only works on subjects about 6′-infinity.  That makes headshots and closeups impossible.  The lens is tiny, so its not so good in poor lighting.  The sensor, while being an admirable 5mp, can’t handle a broad dynamic range, so outdoor shots in the sun end up looking to contrasty.  Both shadows and highlights are blown out.  Its white balance setting is also not so good.  Interior shots, such as you can catch them, are generally to warm.  I’ve had to adjust the Blue Curve downwards a good bit on all my outdoor shots.  All that criticism aside, its way better then either a Fischer-Price kids camera, or any 640×480 pixel cell phone camera.

In the house now is my new Canon S90.  By spec is very similar to the Panasonic LX3, but gives up a little of wide angle lens range for a lot more telephoto.  Higher quality photos are on the way!

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