I managed to have the weekend open again this week so I decided to go back and visit Leslie at Clinton Correctional Facility and then spend a few days hiking in the Dak’s, bag a few more peaks, and spend a bit more time up in the mountains before the true snow flies. Sadly, Saturday morning my car had other plans and the rear-most portion of my muffler fell off. Two bungee cords later I got it hung up enough to not be dragging on the ground but decided it was better not to drive it until I get it fixed. When life gives you lemons, go for a bike ride.
While it would have been very easy to sit around and watch netflix all weekend, I promised myself I wouldn’t do that. Just because I’m car-less doesn’t mean I have to be adventure-less! Let the fun begin. So Saturday around noon I headed out on my bike in search for a trail connecting Woodbury Mountain Road with Shepherds Hill and Eagle Ledge Road. I haven’t been all the way through since I was in high school and have heard mixed reviews on if it was still possible or not. I guess it just depends how determined you are…. and I was determined!
Woodbury Mountain Road is a class 4 (town right of way but not town maintained) road on which there are quite a few camps. It’s maintained by residents to allow jeeps through but it’s even a bit rough for 4wd trucks.
Three miles of steady climbing on the above type of road and I came to the snow machine junction with a sign pointing left towards Worcester. I turned left through a mud pit nearly up to my hubs and fell once bush-whacking my way (is it called bushwhacking on a bike?) around the first gate. Slippery sticks under a thick coat of fallen leaves will get you every time!
This first portion of Shepherds Hill Road is nothing more than a barely discernible overgrown snow machine trail with many trees across it, so it was slow going at best. If it hadn’t been for the snow machine trail signs nailed to an occasional tree, I may have turned back – unsure if I was on the right track. Around mile 5 I came to a large metal gate padlocked shut with no trespassing signs and a monitored by closed circuit Camera Sign. I knew right where I was because on my last attempt through I’d turned around at the matching gate coming from the other direction. No turning back now!
I wasn’t deterred by the mud or trees, but I may have been by this gate and sign if I hadn’t been told by two different people in the last month that the property owner is a nice guy and just puts these up to stop the 4 wheelers from tearing up his road. Though it didn’t help that just after I climbed the fence I started hearing gunshots in the distance. However I knew from my previous attempt to get through (from the other end) that the worst trails were all behind me and frankly it was far easier to continue on than turn back. I crossed the second fence out of the private property less than a mile later and was on the section of Shepherds Hill Road I’m familiar with – back on home turf! However, before I was entirely out of the woods, the gunshots continued to get louder. I was keeping an eye out for parked cars ahead or people in the woods on either side of the road. I figured it was someone citing in their gun getting ready for the start of hunting season. I was right. I eventually came upon the guilty party, a couple standing on the porch of their cabin shooting at a target on the OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD! I had to literally cross their line of fire to continue on my way. I hollered up to them before continuing to make sure they saw me before I rode through. Kind of stupid of them and kind of scary for me! Other than that, the rest of the ride home was uneventful and on better maintained town roads. While the entire trip was only 11 miles, the ride plus a few short stops to chat with friends I ran into along the way, took me over 3 hours. It was a lot of fun and I’m really glad to know you can in fact still get through!
For my Sunday adventure I teamed up with Mom, Steve, and their dog Rufus. We packed a picnic lunch including the necessary leftover Halloween Candy and headed out on foot. We started on a ski trail from behind our house to the field by the Bucks House about half a mile up the road. Steve remembered the way though he hadn’t gone up there via this route in at least a decade or two. He took off with Rufus on his heals through the thick brush at the edge of a field. “There’s no trail?” Mom asked. “Nope, but we’ll cross the Hawkins Pond Road at the top of the next ridge” Steve promised. Mom and I looked at each other and picked our way through the swampy underbrush, starting up a steep ridge. We were using the contours of the hill as well as the glimpses of Woodbury Mountain to the North to find our way and stay on track. We’d occasionally join up with a trail or woods road and follow it as long as it was going the right direct, and then when necessary Steve would plunge us back into the forest to stay on track.
We meandered through the woods and eventually came out exactly where we thought we would on the Hawkins Pond Road. Go Steve Go! When he was a teenager he camped out there dozens of times a year and knows those woods really well, so Mom and I got quite a history lesson as we traveled his old stomping grounds. He pointed out old cellar holes, lilac bushes and apple trees where farms had once been.
After climbing down from the summit we rejoined the Hawkins Pond Road (hardly a road – it’s class four if that and mostly just a ski trail – passable in a jeep for some sections but not all). We decided to turn left on the road, away from our house and towards (we hoped) Woodbury Mountain Road. None of us knew for sure it went through, but we suspected it might. Steve said it did 30 years ago, so we went with that.
He was right and we eventually came out into an open field with gorgeous apple trees. Steve remembered as a kid there used to be an old Silo in the field but we couldn’t find even the cellar whole any more – everything was a lot more grown up than it was 30 years ago. The road split and we guessed that the straight trail would go to Shepherds Hill Road and the Right turn would take us back down the Woodbury Mountain Road. Either way would get home eventually but right would be faster so we opted for that. Once again we didn’t really know where it would come out but we suspected, and ended right on target. Once on the road we were only a mile from home and everyone was ready for a rest, except maybe Rufus. Another fabulous adventure right in our very own back yard. Thanks Mom and Steve!
Overall the lesson I’ve learned this weekend is that while the call of the wild and whacky afar is very loud, and the Whites and the Dack’s are fabulous, the best adventures can be found right here on my doorstep.